TOKYO (AP) — The Japanese government took the local government in Okinawa to court Tuesday, launching a legal battle in their longstanding dispute over the planned relocation of a U.S. military air base on the southern island.
A lawsuit filed in a regional high court in Okinawa seeks an injunction to overturn Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga’s recent decision to cancel a previously issued approval for land reclamation work for the base relocation.
The long-stalled plan would move the U.S. Marine Air Station Futenma to a less-populated part of Okinawa, but many residents want the base moved out of the prefecture entirely. They feel Okinawa bears an unfair burden of the U.S. military presence in Japan. The prefecture houses more than half of the 50,000 American troops stationed in Japan and U.S. bases occupy nearly a fifth of the land on its main island.
Onaga’s predecessor approved the land reclamation, but then lost to him in a re-election bid. The central government sued Okinawa after Onaga refused to follow an order from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism to reinstate approval for the work.
Tokyo briefly suspended the reclamation work earlier this year while seeking a compromise but has since resumed it.