The governor of Japan's southern island of Okinawa says he will revoke permits for the construction on a new U.S. air base on his island, after talks broke down between his administration and officials in Tokyo.
Takeshi Onaga told reporters Monday that his government was taking the action after discovering "defects" in the original permits issued by his predecessor. His decision was announced just days after work resumed at the site near a remote coastal village on Okinawa called Henoko. The construction had been suspended for a month to allow for the negotiations.
Onaga was elected governor last year on a pledge to block the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Base from a heavily populated area of Okinawa to Henoko, and instead move the facility to another island. Tokyo and the United States negotiated the relocation in recognition of residents' complaints of noise pollution from the air base and the large number of U.S. military personnel on the island. Over 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.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters Monday that work on the new base on Henoko will continue despite Governor Onaga's decision. The central government could file suit against Onaga to block his action.
''We have been working on this issue as we had received the request which came from Okinawa prefecture 19 years ago. We then decided to relocate the base within Okinawa prefecture based on the U.S.-Japan agreement and agreed on this policy so as to decrease the danger of having Futenma air base [near a residential area] and its closure. I find Governor Onaga's comment regretful as I see it ignores the effort made by the various parties involved in this process since the agreement to abolish the danger [of Futenma air base],” said Suga.