Okinawa governor rejects government request over US base transfer

  • Defence minister called for understanding as government resumed construction, but governor Denny Tamaki said island prefecture ‘will not waver’
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 November, 2018, 1:21pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 November, 2018, 10:03pm

Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki stepped up his conflict with the central government on Saturday over plans for a US military base transfer within the island prefecture, rejecting calls for understanding as the government resumed construction.

Tamaki, elected in September on an anti-base platform, met Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya at the prefectural government office. The governor has been urging the state to move the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma outside the southwestern prefecture, where the bulk of US military facilities in Japan are located.

“I was elected by pledging to oppose the relocation to Henoko. The will of the people will not waver,” Tamaki told Iwaya.

Japan and the US have agreed to move the base from a densely populated residential area in Ginowan to Henoko off Nago city.

The central government continues to prioritise “removing the dangers of the Futenma air station … and realising the return of the land”, said Iwaya, who visited Okinawa for the first time since assuming office last month.

As US frets over China and North Korea, Okinawa looks stuck with its military base

The meeting took place amid growing tensions following a decision late last month by the land minister to override Okinawa’s withdrawal of approval for landfill work to build a replacement facility off Nago.

The central government resumed the work earlier this month, based on the land minister’s decision that cited concerns Okinawa’s move would hurt ties with the US.

Okinawa is considering requesting a review of the minister’s decision by a third-party panel for resolving conflicts between the national and local governments, while also preparing to hold a prefectural referendum next year on the relocation plan.