Japanese court orders Okinawa to allow construction of US military runways

Japanese Court Orders Okinawa To Allow Construction Of Us Military Runways
The runways under construction
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By Mari Yamaguchi, AP

Japan’s supreme court has dismissed Okinawa’s rejection of a central government plan to build US Marine Corps runways on the island.

The court ordered the prefecture to approve the plans, despite protests by locals who oppose the American troops’ presence.


Monday’s ruling upheld a high court ruling in March that the central government’s plan and its instruction for Okinawa’s approval are valid.

It will move forward the suspended construction at a time Okinawa’s strategic role is seen increasingly important for the Japan-US military alliance in the face of growing tensions with China.

Japan’s central government began the reclamation work at the Henoko area on the eastern coast of Okinawa’s main island in 2018 to pave the way for the relocation of the Marine Corps Futenma air station from a crowded area on the island.

Okinawa seafront
The Japanese government plans to relocate a US air base from one area of the prefecture to another (Kyodo News via AP)


The government later found out about 70% of the reclamation site is on soft ground, and submitted a revision to the original plan with additional land improvement.

The Okinawa prefectural government rejected the revision as insufficient and suspended the reclamation work.

The ground improvement plan requires tens of thousands of pillars and massive amounts of soil, which opponents say would damage the environment.


Okinawa governor Denny Tamaki has called for a significant reduction of the US military in Okinawa, the immediate closure of the Futenma base and the scrapping of a base construction in Henoko.

The Japanese and US governments initially agreed in 1996 to close the Futenma air station, a year after the rape of a schoolgirl by three American military personnel led to a massive anti-base movement.

Building site
The move comes despite protests by locals who oppose the American troops’ presence (Kyodo News via AP)


But persistent protests and lawsuits between Okinawa and Tokyo have held up the plan for nearly 30 years.

Tokyo and Washington say the relocation within Okinawa, instead of moving it elsewhere as demanded by many Okinawans, is the only solution.

Okinawa, which accounts for only 0.6% of Japanese land, is burdened with the majority of the 50,000 American troops based in the country under a bilateral security pact, and 70% of US military facilities are in Okinawa.

The Japanese government has increasingly stepped up its own defences to deal with China’s growing assertiveness in recent years, triggering fear among Okinawan residents that they will be the first to be embroiled in a potential conflict.


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