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Seabed for new base in Henoko is “soft” at depths over 70 meters

  • February 8, 2020
  • , Tokyo Shimbun , Lead story
  • JMH Translation

By Makoto Nakazawa


Defense Ministry hides survey of ground strength


The Tokyo Shimbun has learned the Defense Ministry had data showing the seabed ground in the area planned for the landfill work for the new U.S. base construction in the Henoko district is soft at depths greater than 70 meters below sea level. This is contrary to the estimates released by the Defense Ministry. The Defense Ministry’s plan is premised “on making construction possible by improving the seabed through to 70 meters.” The possibility has now arisen that this premise may be fundamentally overturned. The ministry did not incorporate the data [in its plan] because “the contractor conducted the survey at its own initiative; so the findings are unreliable.” The Ministry even hid the fact that the survey had been conducted. (Abridged)


Defense Ministry: Contractor performed survey at own initiative


The Defense Ministry’s Bureau of Capability and Facilities Planning made the following comment: “We had the results of the test of the ground strength at B27 and did not intend to hide it. The test in question was not directed by the Defense Ministry; the contractor conducted the test on its own initiative. Moreover, the test was implemented using a simple method, so we determined that it could not be used in the design study [for the new base]. We do not understand why the data of a survey not directed by the Defense Ministry was reported.”


Commentary: Measurements will overturn the foundations of the base construction


What lies behind the Defense Ministry’s cover-up of data disadvantageous to the promotion of the base construction is the government stance to forcibly promote the construction based on the view that “[locating the base in] Henoko is a foregone conclusion.”


At the Diet session in January last year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asserted, “Construction is possible with this method that has a strong record.” The ground strength used as the basis for that statement is a figure inferred from data taken at points other than B27, which is the deepest point. The newly revealed data that shows “soft” ground at B27 was ignored despite the fact that it is an actual measurement at that point.


The Tokyo Shimbun reported in March last year that another test found that the ground strength at B27 was lower than that desirable for foundation ground. The Defense Ministry did not use this data either, saying “it has low reliability,” which is what it said this time as well.


Almost 1 trillion yen in tax revenues is being invested in this construction project, which is of exceptional difficulty even compared with international projects. Despite this fact, the Defense Ministry has given a low estimate of the risks. This handling of the matter appears to be a way to make the project look okay in order to force it through.


If the ground located more than 70 meters below sea level is “soft,” the base construction itself is of concern. The Defense Ministry should stop and reconsider the project.

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