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Over 200 protest gov't's resumption of Henoko base relocation work

Participants of a demonstration against the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the Henoko district of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, stage a sit-in in front of the gates at the U.S. Marine Corps' Camp Schwab in Nago on Dec. 27, 2016. (Mainichi)

NAGO, Okinawa -- More than 200 people staged a protest here against the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the Henoko district of this city on Dec. 27 as the government resumed construction work the same day, chanting slogans such as "No base for Henoko's sea."

In front of the gates at U.S. Marine Corps' Camp Schwab in Henoko, a sit-in began shortly past 6:30 a.m. as base security guards wearing helmets kept watch. One after another, protesters arrived by bus or car at the gates used by construction vehicles to join the demonstration.

This afternoon, the central government resumed base relocation work for the first time since March, after Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga retracted his revocation of his predecessor's approval for reclamation work off Henoko as part of the base relocation work a day earlier.

"This is the start of a new struggle. We must not lose," said Satoru Oshiro, 53, secretary-general of the Okinawa Heiwa Undo Center (Okinawa peace movement center), as he addressed the protesters. In response, rally participants raised placards reading, "No to resumption of construction work!" and "Don't kill the sea."

The day marked three years since then Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima approved the central government's request for reclamation work off Henoko. Gov. Onaga, who replaced Nakaima, subsequently rescinded his predecessor's approval, but he retracted the revocation on Dec. 26 after the Okinawa Prefectural Government lost a court battle against the central government over the issue.

Keiichi Yamauchi, 66, a farmer from the Okinawa Prefecture village of Yomitan who has taken part in anti-base protests for about three years, said, "The situation has returned to what it was that day three years ago." Raising his fist in anger, he added, "If the relocation work is granted, Okinawa, which is filled with U.S. military bases, will face an even worse situation. We must start over."

Makoto Yasu, 51, an occupational therapist from the Okinawa Prefecture town of Yonabaru, joined the protest ahead of his work. "If the base is built here, our daily lives will be further threatened." He emphasized, "The military won't protect the lives of residents."

Meanwhile, Kyoki Nakagawa, secretary-general of the LDP's Okinawa Prefectural Chapter, said, "The Supreme Court ruling showed that the previous governor's decision was not mistaken. Relocation is unavoidable if we are to eliminate the dangers posed by Futenma air station. I will closely watch the progress of construction."

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