Japan sues Okinawa governor over permit tied to Futenma relocation
By MATTHEW M. BURKE AND CHIYOMI SUMIDA | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 25, 2016
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The Japanese government ended months of diplomacy Friday by filing suit against Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga for failing to retract his revocation of a landfill permit that is central to the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
“Taking a strong stance such as this against the will of the majority of Okinawa is far from what a democratic nation should be,” Onaga told reporters after the lawsuit was filed.
The anti-base governor also called the legal action “abnormal.”
The permit was granted by Onaga’s predecessor, Hirokazu Nakaima, in December 2013, allowing the landfill of a portion of Oura Bay just offshore from Camp Schwab in Okinawa’s remote north for a new runway to be used by the U.S. military.
Onaga revoked the permit in October 2015, a year after riding a wave of anti-base sentiment into office. The revocation led to a separate lawsuit and months of unsuccessful arbitration.
The Tokyo government seeks a judicial ruling that Onaga’s failure to retract his revocation violates the Local Autonomy Act, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters Friday.
In March, the Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court suggested an out-of-court settlement over the issue. If a settlement could not be reached, the parties could seek redress through fresh lawsuits.
The suit, however, does not bar the parties from further dialogue, and Tokyo has indicated interest.
“Based on the settlement, the government will proceed in parallel with the legal action and dialogue,” Suga said.
Opening arguments will be heard Aug. 5, and Onaga said he will be present to deliver his position.