TOKYO, March 23. /TASS/. The authorities of Japan’s southernmost Okinawa prefecture on Monday ordered the defense ministry to suspend all underwater work at the planned relocation site for the US marine air base off the Henoko district.
The move could in fact block all the construction works of the facility and spark a new heated conflict with Washington.
This comes after one of the big concrete blocks damaged the unique coral reefs in the area. The local administration expects that the defense ministry removes all the concrete constructions from the bottom and restores ecology of the area.
If the military fail to comply with the order, Okinawa’s authorities plan to revoke the license for carrying out the drilling work there. This could lead to a full suspension of the construction effort.
At a press conference in Tokyo on Monday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga condemned the position of Okinawa’s authorities and said that the construction in Henoko would be carried out as scheduled.
The US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is currently located in the urban area of Ginowan City in the southern part of Okinawa. After lengthy talks between Washington and Tokyo, the sides decided that the base would be relocated to Henoko, a less populated area of northern Okinawa.
The island’s administration and local citizens have been for years seeking the elimination of this facility, citing various incidents, noise and the threat created by intensive flights of warplanes in the densely populated area.
Local citizens also fear that the construction would inevitably damage the environment. The activists have already attempted to block the construction several times. They are backed by Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga, elected in December, who actively opposed the relocation plans during the campaign.