State sues Onaga over Henoko landfill permit cancellation
The fight between the Japanese government and Okinawa Prefecture over the relocation of MCAS Futenma to Henoko escalated Tuesday as the government filed a lawsuit with the Fukuoka High Court, seeking a court order to force Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga to withdraw his cancellation of the landfill permit for Henoko.
The first hearing of the case is scheduled for Dec. 2. In the suit, the central government claims it was illegal for Onaga to have revoked the landfill permit that was approved by the former governor. The government argues that relocating the base to Henoko is necessary to meet an agreement made with the U.S. government, and remove the danger of accidents and noise problems in Ginowan.
Land Minister Keiichi Ishii, who filed the lawsuit against the governor, insists Onaga’s actions have “harmed public interest.” He also says that leaving the situation as is ‘would leave the danger that Futenma poses to the public unchanged. It would also mean that Japan would breach the promise it has made to the U.S. to relocate the base to Henoko.”
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference in Tokyo that, “Japan is a country ruled by law, and we recognize that the lawsuit is inevitable in order to remove the danger posed by the Futenma base.”
In the suit, the central government argues that the cancellation of the landfill approval would “bring the efforts that have been made by Japan and the United States to nothing” and “create a lot of tangible and intangible disadvantages, including the failure to reduce Okinawa’s burden of hosting U.S. military facilities.”
On his part, Onaga plans to argue in court against the Futenma relocation plan to Henoko. He is also expected to challenge the Japanese security policy and insist that there is no valid reason to continue keeping the U.S. Marines on Okinawa.
The government is convinced that it will prevail in the courts. It also plans to continue the landfill work during the court proceedings.
This is first time in 20 years for the central government and Okinawa to take their fight to courts. In 1995, Tokyo sued then Okinawa Governor Masahide Ota after he refused to sign documents to extend leases of land used for U.S. military facilities in the prefecture. In that case, the courts finally ruled in favor of he government, and the prime minister ended up signing the land lease documents instead of the governor.