Tokyo, March 22 (Jiji Press)--The Japanese government applied to the Okinawa governor on Friday for permission for landfill work needed for the planned relocation of a controversial U.S. military base in the southernmost Japan prefecture.
The government is seeking the approval of Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima for reclamation work in the Henoko coastal area in the Okinawa city of Nago, the planned site for the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma air station from Ginowan in the same prefecture, as agreed between the governments of Japan and the United States in 2006.
It also submitted written consent for the work from the fishermen's cooperative in Nago with fishing rights for the ocean area subject to the landfill.
Nakaima will decide whether to approve the request after listening to opinions from affected local governments. Amid continuing strong calls from local residents for the Futenma base to be transferred outside the prefecture, there is little prospect of the governor approving the application.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters at his office: "We will never accept the Futenma base being fixed in the current place. This is our basic stance."
Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told a press conference, "We know there are various opinions in the prefecture," adding that the government will continue efforts to obtain local consent to the Futenma relocation to the Henoko district.
Speaking to reporters in Okinawa, Nakaima reiterated his call for the Futenma base to be moved outside the prefecture. The planned relocation is "practically impossible," he said.
Still, Nakaima said the application from the central government will be examined under relevant laws.
Personnel from the Defense Ministry's Okinawa Defense Bureau submitted documents for the application to the prefecture's civil engineering office in Nago. The normal time between a landfill application and the governor's decision is said to be around 10 months.
The relocation plan made little progress under administrations of the Democratic Party of Japan, after former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who took office in 2009, pledged to move the base out of Okinawa, only to backtrack later.
In February, Abe said during talks with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington that he would take concrete action over the Futenma relocation.
Aiming to file the landfill application by the end of this month, the Japanese government pushed through negotiations with the Nago fishery cooperative on state compensation.
The government decided the timing of the application to avoid disruption by the House of Councillors election this summer and the Nago mayoral election in January 2014, according to informed sources.END
A service of YellowBrix, Inc.