Land Minister Recommends Okinawa Gov. Approve Henoko Design Changes

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Henoko coast of Nago City, Okinawa Prefecture, where the Futenma Air Station is scheduled to be relocated.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Tetsuo Saito on Tuesday recommended that Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki approve design changes to work related to the planned relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma air base within the prefecture.

The recommendation is part of the Japanese government’s plan to approve the changes on behalf of Tamaki based on the local autonomy law.

It would become the second execution by proxy under the law over the plan to build a replacement facility in the Henoko coastal area in the city of Nago to relocate the Futenma base in the city of Ginowan after one in 2015.

If Tamaki does not respond to the recommendation, the central government will switch it to an instruction. If the governor does not follow the instruction, the central government will file a lawsuit to make the Naha branch of Fukuoka High Court order the governor to approve the design changes.

“We haven’t received a report [on the recommendation] yet,” Tamaki told reporters in Geneva, Switzerland. “We’ll consider [our response] based on the report.”

In 2020, the Defense Ministry’s Okinawa Defense Bureau applied for the design changes to the construction plan for the replacement facility after the seabed off the coast of Henoko was found to be soft. But the governor disapproved the application.

The land minister’s decision to reverse the disapproval and his order to correct the situation led to a legal battle, and the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the central government earlier this month.

The Okinawa Defense Bureau plans to start the construction work swiftly if the design changes are approved. It has already ordered the construction of temporary storage sites for soil and sand and the construction of new dikes.