Photo/IllutrationLandfill work is under way off the Henoko district of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, on Jan. 13. (Jun Kaneko)

A security company commissioned to patrol waters near the construction site for a new U.S. military base in Okinawa Prefecture drew up a "black list" of protesters, possibly at the behest of the Defense Ministry.

Risingsun Security Service Co. distributed a list of about 60 activists, along with their mugshots, names and backgrounds, to personnel manning its patrol boats in the area.

Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya denied any involvement by the ministry in crafting the list, saying that doing so would be "inappropriate."

"There is no such fact" that the ministry had any hand in crafting the list, Iwaya told a news conference Jan. 29.

The patrol was conducted to prevent anti-U.S. military base activists from obstructing the central government’s project, now under way, to build a partially offshore base off the Henoko district of Nago in Okinawa Prefecture.

The new facility is being built to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, also in the prefecture.

The Tokyo-based company was commissioned to conduct patrols between 2014 and 2017 in a contract originally ordered by the Defense Ministry's Okinawa Defense Bureau.

In an interview with The Asahi Shimbun, Risingsun confirmed that it compiled the list.

“We produced the list based on information available on the Internet, newspapers and other sources,” a company official said. “The purpose was to have a better grasp of which individuals would likely act in what way and to safeguard the construction site.”

The official added that copies of the list have already been collected and destroyed.

News about the existence of the list was first reported by The Okinawa Times, a local daily, in 2016.

After questions were raised in the Diet on whether such a list was actually compiled, a written response was issued by the Abe Cabinet denying the government’s role.

“There were no facts showing that the government directed (the company) to take pictures, generate a list, gather personal information and report to the government,” the statement read.

However, The Mainichi Shimbun carried a report suggesting otherwise.

In a Jan. 28 report, the daily said one of the company's internal documents contained a passage effectively stating that the list was compiled at the request of an official in the bureau's procurement department.

The following day, the Mainichi reported that the bureau was also suspected of having asked Risingsun to re-submit its patrol reports to the bureau after removing the names of captains of boats protesting the base project and other references from the original documents following an information disclosure request by an individual opposed to the base relocation.

However, Iwaya denied the Mainichi report, saying the ministry confirmed with the official in question at the bureau about the matter.

He said the bureau did not give directions to compile the list and the bureau does not have such a list.

Iwaya indicated that the ministry will look into the alleged alteration of the reports.

Risingsun denied the bureau’s involvement.

“There was no direction from the Okinawa Defense Bureau and compiling the list was our own decision,” the company official said. “We have never given the list to the bureau side.”

The official also denied the existence of the internal document indicating the deletion of some details at the bureau’s request.

(This article was written by Hirotaka Kojo and Ryo Kiyomiya.)