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Gov’t may seek damages from Okinawa governor if relocation blocked

TOKYO, March 27, Kyodo — Japan’s central government may seek damages from Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga if he continues to attempt to impede the relocation of a U.S. military base within the prefecture, the government’s top spokesman indicated Monday.


Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga made the remarks after Onaga said at a rally on Saturday he will “employ all means” to revoke his predecessor’s approval of land reclamation for the planned relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.


“In general, it’s an illegal abuse of authority for administrative chiefs to use powers given to them under the law for a different purpose than the one (stipulated) in the law,” Suga told a press conference.


“It’s conceivable that the state could employ the necessary legal measures, including executing our right to seek damages, in response to such illegal acts,” he said.


The Japanese and U.S. governments say building replacement runways in a coastal area within Okinawa is “the only solution” to address the problems of the current site in a densely populated residential zone without undermining the deterrent power purportedly offered by the Japan-U.S. alliance.


Having won the governor’s seat in 2014 on an antibase platform amid opposition to the plan among Okinawa voters, the governor previously tried to revoke his predecessor’s December 2013 decision to approve land reclamation work at the new site in the Henoko area of the city of Nago, but this was ultimately struck down by the Supreme Court in December last year.


The Okinawa government has argued that approval for the land work can be revoked in light of the change in circumstances since it was given, citing local election results indicating prefectural residents’ disapproval of the base transfer plan.


The central government has resumed construction of the new base in response to the top court’s December ruling. In February, it began offshore work in a bid to start bank protection work as early as April.


“The state and Okinawa Prefecture have both agreed to abide by the Supreme Court’s ruling, based on a settlement we reached last year, and naturally we want to quietly proceed with construction in accordance with the ruling,” Suga said Monday.

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