CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Work to build a runway at a Marine Corps base went ahead Tuesday as Japan’s central government defied the Okinawa governor’s order to halt construction.
Crews are in the initial stages of installing the runway into Oura Bay at Camp Schwab, located at Henoko on the northern part of Okinawa. The project would allow closure of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in a densely populated area in the island’s midsection and relocate its air operations.
On Monday, Gov. Takeshi Onaga gave the Okinawa Defense Bureau a week to stop all construction activities or lose its license for drilling work. Onaga, protesters and the local media have been railing for weeks that concrete blocks, positioned on the sea floor for a drilling survey, were damaging coral in the area.
Onaga said this week that the blocks were not authorized. He requested a survey to inspect the site but was denied by the Japanese government and U.S. military, a spokesman for the prefecture’s department of agriculture and fisheries said Tuesday.
The governor’s order drew a speedy and terse response from Tokyo, leading to what appears to be an inevitable showdown.
“Construction work, including the breaking of the sea bed; all of these procedures complied with relevant prefecture regulations,” Minister of Defense Gen Nakatani told a news conference Tuesday.