GINOWAN, Okinawa — The mayor of this city says he will sue the Japanese government over the continued operation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
“Since assuming office in April 2003, I have demanded to cease operations at the air station,” said Mayor Yoichi Iha in a statement posted on the city’s Japanese language website. “Despite our repeated warnings about the danger, as well as noise pollution, the operations continue, spreading intolerable damage to our citizens.”
His announcement comes amidst the current furor over a 2006 bilateral agreement to close the base and move the Marine air operations to a new facility to be built on Camp Schwab, along Okinawa’s rural northeast shore.
Spurred by the promise of former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to move the base outside Okinawa, opposition to the project has increased, resulting in the election of an anti-base mayor in Nago, the city that hosts Camp Schwab, and large anti-base rallies.
The issue damaged relations with the U.S., which insists the Marine air units need to remain on Okinawa for security reasons.
In June, Hatoyama was forced to resign after acknowledging there was no way to move the replacement for Futenma off the island.
Iha noted that Futenma, located in the middle of his city of 89,000, has been slated for closure since the U.S. and Japan agreed in 1996 to return about 21 percent of U.S. base properties on Okinawa. The only stipulation for closing the base was that an alternate site for the Marine air units be found elsewhere on the island.
Details of the suit, including monetary damages and when it was to be filed, are still being worked, Masaru Shinzato, chief of the city’s military affairs office, said Tuesday.
Iha is also considering running for governor in November. He said if elected he would refuse to endorse the Camp Schwab plan.
Under Japanese law, the governor must approve any construction that involves the use of public waterways. The current Camp Schwab plan includes building two runways stretching from the Henoko Peninsula onto filled-in portions of Oura Bay.