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Work resumes on controversial military runway on Okinawa

By MATTHEW M. BURKE AND CHIYOMI SUMIDA | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 27, 2016

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Work resumed Tuesday on a controversial new U.S. military runway after local opposition shut down the project for 10 months.

Workers began preparing to reset floats around the construction area in Oura Bay at Henoko, according to Okinawa Defense Bureau officials.

The move came a day Gov. Takeshi Onaga abided by Japanese court rulings and retracted his cancellation order on a landfill permit for the runway. The permit was issued by his predecessor as part of the process of closing Marine Corps Air Station Futenma and relocating it to Camp Schwab.

“In accordance with the final decision by the Supreme Court, the government will carry out the landfill work,” Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday. “To reduce the burden and potential danger associated with the military presence, as well as maintaining its deterrence power, moving the operations to Henoko is the only solution.”

Onaga revoked the permit in October 2015. The Japanese government temporarily suspended construction in March while his actions went to arbitration, then the courts.

In September, the Fukuoka High Court ruled that the permit revocation was illegal. Onaga appealed to Japan’s Supreme Court, which let the high court ruling stand last week.

Onaga called for dialogue with Tokyo before work resumed. That didn’t happen.

“Now, I’ve returned to the starting line and I have renewed my resolve to never allow them to build a new military base at Henoko,” he told reporters Monday.

Onaga often calls the project a “new” base. It actually is expansion of an existing base.

“I have other authorities as governor that could influence the project,” he said. “If no consideration is given to Okinawa, I have no alternative but to take a hardline attitude.”

Onaga released a 13-point plan earlier this month laying out other ways he could block or delay the project. The list included other permits that are likely to cross his desk, surveys of soil pollution and buried cultural property, a review of environmental protection measures and tests on soil brought from outside the prefecture.

Onaga won election by promising to shutter Futenma, block construction at Henoko, relocate Marine air operations off the island and remove MV-22 Osprey helicopter-plane hybrids from Okinawa.

burke.matt@stripes.com
sumida.chiyomi@stripes.com

 

A beach on Oura Bay, Okinawa, where construction of a controversial new runway resumed on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2016.
TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE, MCCLATCHY DC/TNS

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