Prime minister accepts Henoko settlement, will suspend land reclamation work

March 4, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo

At 1 p.m. on March 4, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced his intention to accept the court’s proposed settlement in the lawsuit his government brought against the Okinawa prefectural government over reclaiming land in Henoko, Nago as part of the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma. The prime minister told reporters in Tokyo that the government had decided to follow the court’s advice and would be suspending land reclamation work as part of its commitment to adhere to the terms of the settlement. This means a halt to the land reclamation work for which preparation is currently being carried out. However, Prime Minister Abe added that there is no change in the government’s position that relocation to Henoko is the only way to achieve the return of MCAS Futenma. The issue of Futenma’s return has remained unsettled for twenty years.

The same day, Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga, who was visiting Tokyo, stated at half past noon that due to the critical nature of the issue, he wanted more time to confirm the facts before making any comment. He added that he would clarify his view of the matter after attending a 3 p.m. meeting with Defense Minister Gen Nakatani to discuss the Okinawa base issue and promote conversion of land currently being used for military purposes.

Though Governor Onaga nullified the permit authorizing reclamation of land around Henoko, the nullification was invalidated by the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, and the Okinawa Defense Bureau has been continuing with construction related to the project. In protest, the Okinawa prefectural government filed two lawsuits against the national government, arguing that the invalidation of the governor’s action was unlawful. By accepting the settlement proposal, the national government is withdrawing the MLITT’s order to invalidate the permit nullification, and construction will be suspended. Therefore, the Okinawa prefectural government is also expected to withdraw its two lawsuits.

During the proceedings in the lawsuit brought by the government against Okinawa, the court asked Governor Onaga if he intended to abide by the court’s ruling in the event that the national government were to win a suit verifying the illegality of the governor’s nullification of the land reclamation permit before the proxy execution of the land reclamation authorization took place. Governor Onaga stated that he would abide by the court’s ruling.

(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

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