The central government requested an injunction to restart land reclamation work for a U.S. military base in the Henoko district of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, blatantly ignoring the will of voters that was clearly shown in the gubernatorial election.

The government’s unacceptable action destroys the foundation for dialogue with the new Okinawa governor.

The Defense Ministry on Oct. 17 filed a complaint with the land minister, Keiichi Ishii, asking for an administrative injunction to overturn the Okinawa prefectural government’s revocation of approval for the reclamation work.

The work is for a project to build a new air base in Henoko to replace the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma located in the middle of the crowded city of Ginowan, also on the prefecture’s main Okinawa Island.

The decision came only five days after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Denny Tamaki, who was elected Okinawa governor at the end of September on a campaign pledge to block the central government’s plan to move the Futenma base to Henoko.

The request for the injunction clearly shows the Abe administration has no intention to try to repair its relationship with the prefectural government, which was seriously strained during the governorship of Takeshi Onaga. Shortly before he died in early August, Onaga named Tamaki as a possible successor.

Okinawa voters clearly rejected the Henoko base plan in two consecutive governor elections.

The leader of any democratic country should take such strong protests against a government policy from voters very seriously and try to achieve a breakthrough in the situation.

But the Abe administration is not even pretending to make such efforts. Its behavior is nothing but arrogant.

The base construction work has been suspended since the end of August, when the prefectural government revoked the approval given by Onaga’s predecessor for land reclamation.

The Defense Ministry has asked the land minister to review and invalidate the prefecture’s revocation under provisions in the Administrative Complaint Review Law.

But the administrative complaint review system is intended as a legal means for people to seek redress for disadvantages they suffer from actions by government organizations.

The system allows requests for injunctions against administrative action as a means to protect the rights and interests of people until a ruling on the complaint is made.

Invoking this law to resume the dumping of dirt into the sea simply runs against the spirit of the law.

It is unfair, in the first place, for the land minister, a member of the central government, to rule on a dispute between the government and the prefecture.

The Abe administration stresses that it is building a new base in Henoko to secure the return of the land of the Futenma air base to Japan. But this argument is based on the wrong idea about what is the crux of the matter.

The Japanese and the U.S. governments reached an agreement on the return of the Futenma base to Japan as a step to reduce Okinawa’s excessively heavy burden of hosting so many U.S. military facilities. The deal was struck in response to a wave of angry protests over the 1995 rape of a local schoolgirl by U.S. servicemen.

A solution to the Futenma base problem that is not in line with the original objective of the bilateral agreement is unacceptable.

Instead of forging ahead with the Henoko base plan, the Japanese government should act swiftly on Okinawa’s persistent demands for a fundamental reform of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).

U.S. forces have used the six decade-old agreement to delay, for as long as eight months, the dispatch of Self-Defense Forces members to the Futenma base to inspect repaired aircraft and maintenance work there following a spate of accidents in January that triggered local alarm.

The U.S. military has effectively refused to let SDF personnel enter the base for that purpose.

This would not have happened if the Japan-U.S. SOFA had a provision that gives the host nation the right to enter U.S. bases. This provision appears in similar U.S. agreements with Germany and Italy.

U.S. troops in Okinawa have been involved in an endless stream of crimes and accidents. The Japanese government has consistently made only weak-kneed responses to them.

This long and troubled history of the burdensome U.S. military presence in Okinawa is behind the local people’s rejection of the Henoko base plan.

There is no way to resolve the touchy, intractable situation other than thoughtful and scrupulous efforts to tackle related issues one by one.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 18