Govt. starts landfill work in Okinawa
NHK -- Dec 15
Japan's central government is pushing ahead with a controversial plan to relocate an American military base within the southern prefecture of Okinawa. They've started full-scale land reclamation work despite strong local opposition.

Crews have begun pouring sand and dirt into the coastal area of Henoko so the base can be moved there. The reclamation had been suspended due to legal battles between the central and local governments.

The US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station currently sits in a densely populated area and poses a safety concern because of the volume of military air traffic.

Both Tokyo and Washington maintain the planned move is the only solution.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, "With the security environment surrounding Japan becoming increasingly serious, we want to maintain deterrence under the Japan-US alliance. And bearing in mind we also need to eliminate the risks posed by the Futenma base, relocating to Henoko is the only viable option."

Tokyo's move drew an angry response from Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki. He was elected in September and wants the base moved out of the prefecture altogether, just as his predecessor did.

Tamaki said, "By proceeding with the construction quickly, the central government is trying hard to make it a foregone conclusion and get the people of Okinawa to give up. But in fact, such moves will only invite strong opposition from people here. So the central government needs to understand that the more they push ahead with the work, the more they will add fuel to the burning anger of the people in Okinawa."

Dozens of protestors gathered near the site on Friday morning to voice their disapproval.

Many in Okinawa feel they bear an unfair burden. The prefecture hosts about 70 percent of US military facilities in Japan.

Discussions over the relocation started between Washington and Tokyo more than 20 years ago.

The Okinawa government plans to hold a non-binding referendum on the issue in February.

News sources: NHK, ANNnewsCH
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