• Politics & Government

Govt to OK Henoko Land Work Changes Instead of Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki; Case to be First Use of ‘Execution by Proxy’

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Tetsuo Saito speaks at a press conference at the ministry in Tokyo on Tuesday morning.

Land minister Tetsuo Saito said at a press conference Tuesday morning that the central government will approve — in place of Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki — design changes related to planned ground improvement work in the Henoko coastal area in Nago, where the functions of the U.S. Futenma Air Station in Ginowan are to be relocated. Nago and Ginowan are both in Okinawa Prefecture.

On Tuesday, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry notified the prefectural government of its policy to carry out a legal procedure called execution by proxy.

The action is in response to Tamaki’s decision to defy a ruling by the Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court that ordered him to approve by Monday the design changes that were applied for by the Defense Ministry, which is the principle constructor.

Execution by proxy can be used when a prefectural governor violates rules in procedures related to work entrusted by the central government. The central government can step in and act in the governor’s place if it decides that leaving the violations unattended would damage public interests.

This will be the first-ever execution by proxy that the central government has conducted in place of a local government based on the relevant law.

Tamaki intends to appeal the case to the Supreme Court. However, as long as the governor does not win a reversal of the Fukuoka High Court’s decision at the Supreme Court, he will not be able to stop the effectiveness of the execution by proxy.

“Even if it is a matter at issue in the Supreme Court, it is possible to carry out execution by proxy, due to a provision of the Local Autonomy Law,” Saito stressed.

The land reclamation project has been suspended by the prefectural government’s failure to approve steps since 2020 when the Defense Ministry applied for the design changes to improve soft seabed found off the coast of Henoko. Work is now expected to be resumed in a full-fledged manner in January.

At a press conference on Tuesday morning, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said, “[The central government] will make utmost efforts to realize a full return of the Futenma Air Station and reduce the base-related burdens [on Okinawa].”