19:01 GMT +314 October 2019
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    Japan's Okinawa Requests to Shut Down US Marine Base Construction

    © AFP 2019 / Toru YAMANAKA
    Asia & Pacific
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    Japanese authorities in the southern prefecture of Okinawa requested the Ministry of Defense to cease all underwater construction on the planned location of a new US Marine Corps base in the city of Nago, the Japan Times reported Monday.

    TOKYO (Sputnik) — The construction of a relocated US Marine Corps Air Station in Nago attracted media attention in recent months amid opposition rallies by local residents outraged over sex crimes committed by US servicemen in the area.

    The United States and Japan formally agreed to relocate the Futenma Air Station 6.8 miles southeast of Nago to Henoko in 2006. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government confirmed the deal and asked former Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima to approve the relocation.

    Takeshi Onaga, the prefecture's current governor, said at a press conference Monday he would revoke a drilling license if the local defense ministry branch refused to suspend underwater works. This  may cause all construction of the Marine Corps station to freeze, possibly affecting relations between Tokyo and Washington.

    Last month, the prefecture found coral reefs in the area were damaged by concrete blocks dropped during surveys as part of a US Marine Corps Air Station relocation project, ostensibly spurring the Okinawa leader's decision.

    Relocating the station requires creating an artificial landmass of nearly 160 hectares (0.62 square miles) in coastal waters. The construction of the station and two landing strips, each 1.8 kilometers long (1.1 miles), is expected to take nine years.

    Okinawa's current leadership advocates the relocation of the Marine Corps Air Station from the densely populated city of Ginowan to outside the country altogether.

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    Okinawa military base, Japan, United States
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