Photo/Illutration The coastal area of Henoko in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, in December 2018 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

In yet another blow to the Okinawa prefectural government’s efforts to stop land reclamation work at Henoko, the Supreme Court on Dec. 8 rejected its latest legal action.

The top court’s dismissal of Okinawa's appeal means the prefecture has lost its fifth legal battle to the central government over the construction of a new runway for the controversial relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within the prefecture from Ginowan to Nago.

Experts blasted the Supreme Court for using a technicality to rule against Okinawa without examining the nature of the central government’s decision to push ahead with a public works project that the local government strongly opposes.

The judiciary has continued to side with the central government in its repeated moves to use the administrative complaint review system, which is designed to handle cases where the rights of citizens have been violated by administrative acts, to push ahead with the Henoko relocation project.

A group of about 100 administrative law experts blasted the Defense Ministry for repeatedly asking the relevant minister to rule against decisions made by the Okinawa prefectural government.

In a statement they called it “an abuse of the administrative complaint review law” and a development unbecoming to a nation based on the rule of law.

Takio Honda, an administrative law professor at Kyoto’s Ryukoku University, said the Okinawa base issue should be of interest to everyone in Japan because the central government has been riding roughshod over the prefecture’s wishes, upending what should be an equal relationship.

The tit-for-tat battle over the relocation has continued for years now.

In 2018, the Okinawa prefectural government revoked approval given in 2013 for land reclamation at Henoko after it came to light that the seabed at the proposed work site was extremely soft.

The Defense Ministry’s Okinawa Defense Bureau asked the land minister to override the Okinawa prefectural government retraction and the minister complied.

The Okinawa prefectural government, in turn, asked the Supreme Court to revoke the minister’s decision.

The First Petty Bench of the Supreme Court concluded that the Okinawa prefectural government could not submit a lawsuit to get the minister’s decision revoked because there was no such provision in the Local Autonomy Law.

Both the Naha District Court and the Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court ruled against the Okinawa prefectural government on grounds there was no legal basis for it to file such a lawsuit.

(This article was written by Takuro Negishi and Mika Kuniyoshi.)