NAHA, Okinawa — Henoko residents Tuesday triumphantly withdrew a lawsuit against Japan’s government that had demanded halting a drilling survey in connection with replacing Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

The survey was for a controversial and now-disgarded plan to build an airport in waters off Henoko. The plaintiffs said they withdrew the suit because the government clearly no longer needed to continue the survey. In Washington last week, the United States and Japan agreed on a final realignment of U.S. forces in Japan including relocating Futenma operations to an airport to be built off Camp Schwab.

The suit was filed in December 2004 by 85 local residents, environmentalists and anti-military advocates. They claimed the planned offshore airstrip would destroy the environment and threaten the already endangered dugong, a manatee-like sea mammal that feeds on sea grass off Henoko.

Officials with the Naha Bureau of the Defense Facilities Administration Agency, in charge of providing facilities and installations for U.S. forces in Japan, said $7.57 million has been spent for the drilling and related survey.

Toshio Ikemiyagi, the plaintiff group’s chief lawyer, said, “We have accomplished our goal of blocking the construction. It was because of our protest campaign that the governments were forced to change their plan.

“However,” he added, “this was only the end of the first round.”

U.S. and Japanese defense officials have said the final report calls for building a V-shaped airstrip partly on Camp Schwab and partly on reclaimed land in Oura Bay. Plans now call for it to be completed by 2014.

Said Ikemiyagi: “We will be ready for the next round.”

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