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SECURITY > Okinawa

Gov’t to lift maritime restriction in waters off Henoko in Okinawa

The government will lift a temporary maritime restriction in waters around Henoko in Nago City, the proposed relocation site for the U.S. military’s Futenma airfield (Ginowan City, Okinawa Prefecture), beginning on Dec. 14, the Sankei Shimbun learned on Dec. 13.The lifting of the restriction is effectively a quid pro quo for the resumption of land-based construction at the U.S. Marine Corps Camp Schwab in Henoko and other areas on Dec. 15. The work to relocate helipads to the Northern Training Area (NTA; located in Higashi and Kunigami) is expected to be completed on Dec. 16.

 

With the Supreme Court’s ruling on the administrative lawsuit between the national and the Okinawa prefectural governments scheduled for Dec. 20, where the administration is expected to prevail, the reduction of the base-hosting burden on Okinawa will enter a new phase.

 

In bilateral talks between the two governments held on Nov. 25, the Okinawa government agreed that the national government will proceed with the construction of two aging barracks at Camp Schwab, acknowledging that they are located outside the Henoko construction area. In return, the government agreed to lift the temporary restriction that has prohibited fishing and pleasure boats from entering the designated area.

 

The government will authorize such boats to enter the temporarily restricted waters effective Dec. 14 ahead of the resumption of land-based construction at Henoko. The government will resume the land-based construction on Dec. 15 and complete this year’s works in a few days. The construction has been suspended since March when the two governments agreed on the terms of settlement.

 

After the Supreme Court’s ruling scheduled for Dec. 20, the landfill permit [rescinded by Governor Takeshi Onaga] will become valid again, which will allow offshore construction for the Henoko relocation to be resumed. After that, fishing boats and other vessels will be prohibited from entering the area again.

 

In the meantime, the work to relocate helipads, which is one of the conditions for returning more than half of the NTA to Japan, is almost finished at four sites. The U.S. Forces Japan will conduct a final inspection on Dec. 16 and issue an official notice of return after confirming the completion. (Slightly Abridged)

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