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Shock lingers after first judicial ruling on Okinawa base relocation

I was shocked to hear the first judicial ruling on the controversial relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture, which ended up accepting the central government's arguments in full.

It has been expected, to some extent, that the government would win the lawsuit. And if the court had simply ruled that it was illegal for Gov. Takeshi Onaga to revoke his predecessor's approval of landfill work off the Henoko district in the city of Nago to relocate the base, it would have been understandable.

But the ruling went as far as to comment on the geographical advantage of placing bases in Okinawa, and to bring up military issues, such as the need to operate U.S. Marines in an integrated fashion. It also referred to the impact of the issue on Japan-U.S. relations, and the relationship between the central government and regional bodies in terms of defense and foreign policy. On these issues it practically echoed the claims of the central government and ruled, "There is no other option but to construct the new facility in Henoko to remove the damage from the Futenma base."

In terms of Japan-U.S. relations, the court said Onaga's cancellation of permission for landfill work to go ahead would "destroy the relationship of trust between Japan and the United States and would cause a loss of trust from international society." Upon hearing this, surely international society is the side that would be more surprised. The court's decision can only be described as overly one-sided.

It perhaps cannot be helped if a judge is not well versed in relations between Japan and the United States, but when making an in-depth decision, the very least responsibility he or she has is to carefully deliberate the issues. In actual fact, the judge did not accept expert and other testimony that the Okinawa Prefectural Government put forward, and speedily concluded the case in two sessions.

In a news conference after the ruling, Onaga apparently repeated that he was "dumbfounded" by the ruling. One can understand his feelings.

Comments such as that "the ruling was just like listening to a government news conference," have slipped from the lips of even those within the government and ruling coalition, though they won't come out in the open and say it. The aftereffects of the Henoko ruling continue. (By Chiyako Sato, Editorial Writer)

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