TOKYO — A Japanese court on Wednesday ordered the governor of Okinawa to approve the central government's modified plan for landfill work at the planned relocation site of a key U.S. military base on the southern island despite persistent opposition and protests by residents.
The decision will move forward the suspended construction at a time Okinawa's strategic importance is seen increasingly important for the Japan-U.S. military alliance in the face of growing tensions with China as Japan rapidly seeks to buildup its military in the southwestern region.
The ruling by the Fukuoka High Court Naha branch allows the Land and Transport Ministry to order the modification work designed to reinforce extremely soft ground at the designated relocation site for U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, overriding Gov. Denny Tamaki's disapproval. The ruling ordered Tamaki to issue the approval within three working days.
If completed, the new site will serve a key Marine Corps facility for the region and will be also home to MV-22 Ospreys that are currently deployed at Futenma.
Tamaki can still appeal to the Supreme Court, but the local government at this point has no power to stop the work unless the top court overturns the decision.
Okinawa and the central government have long tussled over the relocation of the Futenma base.
The Japanese and U.S. governments initially agreed in 1996 to close the Futenma air station a year after…