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Gov't works on new U.S. base site at Henoko for 1st time since permission expired

NAGO, Okinawa -- The government performed work off the coast of Henoko district here on April 3 as part of preparations to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the prefecture city of Ginowan, officials said.

This is the first time that the central government has conducted relevant work off Henoko since the prefectural government's permission to crush rock reefs in the area expired on March 31. The central government had declared that it would continue the work in April and later on the grounds that it does not need to gain permission to do so from the prefectural government, noting that the local fishermen's cooperative has abandoned its fishing rights in the area.

In response to the state's move, the Okinawa Prefectural Government dispatched vessels to areas surrounding the site to confirm if rock reefs have been crushed, creating heightened tensions between the national and prefectural governments over the relocation of the U.S. base.

The prefectural government confirmed on April 3 that the state was installing an anti-contamination screen and conducting a drilling survey in the area.

If Okinawa confirms that the national government is crushing rock reefs in the area, the prefectural government is poised to file a lawsuit for an injunction order. However, Okinawa officials need to enter a restricted area to confirm if such work is underway, and it remains to be seen if U.S. forces will allow prefectural government officials to enter the restricted zone.

Unless it is clear that the national government has begun bank enforcement work and other efforts necessary to crush rock reefs, confirmation will be a challenge to the prefectural government.

Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga has suggested he will retract the prefectural government's permission for reclamation work in coastal areas of Henoko, and is cautiously considering the timing of doing so.

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