Boring into Henoko seabed re-started on Thursday

Okinawa Defense Bureau resumed the boring survey Thursday morning, on the seabed off Henoko. The survey is necessary for the construction of the V-shaped runways for the replacement facility of MCAS Futenma.

The move drew immediate response from Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga who called the re-start of the survey “utterly deplorable.” Onaga was elected governor on a pledge to block the construction and prevent the transfer of MCAS Futenma to another location within the prefecture. “I will use every possible means to realize my campaign pledge of not allowing the construction of the replacement facility in Henoko,” Onaga told reporters in Tokyo.

However, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters at a separate press conference that the government would “carry on with the survey without delay making sure that the environment is protected.”

About 100 local protesters opposing the construction work held a sit-in rally in front of the gate of Camp Schwab criticizing the Defense Bureau for “bulldozing the work plan through.”  The riot police that have been stationed at the gate cleared them off, but the chaotic situation continued.  On the ocean, Japan Coast Guard rubber boats and protesters’ boats faced each other.

The boring work was started for the first time since last September when the work was suspended because of bad weather and in consideration of the November gubernatorial and December Lower House elections. This is also the first time the work has resumed since Takeshi Onaga administration took office. Governor Onaga has issued an order to Okinawa Defense Bureau to stop the construction work outside of the off limits area. However, the national government insists that they are not violating instructions from the prefectural government.

The Okinawa Defense Bureau was scheduled to complete the drilling survey before the end of March, but it seems impossible to finish in time, and is expected to take longer.  However, Japan’s Defense Minister Gen Nakatani has said that the government wants to start the landfill in he summer as scheduled.

The Okinawa Defense Bureau is planning to conduct the boring survey at 12 points on land, shallow seabed and deep areas.