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Okinawa Governor to Look for Loopholes to Stop US Base Relocation - Expert

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Co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies claims that the government of Japan's southern Okinawa Prefecture will search for legal mistakes in the approval of the planned relocation of a US military base with the aim of freezing the project.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The government of Japan's southern Okinawa Prefecture will search for legal mistakes in the approval of the planned relocation of a US military base with the aim of freezing the project, amid environmental concerns, John Feffer, co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), has told Sputnik.

“The Okinawa governor's office has pledged to look into the environmental impact statement, but will be focusing on any legal mistakes made that would invalidate the approval,” Feffer said on Tuesday.

A research by several environmental organizations has been conducted in order to determine what damage the relocation of the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Nago City could cause to the flora and fauna in the area. The study is part of a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, which has recently been dismissed.

Feffer praised the efforts of protesters who have been rallying in thousands to demand a freeze on the US base construction project, attracting media attention.

Anti-base activists raise their fists in front of a gate of the US Marine Corps' Camp Schwab at the tiny hamlet of Henoko in Nago on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, January 15, 2015 - Sputnik International
Thousands of Japanese Stage Protests in Okinawa Against US Base Relocation
The relocation plan was agreed in 1996, but most Nago residents voted against the plan in a referendum. To date, the future of the relocation of the US military facility is uncertain as Okinawa's new governor Takeshi Onaga opposes the project.

“The protestors have been very courageous and should be applauded for their persistence. I think they will have an effect, alongside the efforts of political officials such as the Okinawa governor and the Nago mayor. Ultimately, I believe they will block the current construction efforts,” Feffer told Sputnik.

Andrew Yeo, Assistant Professor of Politics at the Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C., agreed that the planned relocation is certain to result in several environmental hazards.

Yeo told Sputnik on Tuesday that “oil and chemical spills, military accidents, potential increased crime, and noise from aircraft are all concerns, but destruction of the marine ecosystem probably weighs heaviest for local residents”.

According to Yeo, until now, “major protests have managed to delay the base relocation process so activists and Okinawan residents have had a significant impact on the implementation of the plan”.

The expert added, however, that the protesters' influence on the authorities is not very significant.

“Their [protesters'] impact on actual basing policy has been limited — as attested to the ongoing existence of Futenma Air Station — due to the central government's strong desire not to create a crisis in the U.S.-Japan alliance,” Yeo explained.

The Japanese government has been pushing for relocation because of its commitment to the United States, despite the majority of Japanese population being critical of US military presence in the country, particularly amid ongoing concerns over sex crimes committed by US servicemen against local women.

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