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Gov't to demand 20 mil. yen per day from Okinawa over suspended reclamation work

TOKYO -- The central government has compiled an estimate that it would lose about 20 million yen per day if the planned reclamation for the relocation of a U.S. base within the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa is suspended due to the expected retraction of approval for the work by the prefectural government.

Tokyo is considering sending the bill to the prefectural government in Naha if it prevails in a future court battle over the approval retraction.

The landfill work began on Aug. 17 at a part of the Henoko district of the northern Okinawa city of Nago to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the city of Ginowan in southern Okinawa. The Defense Ministry's Okinawa Defense Bureau, however, delayed the placement of sand and earth out of consideration for the impact of typhoons. Meanwhile, the prefectural government, which publicly stated on July 27 its intention to retract the landfill approval to prevent the reclamation project from proceeding, did not do so before the work started.

If the prefecture goes ahead with withdrawal, landfill activities will be suspended and it will take longer to complete the work, causing greater costs for personnel and equipment. The central government is expected to counter a prefectural retraction by seeking a court injunction to nullify the move, but the court will take at least several weeks to make a decision. The prefecture could be slapped with a central government suit seeking up to several hundred million yen in damages should the retraction be deemed illegal.

Naha still maintains the stance of going ahead with retracting the reclamation approval, but a senior Defense Ministry official has told the Mainichi that the prefecture is cautious about making the move "because there is a risk of a damages payment."

The central government is considering delaying the placement of sand and earth at the site until October because the gubernatorial election has been moved up to Sept. 30 following the death of Gov. Takeshi Onaga on Aug. 8. Such a delay will not be viewed as the responsibility of the prefecture as long as it does not retract its approval of the landfill work. Both Tokyo and Naha are taking a wait-and-see attitude about the contentious issue.

In December 2016, the Supreme Court ruled the prefectural government's revocation of the landfill approval as illegal. Tokyo did not seek damages from Naha at that time.

(Japanese original by Shinichi Akiyama, Political News Department)

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