Tokyo- (PanOrient News) Hundreds of Japanese people took to the streets of Tokyo on Saturday (Sep.20th) to protest their government’s decision to build a facility for the U.S. military on reclaimed land in Henoko, Okinawa.
Protestors marched in the popular Shibuya district in central Tokyo to express their anger and accuse Tokyo and Washington of making plans that will threaten the environment and endangered species in the area.
Last December, Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima approved landfill work to build a replacement facility in the less populated Henoko coastal district of Nago town, despite strong local opposition. The Okinawa prefectural government approved on August 28 the start of rock drilling off Henoko, a necessary step to fill in the offshore area and build a replacement facility for a key U.S. military base in the southwestern prefecture. This is being done so the functions of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Ginowan can eventually be moved.
The drilling project, covering around 172 hectares, will be completed by March 31, 2017.
Japan's top government spokesman Suga said the relocation of the base to Henoko is the only viable solution, but opponents such as Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine and local fishermen have protested the move and expressed concern about water pollution and the impact on local fishing.
First agreed on in 1996 between Japan and the United States, the Futenma relocation plan has been hampered by strong local opposition as well as political wrangling.
In Henoko, non-violent protests have continued on a daily basis as the work continues. Okinawans and other Japanese supporters held rallies in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto to express their opposition and try to force the Japanese government to change course. Protesters said that despite the fact that more than 80% of people in Okinawa are against the construction of the U.S. military base, the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is promoting the construction of the base in Henoko.
A woman opposed to the Henoko project in Okinawa held a banner appealing for the end of the "forced" construction of the US base in Henoko to protect endangered see animals such as the dugong and turtle, as well as coral reefs.
Banners raised by demonstrators called for the abolishment of the US-Japan military treaty, and pledged, "We won't let them construct a military base at Henoko".
But there’s little chance the Japanese government will change its plans, observers say. The tension with China and North Korea has prompted the Japanese government to move more of its forces to Okinawa and nearby islands in preparation for emergency situations in the region especially over the Senkaku Islands claimed by both Japanese and China.