Tokyo agrees to proposed settlement, halts Henoko landfill
In a big compromise move, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has agreed to accept a court-mediated settlement plan over the construction of the replacement facility to MCAS Futenma in Henoko off Camp Schwab. The prime minister also agreed to halt the construction work immediately until the dispute is settled in the court..
The Naha Branch of the Fukuoka High Court had proposed the out-of-court settlement on Jan. 29th, and Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga has indicated earlier that he would be willing to consider it.
The central government in Tokyo and the Okinawa Prefectural Government have filed three lawsuits against each other in the bitter dispute. As part of the settlement, both sides agreed to withdraw their respective lawsuits, which will be combined into one. The construction work will be halted until the final lawsuit is decided in the court, and both sides agree to abide by the final court decision on the Heneko project.
The deal was reached after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decided earlier on Friday to accept the settlement. He then instructed Defense Minister Gen Nakatani to suspend the work.
The settlement calls for the state and Okinawa to hold talks with the aim of resolving their dispute amicably after a halt to relocation-related work. Only if a final solution cannot be reached at the talks will the court take on the unified lawsuit.
Announcing his decision to accept the settlement, Abe said that he wanted to avoid a prolonged court battle. “If the state and the prefecture continue to fight in the court, the situation at Futenma could stay unchanged for years,” Abe said. However, he stressed that his basic position has not changed. “Our position that Henoko is the only viable option for the replacement facility remains unchanged,” Abe insisted.
In the U.S. a spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council confirmed the U.S. sees Henoko as the only option. “The United States and Japan remain committed to the plan to construct the Futenma replacement facility in the Henoko district,” the spokesman said. “It is the only solution that avoids the continued use of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.” He added that, “The government of Japan is in touch with us about this settlement. We will refrain from commenting on the legal process of another country,”
After the decision, Abe met with Onaga at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo, Friday afternoon, to inform him about his decision. On its part, the Okinawa Prefectural Government accepted the settlement Friday afternoon.