The governor of Okinawa Prefecture said on Monday he will move to halt work on a contentious U.S. air base, a headache for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a crucial time in his push to get widely opposed security bills passed.
The central government wants to move the U.S. Marines’ Futenma base to another location on the southern island, but many Okinawa residents who resent U.S. military installations want to get rid of it altogether.
Okinawan Gov Takeshi Onaga, who won election last year on his anti-base stand and has accused Abe of looking down on the island, said his government will revoke a permit for key landfill work that is needed to relocate the base.
“This is a first step toward keeping this from being built,” Onaga told a news conference, days after the government resumed reclamation work after a month’s suspension for talks that left the two sides still far apart.
It will take about a month to revoke the permit, which was issued by Onaga’s predecessor, and this action could prompt a legal response from the government, NHK national television said.
The base issue has sparked widespread sympathy around Japan and could further weaken support for Abe.
Abe told a parliamentary committee that there is no change in the government’s stance on the base.
“We want to move Futenma and ease the worries of residents there as soon as possible,” he said.
(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2015.