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Central gov't to sue Okinawa over resistance to Futenma relocation plan

The central government on July 21 informed the Okinawa Prefectural Government that it will sue Okinawa for revoking approval of landfill work off the city of Nago for the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

The move drew a backlash from Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga, who said the government was not following the line set by a dispute management council.

The central government informed the prefecture of its decision in a meeting of a consultative body formed between the national and Okinawa prefectural governments, convened at the prime minister's office on July 21. It said it would file the suit in the Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court on July 22, seeking to have the prefecture's rejection of a government order to "amend" its revocation deemed illegal.

Central government representatives at the meeting included Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and Defense Minister Gen Nakatani. Onaga and other officials represented the prefecture.

Onaga stated that the prefectural government intended to refrain from filing legal action against the central government. Suga, however, told prefectural officials that the government planned to file a lawsuit, and the meeting ended after about 10 minutes.

A disappointed Onaga criticized the government's stance in front of reporters, saying that the lawsuit goes against a decision by the Central and Local Government Dispute Management Council, a third-party body operating under the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, which had urged discussion on the issue.

Under the terms of an agreement the central and prefectural governments reached in March, the prefectural government was to arrange for legal action once the dispute management council had made a decision on whether the government's amendment order was appropriate. The council, however, did not rule on whether the central government's amendment order was appropriate, and instead urged both sides to engage in discussion. As a result, the prefectural government withheld legal action. Under the Local Autonomy Act, July 21 is the deadline for filing a lawsuit, and eyes were therefore on the response of the central government, which is seeking a quick solution to the issue.

In a news conference the same day, Suga commented, "There is absolutely no change in our position of wanting to engage in dialogue," indicating that the central government would maintain the framework of a reconciliation process even if it filed a lawsuit.

Ahead of the July 21 meeting, the central and prefectural governments held a meeting joined by the municipal government of Ginowan (the current location of the Futenma base), on measures to reduce the burden of hosting the base, and the central government explained measures that had been taken since the previous meeting in October 2014. The prefectural government asked that the Japanese and U.S. governments to create a concrete schedule to achieve a set target of relocating the base within five years from a fixed starting point in February 2014.

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