TOKYO, Oct. 26 (UPI) — The Japanese government is nullifying a revocation of a U.S. military base relocation permit, issued two weeks earlier by the governor of Okinawa.
Tokyo’s land and infrastructure minister said Gov. Takeshi Onaga’s reversal of an earlier decision to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to a more remote part of the island is void, Kyodo News reported on Tuesday.
The United States and Japan have been trying for 20 years to move the air base, currently situated in a densely populated area known as Ginowan. The plan is to relocate the base to the more sparsely populated Henoko coast, but many residents of Okinawa want the U.S. bases removed entirely from the island, where Onaga’s supporters associate American presence with accidents and crime.
The latest decision means the work of relocation, which had been suspended over the conflict between the Okinawa Prefectural Government and Tokyo, is to be handled by the central government. The Defense Ministry’s Okinawa Defense Bureau had requested the land and infrastructure ministry to look into Onaga’s revocation and to cancel it, worried that the governor’s actions could have a negative impact on “trust between Japan and the United States.”
Opposition to the hosting of U.S. bases in Okinawa, however, runs deep. Last Wednesday, about 500 people participated in a rally that marked the 20th anniversary of protests after the rape of an Okinawan schoolgirl by three U.S. servicemen on Sept. 4, 1995.
Rally participant and local assembly member Satoru Nakasone told Jiji Press that, “The Japanese government has promised to reduce Okinawa’s base-hosting burden. In reality, however, our burden continues increasing.”