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Okinawa sues Japan government over US base relocation

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Activists chant slogans as they protest against the construction of a new US military base in Okinawa during a rally in front of the Japanese prime minister’s residence in Tokyo on April 17, 2015. (AFP photo)

The Okinawa prefecture has filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government over local resistance to a relocation of a US military base within the strategic island.

Okinawa filed a complaint in the prefectural capital of Naha on Friday, asking the court to review Tokyo’s decision to go ahead with land reclamation work off the Henoko area in Nago, which is required to get the construction work off the ground.

In October, Okinawa governor Takeshi Onaga revoked a landfill permit issued by his predecessors for work on the new US base as not being legal, but Tokyo and a court nullified it. This even prompted the Japanese government to file a lawsuit against Okinawa in November.



The Friday complaint requested the court to revive Onaga’s landfill permit cancellation to stop the relocation of the US base to the northern part of the island.

Onaga also pledged earlier this week to take “every possible measure” to prevent the construction of the base.

Planes and helicopters are stationed at the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, Okinawa, Japan. (File photo by AFP)

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the new complaint is “extremely regrettable” and that the initial approval was legal and allowed landfill work to go ahead.

The prospective outpost would take over the functions of US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, also known as MCAS Futenma.

MCAS Futenma, which is based in the city of Ginowan in Okinawa Prefecture, houses several thousand US military personnel.

Under a 1996 agreement with Washington, the Tokyo government must move the Futenma airbase, which is located in a residential area.

Local residents say the base should be closed down on the island instead of being replaced.

The row over the relocation has dragged on for nearly two decades, putting successive Japanese governments between a rock and a hard place as they have struggled to satisfy the US and keep local anger in check at the same time.

Local residents are fiercely opposed to the base, as a series of sexual assaults by US troops from the base has sparked violent protests and anger. Many offending soldiers have received either no or very light punishments.