Dangers of MCAS Futenma remain unresolved 21 years after base return agreement

Dangers of MCAS Futenma remain unresolved 21 years after base return agreement

MV-22 Osprey and CH-53 helicopters stationed at USMCAS Futenma at 11:00 a.m. in Ginowan City

April 12, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

April 12 marked 21 years since the U.S. and Japanese governments agreed on the whole return of Futenma Air Station to Okinawa. Since the Futenma Air Station return plan set forth construction of a replacement facility in Henoko and therefore within Okinawa, Okinawans have continued to oppose relocation of MCAS Futenma within the prefecture. The governments of the U.S. and Japan are forcing through construction by asserting that the only solution to the dangers of Futenma Air Station is relocation of the base to Henoko. This month the first step of land reclamation in Henoko, which will be embankment work, is expected to start. As such, the contention between Okinawans and the Japanese government is becoming increasingly tempestuous.

Governor Takeshi Onaga is considering revoking the land reclamation permit and pursuing a legal request to suspend construction operations. However, he is not sure how effective these measures will be and understands there are risks such as incurring restitution claims. With these considerations in mind he is trying to find the right time to act. The Japanese government is also increasing pressure on Governor Onaga by hinting at the possibility of restitution claims against him.

In July 2016, the Government of Japan brought a lawsuit against the Okinawa Prefectural Government claiming that Governor Onaga’s cancellation of the land reclamation permit was illegal. Okinawa’s loss of the case was confirmed in the Supreme Court of Japan in December the same year, and construction into the ocean was resumed. At the end of March 2017, former governor Hirokazu Nakaima’s approval of coral fracturing expired. The Japanese government is expected to continue construction and plunge into embankment work while still unauthorized.

The Japanese government agreed to close Futenma Air Station operation within a 5-year period of February 2014, in answer to a request from the former governor Nakaima. However since Onaga took office, the Japanese government has tossed aside its previous promises and changed its tone, saying that the closure of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is contingent on the prefectural government’s cooperation in moving forward with Henoko relocation.

(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)

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