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Japan's Okinawa may use prefectural powers, local law to block central gov't plan to build new military base

(Xinhua)    20:25, February 13, 2015

TOKYO, Feb. 13 -- Japan's Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga said on Friday that he will do everything he can to suspend the central government's plan to construct a new military base in Japan's southernmost prefecture.

The plan to construct the new military base is aimed at replacing an aging U.S. Marine Corps facility on the mainland of Okinawa.

As a prefectural leader, Onaga said he is mulling using his political clout in the region to stall the Defense Ministry's preparations to build the base, which will involve reclaiming masses amounts of land from the sea, in the picturesque Henoko region of Nago, also on Okinawa island.

Before being elected as the governor of Okinawa, Onaga campaigned on a platform of blocking the construction of this U.S. base, and he told local media Friday that he will "use every means to fulfill my campaign pledge".

Onaga, according to sources close to the matter, is considering looking into ways construction work under seabeds and reefs may be regulated, and issuing the central government with a form of " cease and desist" order backed by the prefecture and its local fishery industry.

In the coastal Henoko region of the island, there are believed to be a number of endangered species that may be put at risk if the construction project were to fully swing into gear. Such species include a sizable, pristine coral reef.

The 4-year deal for the base relocation inked between Japan and the United States as part of a broader realignment of troops in Japan, also involves relocating around 9,600 U.S. Marines to Guam, which necessitates the construction of a new U.S. Marine base and runway on Camp Schwab and a landfill in Oura Bay in Henoko, the crux of the impasse between Okinawan citizens and officials and Japan's central government.

Okinawan officials, including Onaga, have also looked into possibly blocking the construction of a runway planned to be built on reclaimed land in Henoko, under the Japan's Public Water Body Reclamation Law, which states that reclaiming publicly owned water areas requires the approval of the prefectural governor.

If Onaga is successful, the central government will be forced to amend the reclamation law, or change the construction plan, both of which would trigger a massive outpouring of protest from the islanders and their officials, already staunchly opposed to all base operations on the island and their ongoing, disproportionately harsh, base-hosting burdens, which have led to irrevocable suffering, in some instances.

Anti-U.S. military sentiment has continued to increase in Okinawa since the rape of an elementary schoolgirl in Okinawa by three U.S. servicemen in 1995 and despite Abe and his administration saying they are trying to ease the base hosting burdens of the people of Okinawa, the islanders shoulder the burden of hosting 75 percent of Japan's U.S. bases and around half of all the U.S. military personnel deployed here.

The tiny island accounts for just 1 percent of Japan's total land area, and local citizens feel they have suffered for long enough and that it is high time the bases were moved off the island entirely and the island returned to Okinawa.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Ma Xiaochun,Bianji)

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