TOKYO: The governor of Okinawa said on Monday he will revoke approval for work on a US air base in southern Japan, in the latest setback to the controversial plan.
The proposal to relocate Futenma air base to the Henoko region, first mooted in 1996, has become the focus of anger among locals, who insist it should be shut and a replacement built elsewhere in Japan or overseas.
Outspoken Okinawa governor Takeshi Onaga said his government has began procedures to cancel approval, just two days after work in Henoko resumed following a month-long delay, according to the prefecture.
“We’ll do our best by using every possible measure to block the construction of a new base in Henoko as promised during our election campaign,” he told a press conference, adding that “defects” had been found in the approval given by his predecessor in 2013.
Work in Henoko, the rural coastal district in central Okinawa chosen for the replacement facility, is only in the initial stages with the government setting up sea floats and a makeshift bridge necessary for landfill work.
The central government will for now continue its work in the district “based on the law while giving consideration to residents’ livelihood and the environment,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said during a parliamentary debate.
The move comes after Tokyo resumed work in Henoko on Saturday following a month-long suspension as talks continued with local officials opposed to the project, and residents staged a protest.
Both Tokyo and Washington have repeatedly backed the plan, with Abe last month insisting it was “the only solution.”
All sides agree that Futenma’s current site – in the middle of a crowded urban area where its aircraft are a nuisance to thousands of locals – is not appropriate, but the US will not close it until a replacement facility is ready.