Spotlight: Tens of thousands of people in Okinawa rally to protest U.S. base relocation plan

Source: Xinhua| 2018-08-11 15:54:39|Editor: Shi Yinglun
Video PlayerClose

TOKYO, Aug. 11 (Xinhua) -- Tens of thousands of people rallied Saturday in Naha, capital of the Okinawa prefecture in Japan, protesting against the central government's plan to relocate a U.S. military base within the island prefecture.

According to the organizer, some 70,000 people participated in the rally, demanding the central government to give up the plan to transfer U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from a crowded residential district in Ginowan to the Henoko coastal area of Nago, Okinawa.

A moment of silence was observed at the beginning of the rally for late Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga, who died of cancer earlier in this week amid his anti-U.S. base campaign.

Onaga's son Takeharu told the rally that his father had spent a lot of time fighting against the relocation plan even when he was hospitalized for cancer treatment.

"Let's fight together so that we can tell my late father one day that the relocation plan has been stopped," he said.

Deputy Governor Kiichiro Jahana, who has been filling in for governor duties, said that he would follow Onaga's suit and continue with the procedures to retract a previous government's approval for landfill work of the relocation plan.

Onaga, elected as governor in 2014, revoked in October 2015 an approval issued by former governor Hirokazu Nakaima for the landfill work of the relocation plan of the central government.

However, he was forced to withdraw his order to suspend work on the site after the Supreme Court ruled in 2016 against the governor's attempt to revoke the land reclamation work approval.

Before hospitalized last week, Onaga had ordered procedures to be started again to retract landfill work approval, which was seen by the public as a last resort for the governor to stop the relocation plan.

"I will take whatever measures and do my utmost to realize my election pledge of preventing the construction of a new base," Onaga told a press conference on July 27.

He died on Aug. 8 at the age of 67 after cancer metastasized to the liver despite a pancreatic surgery in April.

Onaga's new retraction order was based on the ground that situation had changed and the central government had failed to protect the environment of the coastal area since resuming the construction work.

The central government, however, has said that its intention to proceed with the relocation construction was unchanged.

Okinawa hosts the bulk of U.S. bases in Japan while accounting for only 0.6 percent of the country's total land mass.

Japan's central government had said that the relocation plan is "the only solution" for removing the dangers posed by the Futenma 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.