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Okinawa files another lawsuit over US base landfill work

This photo taken from a drone on Feb. 24, 2019, shows land reclamation work continuing at the Henoko coastal district in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, the relocation site for U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the prefecture's Ginowan city. (Kyodo)

NAHA, Japan (Kyodo) -- The Okinawa government on Wednesday filed another lawsuit against the central government to halt ongoing landfill work for the relocation of a U.S. air base within the southern island prefecture.

In the lawsuit filed with the Naha District Court, Okinawa challenged the legality of land minister Keiichi Ishii's involvement in the authorization of the landfill work to build a replacement facility for U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

A similar lawsuit was filed on July 17 with the Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court.

The central and Okinawa governments have been at odds over the relocation of the Futenma base from a crowded residential district in Ginowan to the less densely populated Henoko coastal area of Nago.

Many Okinawa residents have long hoped for the base to be moved out of the prefecture, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan. In February, over 70 percent of voters rejected the decades-old base transfer plan in a local referendum.

The central government maintains the current relocation plan is "the only solution" to remove the dangers posed by the Futenma base without undermining the deterrence provided by the Japan-U.S. security alliance.

The landfill work in the Henoko area was initially approved in 2013 by then Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima. In August last year, the Okinawa government retracted its permission for the landfill work, citing weak ground found in the planned reclamation area.

The central government temporarily halted the landfill work following the retraction of the approval, but Ishii eventually voided the prefecture's move in April. Full-fledged land reclamation work in the Henoko coastal area began in December.

In June, an internal affairs ministry panel for resolving disputes between Japan's central and local governments rejected the Okinawa government's complaint over the land minister's involvement, leading the prefecture to file the July 17 lawsuit.

The central and local governments have fought numerous court battles over the base relocation, with the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the state in 2016.

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