Work to relocate US base begins in Okinawa

Tokyo, Oct 29 (IANS) The Japanese government on Thursday resumed work to reclaim coastal land in Okinawa despite fierce opposition from the governor, the media reported.

The local bureau of Japan’s defence ministry began work in the compound of a US base adjacent to the landfill site in the Henoko district in Nago city, public broadcaster NHK reported.

Workers used heavy machinery to lay gravel at the proposed site of a storage yard for construction materials. Floats were placed off the coast to mark areas off-limits in preparation for resuming a drilling survey.

However, protestors in over 10 canoes approached the area and voiced their opposition.

The central government, under a plan agreed with the US 19 years ago, is trying to relocate the Marine Corps Futenma Air Station from a densely populated area in Ginowan City to Henoko.

But Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga opposes the plan. Earlier this month, Onaga revoked a permit issued by his predecessor allowing for the reclamation work.

The central government has suspended Onaga’s decision, paving the way for the landfill work to resume. It urged Onaga to withdraw his revocation but he has indicated he has no intention to comply.

Onaga plans to take the dispute to an internal affairs ministry panel that arbitrates between the central and local governments.

The Okinawa government is considering taking the issue to court if the panel rejects its case.

Seventy years after the end of the Second World War and 43 years after the US returned Okinawa to Japanese control, the US maintains 32 US military bases and installations plus 48 restricted air and ocean training sites on the Japanese island.

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