(Tokyo Shimbun: July 25, 2015 – Top play)
The Ministry of Defense on July 24 submitted to Okinawa Prefecture a reclamation blueprint concerning the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station, while seabed drilling research is still underway off Henoko, Nago. The government aims to move forward with the necessary procedures to construct a new base as much as possible in preparation for a breakdown in talks with prefectural authorities.
Talks on the construction of a new base have been taking place between the central and local governments. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has been meeting with Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga on this issue, albeit irregularly. Meanwhile, a prefectural panel of experts has recently drawn up a report questioning the reclamation permit granted by former governor Hirokazu Nakaima. Speculation is growing that Onaga may decide to scrap his predecessor’s decision as early as in August.
Even if Onaga cancels the reclamation permit, the government plans to claim the validity of Nakaima’s approval. But it needs to hold prior consultations with the local authorities – a condition set by the former governor – to implement the reclamation project. This is why it submitted a blueprint to the prefecture. Defense Minister Gen Nakatani views the submission itself as part of the consultation process.
The government has disregarded the public opposition to the Futenma relocation to Henoko that was demonstrated in the Nago mayoral election, gubernatorial race and general elections held last year. The latest submission of a blueprint to the prefectural office highlights the government is growing increasingly assertive about moving ahead with the reclamation work.