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Tokyo says will ignore Okinawa authorities’ decision on US air base

September 14, 2015, 8:30 UTC+3 TOKYO

The governornment of Okinawa Prefecture decided to launch the procedure of revoking the permission for works on relocating the US Futenma Air Base to the Henoko coastal area

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© AP Photo/Junji Kurokawa

TOKYO, September 14. /TASS/. Japan’s government has said it will disregard the decision of southernmost Okinawa Prefecture governor to launch the procedure of revoking the permission for works on relocating the US Futenma Air Base to the Henoko coastal area.

"We are acting in accordance with the adopted legislation and will continue the works taking care of life conditions of local citizens and environment," Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said during the debate in the country’s upper house of parliament.

Earlier on Monday, Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga said his government will revoke the approval for relocating the military base given by his predecessor. "The permission issued by the previous governor was wrong," he stressed.

The Okinawa government is expected to formalize the revocation by late October.

Japan’s cabinet of ministers has the right to suspend the decision of the prefecture’s authorities, but the judicial procedures will take some time. This will affect the timeframe for the US air base relocation.

On September 12, Tokyo resumed works on relocating the controversial US air base. The move came following months-long talks with Okinawa authorities during which the sides failed to reach a compromise. An expertise was also conducted aimed at finding whether the relocation works will damage the coral reef on the seabed.

On March 23, Onaga ordered the defence ministry to stop all operations at sea in the planned location of the Futenma base in the Henoko coastal area in the northern part of the island. The order was prompted by reports that construction works damaged a coral reef by negligence. The Okinawa authorities threatened to suspend their permission to relocate the US air base to this area. However, Tokyo called the actions of the prefecture authorities unlawful and stressed that it will proceed with fulfilling the plan, cancelling the order to suspend construction works at the site. Japan’s Defence Minister Gen Nakatani confirmed the government’s adherence to continue working according to plan.

The issue of relocating the Futenma base has been discussed since 2006. The local authorities insisted on removing it from the territory of the Okinawa island. However, in 2013, the prefecture agreed to relocate the base to another part of the island.

The Japanese government says relocation to Henoko is the only possible option, while local citizens and the new government of Okinawa oppose the plans demanding that the base should be relocated outside the prefecture.

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