Hearings begin in battle over relocating US base in Okinawa
TOKYO — Hearings began Wednesday in a legal battle between the Japanese government and local officials in Okinawa over plans to move a U.S. military air base on the southern island.
The central government filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga's cancellation of an earlier local approval for land reclamation needed for the base's relocation.
The long-stalled plan would move the U.S. Marine Air Station Futenma from a densely populated neighborhood to the island's seaside Henoko Bay. Many residents want the base moved out of the prefecture, and have picketed the area, trying to prevent construction equipment from entering.
Some critics of the landfill plan also object to potential environmental damage to the previously undeveloped Henoko shore.
Local reports said hundreds of people — clapping and shouting "Onaga, Onaga" — gathered outside the courthouse Wednesday morning hoping to be among the dozens of observers to get a seat inside.
Tokyo briefly suspended the reclamation work earlier this year while seeking a compromise with Onaga, but has since overridden local objections to resume the work.