Okinawa sues Tokyo over US base relocation

Tokyo, July 24 (IANS) Authorities in the southwestern Japanese prefecture of Okinawa on Monday filed a fresh court case against the central government seeking suspension of ongoing construction work related to the relocation of a US military base in the region.

The fresh development in the long-running dispute between local and central authorities followed a December 2016 ruling by Japan’s Supreme Court which declared attempts by Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga to revoke his predecessor’s 2013 approval for relocation as “unlawful”, Efe news reported.

At the centre of the controversy is the American Futenma base in Ginowan, which Japan and the US agreed to move to the Henoko coastal area, a more thinly-populated area in Nago, which local residents and politicians vehemently oppose, citing environmental concerns.

Most Okinawa locals were also opposed to the relocation.

In the new lawsuit, Okinawan authorities argued that Japan was acting outside the law by not seeking permission from the Governor to carry out the works, which could damage rocks on the seabed where fishing rights had been granted, according to Japanese news agency Kyodo.

Okinawa had also presented an injunction to halt construction work until the court issued a verdict.

The Henoko coastal area contains coral reefs, which the provincial government claimed were damaged by the works, besides being home to the dugong, an endangered sea mammal.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government was expected to reject the allegations on the basis of the apex court precedent to show Okinawa’s complaints as unwarranted and that it does not require permission to carry on with its plans.

After last year’s verdict, the government had ordered the construction of dikes in the area and was expected to reclaim around 157 hectares of land from the sea in Henoko to build a V-shaped runway, Kyodo added.

Most of the residents in Okinawa — which houses over 70 per cent of the US military installations in Japan and over half the nearly 48,000 American troops in the archipelago — demanded that the Futenma base be relocated outside the prefecture.

–IANS

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