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Okinawa gov't poised to retract approval of landfill for US base transfer

NAHA -- The Okinawa Prefectural Government has informally decided to retract a former governor's approval of land reclamation work off the coast of the Henoko district of Nago in Okinawa Prefecture for the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the area as early as Aug. 31.

Approval of the landfill work was given by former Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima, but his successor Gov. Takeshi Onaga, who died suddenly on Aug. 8, not long after undergoing cancer surgery, declared on July 27 that he was going to retract the approval, and the prefectural government had been moving ahead with preparations to do so.

Initially, the central government had planned to begin filling in land off the coast of Henoko on Aug. 17 at the earliest, but it has delayed these plans in light of the current situation.

Prefectural officials including Deputy Gov. Moritake Tomikawa, who has taken over the duties of the late governor, consulted with a group of lawyers, and appear to have reached the decision to go ahead with formal retraction of the former governor's landfill approval as early as Aug. 31.

The central government, which is pushing for the land reclamation project to go ahead, is poised to counter the prefectural government's move by filing with a court for a "stay of execution" that would halt the validity of any withdrawal of prior approval. If such a countermeasure is accepted, it is possible that land reclamation work could resume within a period of a few weeks to a few months. The government, however, is believed to be taking a cautious approach to any decisions to apply for a stay of execution or to start filling in land, wary of the potential effect such moves could have on the gubernatorial election next month to select a successor to Onaga.

(Japanese original by Takayasu Endo, Naha Bureau, and Kenta Somatani, Kyushu News Department)

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