Japan begins U.S. base relocation in Okinawa despite local opposition

Photo shows work to reinforce soft ground being carried out by the central Japanese government in the sea off the Henoko coastal area in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan, January 10, 2024. /CFP

Photo shows work to reinforce soft ground being carried out by the central Japanese government in the sea off the Henoko coastal area in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan, January 10, 2024. /CFP

The Japanese government on Wednesday began ground improvement work for the relocation of a key U.S. military base within Okinawa prefecture after overriding objections from locals.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi told a press conference that the commencement marks the start of the project, which will likely take about a decade, to reinforce the soft undersea ground at the relocation site for U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma air base.

The ground improvement is necessary to carry out the landfill work for relocating the Futenma base from a crowded residential district in Ginowan to the less populated Henoko coastal area of Nago, which is also in Okinawa.

Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki told reporters on Wednesday that this is something the government is doing for its own convenience, and it is extremely regrettable.

People protest in front of the U.S. Marines' Camp Schwab in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, on January 10, 2024. /CFP

People protest in front of the U.S. Marines’ Camp Schwab in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, on January 10, 2024. /CFP

People protest in front of the U.S. Marines’ Camp Schwab in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, on January 10, 2024. /CFP

On December 28, 2023, the Japanese government gave the green light to the plan on behalf of the Okinawa government, taking an unprecedented step of overriding the prefectural government’s objection.

The approval marked the central government’s first-ever proxy execution of a local government administrative task under the local autonomy law, according to media reports.

Okinawa, which hosts 70 percent of all the U.S. military bases in Japan, has long opposed the base transfer within the southern island prefecture, seeking instead to move the base out of the prefecture altogether.

In September 2023, Tamaki told a United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva that the concentration of U.S. military bases in Okinawa threatens peace, noting that the Japanese government is forcibly filling in precious sea areas to build the new U.S. military base.

Source(s): Xinhua News Agency

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