The relocation process of a US military base in Japan’s Okinawa has been resumed, even though month-long talks between Tokyo and local authorities angered by the “troublesome neighbour” still haven’t broken the impasse.
The “concentrated discussions” on the project that faced fierce opposition of the locals ended in vain on Saturday and the construction works in Henoko, Okinawa, have now resumed, Japan’s Kyodo news agency reports.
READ MORE: Japan halts construction of US base in Okinawa for ‘concentrated discussions’ with local authorities
The decision has sparked a wave of indignation among residents who demand the base to be shut down and rebuilt elsewhere in Japan or overseas. They took to the streets of Henoko, a small coastal area in Okinawa.
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Governor suggests revoking approval of landfill,
exerting every possible effort to block new US base
The final meeting of the intensive consultations between the Okinawa Prefectural and the central governments over the plan to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Henoko was held at 4:20 p.m. on September 7 at the Prime Minister’s Office.
The talks broke down with the governments unable to find any common ground or resolve the issue. They remain as far apart as ever.
Governor Takeshi Onaga said to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and leaders of the central government, “I will exert every possible effort to block [the new U.S. base].” He showed his intention to cancel the former Governor Hirokazu Nakaima’s approval of the landfill in Henoko.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told the governor that the government would resume the relocation work in Henoko after the prefectural government ends its diving survey in the sea off the coast of Camp Schwab.
The government suspended the land reclamation boring survey for one month. The central and the prefectural governments met for intensive consultations five times.
At the final consultation meeting, Prime Minister Abe asserted that the government was committed to removing the risks of the Futenma base, reducing the burden of the U.S. bases on Okinawa, and increasing Okinawa promotion measures.
The consultation was held behind closed doors, but media were allowed to take photographs at the beginning of the meeting.
Deputy Governor Mitsuo Ageda questioned the central government’s claim that the Henoko plan is the only option. According to the deputy governor, the then cabinet approved the initial Henoko plan on the condition that the government would build an airport for joint military-civilian use, but the then cabinet scrapped the plan in 2006.
Governor Onaga said, “I will respect as much as possible the conclusion that the third-party committee submitted.” He showed his intention to revoke the former governor’s approval of the landfill in Henoko, which the committee found was legally flawed.
After the meeting, the governor said, “I recognize the consultation has broken down.”
The chief cabinet secretary also said, “We have a consensus on the need to remove the risk and close the Futenma base. However, we could not fill a big gap between us in our methodological approach.” He expressed his intention to continue the dialogue.
Govenor Onaga refuted the prime minister’s claim that the government will reduce the base burden on Okinawa. “We have heard just the same story from then prime ministers and then ministers many times. I doubt they are going to solve this issue after 100 years,” Onaga said.
“When will the government’s promise be achieved? I am concerned that people who take it as truth will believe that the Abe administration is working hard for Okinawa. There will be no way for us to solve the issue. I have a strong belief that the government should not keep telling the same story,” Onaga said.
Prime Minister Abe, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs Shunichi Yamaguchi, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kazuhiro Sugita from the central government and Governor Onaga, Deputy Governor Ageda from Okinawa attended the final consultation meeting.
(English translation by T&CT)