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Japan sues Okinawa in dispute over US air base

November 17, 2015

Japan has taken a local government to court amid a dispute over the location of a US air base. The base was originally supposed to be closed years ago and continues to be a contentious issue.

US Marine Air Station Futenma in Okinawa
Image: Getty Images/AFP/Jiji Press

Japan filed the lawsuit against Okinawa's governor on Tuesday after the politician attempted to bar a US military air base from being built there.

Specifically, the dispute centers on US Marine Air Station Futenma, which has been in Okinawa since 1945. Both Tokyo and Washington want to move the base to a different part of the island, a decision that has been met with resistance from locals.

Last month, Gov. Takeshi Onaga revoked approval for key land work needed for the base to be moved there. His decision came amid deepening resentment among residents of the island over the heavy US military presence. More than half of the 50,000 American troops are stationed in Okinawa, and some locals feel the island shoulders too much of the burden.

If the court sides with the Japanese government, Onaga's revocation would be overruled, and the move would be allowed to happen.

Japan and the United States had agreed to move Futenma in 1996, with the understanding it would remain in Okinawa. Tokyo wants to move the base because it says its current location, in a densely populated part of the island, puts citizens at risk.

blc/kms (AFP, Reuters, AP)