Okinawa overrule: Japanese minister vetoes local governor on new US military base
On Monday, Japan's Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi
“temporarily invalidated” the Okinawa governor’s order
to halt construction of a new US air base, which has been a
source of discord among residents of Okinawa, the southernmost
island of Japan that supports some 26,000 out of 47,000 American
military personnel, the Asahi Shimbun reported.
READ MORE: Anti-base Okinawa governor blocks relocation of US Marines
The new US air base planned for the rural town of Nago, on
reclaimed land adjacent to a US military base called Camp Schwab,
would replace the Futenma Air Base, some 50km (30 miles) away in
a congested urban area in central Okinawa.
Hayashi said postponing construction of the base threatened "great damage to diplomacy and defense policy by having a negative impact on the Japan-US relationship, as well as affecting residents near Futenma,” he said in a statement.
Last week, Okinawa’s Governor Takeshi Onaga attempted to block plans to build a new US air base in Nago, claiming underwater survey work needed for reclamation of land for the new $8.6 billion base, hence the Fisheries Ministry’s involvement.
Onaga, who won the 2014 gubernatorial race on his pledge to keep out the US base, said he would hold a press conference to express his position on Hayashi’s ruling.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Hayashi's decision
came after he had examined the position of the governor "from
a fair and neutral position," adding that the federal
government believes it is "extremely important" to
confront the risks posed by the Futenma base, which is in a
densely-populated urban area.
An agreement between the United States and Japan to close down the Futenma Air Base occurred in 1996 after the US military had a severe falling out with the local populace following a number of crimes, including 1995 gang-rape of a 12-year-old Japanese girl by three US military personnel.