Japan's Supreme Court rules against Okinawa over reclamation for US base

Japan's Supreme Court has ruled against Okinawa Prefecture's objections to a land reclamation project for the relocation of a US military facility within the southern prefecture.

The court on Monday turned down Okinawa's appeal of a high court decision upholding the central government's directive demanding the prefecture approve a proposed change to the reclamation plan.

The Okinawa prefectural government will now be obliged to give its approval, which is needed to complete the reclamation work to build the new US airfield on reclaimed land off the Henoko district in Nago City.

The central government started the reclamation in 2018 to move the Futenma Air Station in Ginowan City to the less-populated area in Nago.

The prefectural government opposed any move within Okinawa.

As work progressed, it was found that 70 percent of the reclamation site had soft ground. The state sought a design change to the original plan that would solidify the soft ground.

But the prefecture refused to approve the revision, which halted the reclamation work.

Last year, the land ministry issued a directive demanding that the Okinawa government approve the design revision.

That prompted the prefecture to file a suit seeking the withdrawal of the ministry's directive, arguing that the ministry's move was illegal.

On Monday, the top court upheld the high court ruling that said the state's involvement was legitimate, and rejected Okinawa's appeal.

The ruling has effectively paved the way for the work to resume.

The land ministry says if the prefecture does not follow its directive, the central government will be allowed to start a procedure known as execution by proxy, and approve the design revision in place of the prefecture.