Photo/IllutrationTrucks, cranes and other heavy machinery are mobilized in an area where land is being reclaimed for a new U.S. military base in the Henoko district of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, on May 13. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

  • Photo/Illustraion

NAHA--The central government's latest ploy in its long, grueling dispute with Okinawa Prefecture over moves to relocate a U.S. military base has the two sides splitting hairs over whether a seawall constitutes a pier to unload earth and sand.

The Abe administration plans to use part of the new K8 embankment as a pier as early as June 10 to speed up coastal reclamation work in the Henoko district of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, according to sources close to the Defense Ministry.

Okinawa prefectural authorities vowed to strongly protest the move on grounds the embankment was never designated for use as a pier, the sources said.

Turning the embankment into a pier would increase the number of unloading spots for sand and earth used in part of the reclamation work.

“This plan demonstrates the central government’s determination to complete the project,” a Defense Ministry official said.

As of June 14, six months will have passed since earth and sand first started being dumped off the coast of Nago as part of the plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, also in the prefecture.

The central government is unloading earth and sand, carried by ships, at the K9 embankment located northeast of the land reclamation site.

Earth and sand have been dumped into two areas covering 39.3 hectares in total in the southwestern side of the site.

The K8 embankment is designed to measure 515 meters, but protected coral reefs are hampering the construction work.

The ministry applied to Okinawa prefectural authorities for approval to transplant the reefs, but the request was refused.

The ministry decided that an embankment stretching 250 meters would suffice to be used as a pier for earth and sand brought in by ships.

According to Okinawa authorities, the central government did not state it planned to use the embankment as a pier when it applied to start the land reclamation work.

A prefectural official said the central government had been notified that its use of the K9 embankment is a violation of its intended use, but Tokyo apparently plans to pay no heed to the warning.

(This article was written by Shinichi Fujiwara and Kazuyuki Ito.)