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TOKYO – Okinawa's governor said Monday he is preparing to revoke approval for work needed to relocate a U.S. military air base from one area of the southern Japanese island to another, just days after the work was restarted.
Local residents are upset at having to live with U.S. Marine Air Station Futenma, and there are plans to move it to a less-developed area on Okinawa called Henoko. But locals say the relocation only moves the burden elsewhere on the island, and they want the base moved off the island entirely.
Gov. Takeshi Onaga, elected last year on promises to fight the move, said that approval given in 2013 by his predecessor for landfill work has "legal defects" and he has begun the process to cancel it.
"We will take all possible measures to block base construction in Henoko, and this is the first step," Onaga told a news conference at his office in the prefectural capital of Naha, indicating he is set for a legal battle with the central government.
The central government suspended the land reclamation work on Aug. 10 to allow for a month of talks to reach a compromise with the Okinawan government, but that proved to be too short of a time to resolve two decades of political fighting and the reclamation work resumed amid strong protests by local residents and activists at the site.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the reclamation work will continue as planned.
The Defense Ministry, which is in charge of the reclamation work, is reportedly considering the possibility of filing for an injunction if Onaga carries through on his bid to revoke approval for the work.
Okinawa houses more than half of the 50,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan. Locals want the base moved off the island. Construction has resumed on the landfill work after a monthlong break while fruitless talks were held.