By Riyaz ul Khaliq
ISTANBUL (AA) – Demonstrations were held in Japan on Tuesday against a landfilling project to relocate a US military base to a southern province.
Protesters used boats and canoes to express their opposition to the planned relocation of an airbase belonging to the US Air Force in the Okinawa island province.
This relocation plan dates back to 1996 when Japan and the US agreed to return the land occupied by the US air force in the Futenma district following nationwide outrage over the 1995 gang rape of a 12-year-old schoolgirl in Okinawa by three US servicemen, Kyodo News reported.
According to the accord signed between the two sides, the US Marine Corps Air Station base will be moved to the Henoko district of the same province.
Okinawa province hosts a number of US bases. The landfilling process began three years back.
Locals claim they have suffered US military-related accidents, including noise, crime, and accidents.
The demonstrators held placards reading “Stop landfilling operation” and “Protect our beautiful sea” and rowed the waters in at least 30 canoes that sailed into the construction site, urging authorities to stop the work.
Japanese Coast Guard personnel had to rush to “block them and causing a brief scuffle,” the report said.
However, the protesters continued to raise “Stop illegal construction” and “Don't kill the coral” slogans.
Amid opposition by the regional government, Japan’s central government had planned to construct V-shaped runways after reclaiming the land.
Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki’s administration has won a few legal battles against the central government over the relocation of the base.
Hirokazu Matsuno, the chief cabinet secretary of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government, on Monday insisted that the Futenma base “relocation to Henoko is the only solution.”
If the construction progresses, it is expected to take 12 years for the US airbase to fully operationalize.