The governor of the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa said Monday that he was preparing to revoke approval for work needed to relocate a controversial U.S. military air base to a different spot on the island, days after authorization was given to begin work.
Residents of Okinawa have strongly protested against the presence of U.S. Marine Air Station Futenma, which led to plans to relocate it to the less-developed Henoko area of the island. However, locals have called for the base to be moved off the island entirely.
Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga said that the approval his predecessor had given in 2013 for landfill work necessary to move the base has “legal defects,” and said he had initiated its cancellation.
"We will take all possible measures to block base construction in Henoko, and this is the first step," Onaga said at a news conference, according to the Associated Press.
The central government in Tokyo and the United States had agreed to relocate the base, which hosts over 19,000 U.S. Marines, in response to complaints from local residents about noise pollution and its proximity to residential areas.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga refuted Onaga’s statement and said that work on the Henoko base would continue as planned. ''We have been working on this issue as we had received the request which came from Okinawa prefecture 19 years ago. We then decided to relocate the base within Okinawa prefecture based on the U.S.-Japan agreement and agreed on this policy so as to decrease the danger of having Futenma air base and its closure,” Suga said, according to VOA news. The Defense Ministry was reportedly considering the possibility of legal action against Okinawa.
Onaga has criticized the Futenma base, saying it is a problem that dates back to the U.S. confiscation of Okinawan territory after it defeated Japan in World War II.