March 22, 2016 Mari Yamaguchi / Associated Press & Abby Martin / Breaking the Set
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided to temporarily suspend work on moving a US Marine base on Okinawa and will resume talks on the contentious relocation plan. Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga last year withdrew permission for the work -- which involved filling in part of a bay to create off-coast runways for Futenma air station, which is now in a more densely populated area on the island.
Japan PM Suspends Work on US Base on Okinawa Mari Yamaguchi / Associated Press
TOKYO (March 4, 2016) -- Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday he has decided to temporarily suspend preliminary work on moving a US Marine Corps base on Okinawa and will resume talks on the contentious relocation plan.
The central government and Okinawa's prefectural government have been locked in a legal battle over relocating the base, with both sides suing the other.
Abe said that his government is accepting a court proposal not to force the reclamation work over Okinawa's objections. The court in February made the proposal as an interim step allowing talks. Details of the proposal were not made public.
The sudden reversal of his policy to continue with the reclamation work is seen as a vote-buying attempt ahead of this summer's parliamentary elections.
Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga last year issued an order to suspend permission for the reclamation work. Then the central government sued to reverse the order, to which Okinawa counter-sued, seeking a court injunction.
The work involves filling in part of a bay to create off-coast runways for Futenma air station, which is now in a more densely populated area on the island.
Onaga later flew in to Tokyo and held talks with Abe at his office, both confirming to follow the court proposal and abide by any subsequent court decisions related to their legal dispute. Onaga welcomed Friday's decision by both sides as "very significant."
Abe said the plan to eventually move the base to the town of Henoko is unchanged. The relocation is based on a 20-year-old bilateral agreement to reduce the burden of the US military presence on Okinawa.
Opponents want the base moved off Okinawa entirely, and a prospect for a compromise is still unclear, though Okinawa is expected to drop the lawsuit.
Abe said he wants to avoid leaving the situation deadlocked "for years to come, a development that nobody wants to see."
America's top military official in the Pacific said last month that the relocation plan has been pushed back by two years until 2025 from the current target, because of delays from the disputes.
The US has agreed to shift 8,000 to 10,000 Marines off Okinawa in the 2020s, mainly to Guam and Hawaii, but Adm. Harry Harris, head of the US Pacific Command, said that would happen after Futenma's relocation.
The southern island prefecture is home to about half of about 50,000 American troops stationed in Japan under the bilateral security treaty. Many Okinawans complain about crime and noise linked to the US military bases.
(May 17, 2015) -- Anti-US rallies continue on Japan’s Okinawa Island. More than 35,000 people gathered to protest the controversial Futenma US airbase.
US Military Dictatorship Owns 20% of Okinawa | Interview with Peter Kuznick Abby Martin / Breaking the Set
(January 15, 2014) -- Abby Martin speaks with Peter Kuznick, historian and co-author of the 'Untold History of the United States' about the growing outrage against the construction of another US military base on the Japanese island of Okinawa, as well as the effect the occupation by US forces has had on the communities over the last 60 years.
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