People shout slogans against the decision from the top court outside Japan's top court building in Tokyo, Japan, Dec. 20, 2016. Japan's top court on Tuesday upheld a lower court's ruling in favor of the central government's plan to relocate a U.S. Marine Corps air base within the island prefecture of Okinawa, despite local people's demands that the U.S. base be relocated outside the prefecture. (Xinhua/Ma Ping)
TOKYO, Dec. 20 (Xinhua) -- Japan's top court on Tuesday upheld a lower court's ruling in favor of the central government's plan to relocate a U.S. Marine Corps air base within the island prefecture of Okinawa, despite local people's demands that the U.S. base be relocated outside the prefecture.
According to the top court's ruling, Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga acted "illegally" when he revoked in October 2015 an approval issued by his predecessor for the landfill work of the relocation plan.
Onaga has said that he would swiftly retract the revocation, but whether he would explore other options to block the relocation plan has caused attention.
Meanwhile, over 100 people gathered in front of the top court Tuesday afternoon to protest against the ruling, shouting slogans such as "No New Henoko Base."
Japan's central government has been seeking to relocate the U.S. Futenma base from Ginowan to the less populated Henoko coastal area of Nago, saying that it is "the only solution" for removing the dangers posed by the base to the crowded residential area of Ginowan without undermining the Japan-U.S. alliance.
The Okinawa people, however, have called for the base to be removed from the prefecture, complaining of sufferings caused by aircraft noise, crimes committed by the U.S. servicemen as well as safety concerns .
Onaga, well known for his opposition to the plan of relocating Futenma base within the prefecture and elected Governor of Okinawa in 2014, revoked in October 2015 an approval issued by former governor Hirokazu Nakaima for the landfill work of the relocation plan.
The move triggered a legal battle between the central government and the local government last year as the two sides sued each other over the issue, which was halted in March when a settlement deal was reached under court mediation.
According to the settlement, the construction work related to the relocation was halted, while the central and prefectural governments held talks and awaited a ruling to be made by an arbitration panel under the internal affairs ministry.
The Japanese government reignited the tension by filing a fresh lawsuit against Onaga in July after the arbitration court failed to make a ruling, seeking the court's confirmation that Onaga acted illegally in not complying with a state order to retract his revocation of former governor's permission.
The Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court made a ruling in September which acknowledged the danger and noise problems posed by the Futenma base, but rejected the local governments' concerns and said it was illegal for Onaga to revoke the landfill work permission. The Okinawa government appealed the ruling later.
Okinawa hosts some 75 percent of U.S. bases in Japan while accounting for only 0.6 percent of the country's total land mass. Anti-U.S. base sentiment has been high in Okinawa, especially after a former U.S. Marine working as a civilian employee at the Kadena Air Base was arrested in May for raping and murdering a local woman.
The anger and indignity of the local people were further fueled by the U.S. military's decision on Monday to resume its Osprey flights, less than a week after a major accident occurred involving the tiltrotor aircraft.
The city of Ginowan lodged a protest with the U.S. military in Okinawa on Tuesday for resuming the Osprey flights, with its mayor saying the resumption is "absolutely intolerable."
News Analysis: Okinawa calls for permanent ban of U.S. military Osprey aircraft
TOKYO, Dec. 14 (Xinhua) -- Residents and officials of Okinawa on Wednesday voiced shock and condemnation following the crash-landing of a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey in the sea off Nago a day earlier.
The incident, which saw five crew members airlifted to safety and treated for injuries, was the first major accident involving an Osprey since the U.S. military deployed Osprey squadrons in Japan in 2012. Full story
U.S. military suspends Osprey flights in Japan's Okinawa as local residents voice anger
TOKYO, Dec. 14 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. military has agreed to suspend all its Osprey flights in Okinawa until the cause of a recent accident involving the tiltrotor aircraft is known, said the Japanese government.
A U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey aircraft belonging to the Futenma base in the city of Ginowan made a water crash-landing off Okinawa on Tuesday night. Full story