A judicial ruling has been finalized, a ruling that said there is no defect in the administrative procedures connected to the planned relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Ginowan to the Henoko district in Nago, both in Okinawa Prefecture. The ruling is of great significance.
The Supreme Court handed down a decision upholding a high court ruling that recognized as illegal the nullification by Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga of the landfill work approval needed for the transfer of the air station. Onaga’s final appeal was turned down.
At a press conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga emphasized, “We will proceed with the relocation in cooperation with the [Okinawa] prefectural government, in line with the latest court ruling and others.”
The government plans to resume the suspended landfill work at the earliest possible time. What matters is to steadily move the work ahead so as to realize the relocation.
The court ruling referred to purported positive effects of the relocation, saying that, in addition to reducing the noise from which the areas surrounding Futenma Air Station suffer and removing the danger posed to them, it will substantially reduce the total area of the U.S. base and avoid flights over residential areas. The ruling also touched on the rationality of environmental protection measures to be taken at the relocation site.
The top court ruling also recognized, with regards to former Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima’s judgment to approve the landfill work, that “there were no circumstances found that could be inferred as illegal.” This is an appropriate decision.
Diplomatic and national security policies are primarily matters that are under the exclusive management of the central government. The high court ruling noted that a local government has no authority, no organizational structure and no position to make a decision concerning the security of the whole country.
Don’t ignore settlement spirit
We hope Onaga will take the top court’s ruling seriously.
It is questionable that Onaga has not relaxed his stance of all-out resistance. At a press conference, Onaga said he will withdraw his cancellation of the landfill approval but emphasized, “I will employ all possible means not to let a new base be built in Henoko.”
Onaga is said to be considering taking such actions in the future, using his power as governor, as refusing to renew the permission to crush reefs, authorization that expires at the end of March, and refusing to approve design changes in the relocation work.
But the terms of the settlement that the central and Okinawa prefectural governments agreed on in March this year say, “Once the court ruling is finalized [on the relocation case], both sides will commit themselves to cooperate with each other and respond sincerely.” Does Onaga intend to ignore unilaterally the purport of the settlement terms?
It is a grave fact that with his “illegal act” of nullified approval that lasted for more than 14 months, Onaga fomented antagonism between the central and Okinawa governments and sent the planned relocation into further confusion.
U.S. forces in Japan have resumed flights of Osprey transporters at the Futenma Air Station, which had been suspended following a crash-landing off Okinawa Prefecture, saying there was no problem with the aircraft itself.
The Osprey aircraft is vital for U.S. forces to maintain its deterrence, and now that it is known that the aircraft itself was not the cause of the incident, the resumption of flights is unavoidable. Yet U.S. forces should make efforts to take thorough measures to prevent such incidents from recurring and to disclose relevant information.
Also not to be forgotten is that removing the danger posed by the Futenma Air Station through the Henoko relocation is the biggest safety measure to be taken.