Report: ruling to allow construction to resume for Futenma replacement
By MATTHEW M. BURKE AND CHIYOMI SUMIDA | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 13, 2016
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Japan’s Supreme Court will reportedly dismiss an appeal by Okinawa’s governor Dec. 20 without hearing oral arguments, setting the stage for construction to resume in the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
Multiple Japanese media outlets reported the decision Monday, citing anonymous sources familiar with the case. Japanese politicians, including Okinawan Gov. Takeshi Onaga, then appeared to confirm them.
“It is regrettable that a ruling is to be rendered without a hearing,” Onaga, who won election on an anti-U.S. bases platform, said in an interview Monday night with Japanese broadcaster NHK. While Onaga said he would abide by the court’s decision, he vowed to find other ways to disrupt the project, which was approved by his predecessor. He did not offer specifics.
“I will never allow construction of a new military base at Henoko,” Onaga said. “If the central government resumes construction, I will block it by employing every possible means (other than cancelling the landfill permit).”
Onaga appealed to Japan’s Supreme Court in September after a three-judge panel of the Fukuoaka High Court decided he acted illegally when he revoked a permit to reclaim land in northern Okinawa for the move. The landfill work allow a new runway to be built into Oura Bay at the remote northern Marine base of Camp Schwab. Futenma would then close and air operations would move to Schwab.
The relocation plan was first drawn up in the mid-90s. Residents around Futenma demanded the base be moved from the densely populated urban area in central Okinawa over safety concerns.
Tokyo and Washington agreed to the move but decided to keep air operations on Okinawa. That decision sparked small but fervent protests that still continue.
Since his 2014 election, Onaga had fcused on voiding landfill permits for the new runway that were signed by his predecessor. That has delayed the project significantly, perhaps years. Construction was suspended in March by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pending arbitration and court rulings. That now appears to have come to an end.
Asked about the Supreme Court decision, Defense Minister Tomomi Inada reminded Onaga that both parties agreed to abide by the ruling.
“That policy remains unchanged,” Inada said.