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Permits Canceled for New US Airbase on Japan's Okinawa Island

  • VOA News

FILE - Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga, Aug. 7, 2015.

FILE - Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga, Aug. 7, 2015.

The governor of Japan's southern island of Okinawa has followed through with a promise to revoke permits for construction of a new U.S. air base on the island, setting up a possible legal showdown with the central government in Tokyo.

Takeshi Onaga announced the move Tuesday, a month after he said his government would take the action after discovering "defects" in the original permits issued by his predecessor.

Onaga was elected late last year on a campaign pledge to block the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Base from a heavily populated area of Okinawa to a less-developed area named Henoko.

Decision 'regrettable'

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga called the governor's decision "regrettable," and vowed that construction on the air base would continue, despite Onaga's actions.

Construction had been suspended for a month in August to allow for negotiations between Onaga's administration and officials in Tokyo, but talks broke down.

Tokyo and the United States negotiated the relocation in recognition of residents' complaints of noise pollution from the air base, as well as its location in the middle of a residential area.

More than 19,000 U.S. Marines are stationed in Okinawa in order to rapidly respond to regional threats, provide disaster assistance and defend the interests of the United States and Japan.

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