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Okinawa governor slams court rejection of attempt to block US base relocation

This Jan. 24, 2018 file photo shows Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga at the prime minister's office in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. (Mainichi)

Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga expressed his disappointment on March 13 over a court decision to reject the Okinawa Prefectural Government's latest attempt to block the relocation of a U.S. military base within the prefecture through a suit filed against the central government.

Speaking to reporters in Washington during a formal visit to the United States, Onaga said, "It's a shame the trial (at the Naha District Court) ended in rejection, without any kind of hearing taking place," adding, "I am thinking of appealing the ruling."

The governor also referred to the planned replacement site of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, in the Henoko district of the prefectural city of Nago: "In the latest ruling, the court did not judge that breaking up reefs in the area does not require permission, nor that there were changes to fishing rights in the planned area for reclamation work (off the coast of Nago)." Onaga then emphasized, "This ruling will not determine whether or not construction of the new base at the Henoko site should go ahead."

Prefectural residents who are against the relocation of the military base also expressed their anger toward the judiciary, with comments such as, "Why are the voices of the Okinawan people being ignored?" and, "The judiciary is not independent."

Kazuo Senaga, 54, secretary-general of an organization that opposes U.S. bases in Okinawa, said, "The judiciary, which ignores the voices of people who are against the relocation and just goes along with the central government, is losing its independence," adding, "Let's continue to fight."

Moreover, about 30 residents who oppose the base relocation gathered outside the Naha District Court on March 13. Takeo Taira, 81, a resident from the prefectural capital of Naha, said, "It's a shame. I want the court to openly and squarely make an impartial judgment, instead of conforming with the state."

On the other hand, 72-year-old Tadao Henza, leader of a pro-relocation citizens group from the prefectural city of Ginowan -- where the U.S. military base is currently located -- said, "We're content with the result," adding, "I can't understand the prefectural government's move to interrupt the Japan-U.S. agreement (under which the relocation has already been decided)."

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