Tokyo's plans to build new US base possibly scuppered
Updated: 2015-03-24 09:53
Growing resistance in Okinawa to moves by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration to relocate the airbase from Futenma to Henoko, will do little to lessen Washington's irritation with Tokyo over the base move -- a project, part of a realignment of US forces here, long-delayed due to the central government repeatedly failing to gain the consent of the prefectural government and its citizens.
And while Tokyo will have to contend with rising and likely indignant disapproval and protests to its base construction plan by Okinawan officials and citizens if it decides to ignore Onaga rescinding its permit to drill, and continues with its operations regardless, prefectural officials have prepared another stumbling block for the defense ministry that could also see its base building plans hindered, if not scuppered entirely.
Okinawan officials, including Onaga, may look to block the construction of a runway planned to be built on reclaimed land in Henoko, under the Japan's Public Water Body Reclamation Law, which states that reclaiming publicly owned water areas requires the approval of the prefectural governor.
If Onaga is successful, the central government will be forced to amend the reclamation law, or change the construction plan, both of which would be a further headache for the central government, nuisance to Washington and spark more truculent protests from the islanders.
Abe has said he is trying to ease the base hosting burdens of the people of Okinawa as the islanders shoulder the burden of hosting 75 percent of Japan's US bases and around half of all the US military personnel deployed there.
But the tiny island, however, accounts for just one percent of Japan's total land area, and many local citizens, feeling that they have suffered for long enough from base-related accidents, environmental pollution and instances of crime, just want the US bases moved off their island entirely.