TOKYO, Aug. 31 (Xinhua) -- Okinawa Prefecture on Friday retracted its approval of landfill work necessary for the relocation of a controversial U.S. military base from the densely populated Ginowan region to the coastal Henoko area also located in Japan's southernmost prefecture.
The move comes as per instructions given by late Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga who died on Aug. 8. Onaga was a staunch proponent of blocking the transfer of the base to lighten the U.S. base-hosting burdens of local Okinawans.
"Taking Governor Onaga's passion, we judged properly based on the law," Deputy Governor Kiichiro Jahana was quoted by local media as telling a press briefing on the matter.
"We'll continue to do our utmost to prevent the construction of a new base," Jahana, entrusted by Onaga prior to his passing to retract the approval, said.
Approval for the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma was given by Onaga's predecessor Hirokazu Nakaima in 2013, despite the opposition of Okinawans who wanted to see the base moved off the island and out of Japan altogether in some cases, owing to rising instances of U.S. military-linked instances of crime, accidents and pollution.
Friday's retraction questions whether the landfill work falls within the law and also cites environmental issues of relocating the base to the pristine coastal region of Henoko, with its delicate ecosystem unique to Okinawa.
The central government, henceforth, will almost certainly take the issue to court, as has been the case multiple times in the past, and will maintain that the original approval for the land reclamation work was valid and lawful.
The move will inevitably start another legal spat between the central and regional governments and could affect the gubernatorial election in Okinawa slated for Sept. 30.
Under a pact made in 1996 between Japan and the United States, it was agreed that the land used for the Futenma base would be returned to Okinawa. In 1999 the central government decided that Henoko would be the site of the new base.
Since then, and to the ire of the Okinawa prefectural government and citizens, the central government has maintained that moving the base within the island to Henoko is the "only solution" to address perceived threats under the Japan-U.S. alliance.