Okinawa protests as Japan gov't begins land reclamation work for US base

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-02-06 18:38

TOKYO - The Japanese central government on Monday began maritime reclamation work as part of a controversial move to relocate the US Marine Corps' Air Station Futenma from a densely populated area of Ginowan to the Henoko coastal area in Nago City, both in Okinawa Prefecture.

The land reclamation work, which provisionally involves dropping concrete blocks into the sea off the coast of Henoko in Japan's southernmost prefecture, from vessels equipped with large cranes, began on Monday morning amid staunch protests from local citizens.

The preparatory work, which drew protests from more than 100 locals outside nearby US Camp Schwab, also comes on the heels of a meeting between US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last week at which they agreed to continue as planned with the base relocation.

Mattis and Abe reiterated both countries' stance that relocating the Futenma base to Henoko remains "the only solution".

As more than 220 blocks, weighing 14 tons each, were being prepared Monday to form barriers in 4 areas in the sea where the Okinawa Defense Bureau will build seawalls around the site to be filled with sand and earth to prevent sediment spreading, Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga returned from the U.S. to protest the move on Sunday.

Onaga, a staunch opponent to the base's relocation who has fought doggedly to see the plan scrapped and the new base build outside Okinawa or Japan altogether and has sued and been counter-sued by the central government, will now likely rustle up further moves to block the project.

His trip to the US was to convey local Okinawans opposition to the relocation plan to new US President Donald Trump.

Trump had previously intimated that the US had been paying to much for its forces to be based in Japan and that the latter should share more of the financial burden.

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