The Okinawa, Japan, prefecture filed a third active lawsuit against the Japanese government to block the ongoing construction of a new runway on the coast of Okinawa, Japan, as part of a winding legal battle to halt the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

The Sept. 30 lawsuit, first reported by Stars and Stripes, was another attempt by Gov. Denny Tamaki to push back against the decades-long plan to relocate the Marine air base from densely populated Ginowan on the southern part of the island to Henoko on the east coast.

Two previous lawsuits had challenged a decision by Japan’s minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism ordering Okinawa to issue a permit to tweak construction plans, according to Stars and Stripes.

The most recent suit attacks that decision under a different law.

“We have already protested this decision twice according to the Local Autonomy Act,” Tamaki wrote in a statement quoted in Stars in Stripes. “With this lawsuit, we want to stress again that our decision to reject the change in plans was correct and claim that the decision made by the minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism was illegal.”

The relocation of Air Station Futenma long has had the support of the Japanese central government. But it has been a source of contention for many Okinawa, Japan, locals who resent the noise, pollution and violence associated with the U.S. military’s more than 30 bases in the prefecture.

A 2019 referendum showed that 72% of Okinawans opposed building the new Marine air base in Henoko. Some critics say having an air base in that coastal location could damage sea life, including the dugong, a vulnerable cousin of the manatee.

Tamaki — whose father is a U.S. Marine whom he never met and whose mother is Japanese — rose to power in the Okinawa, Japan, prefecture by running on his opposition to U.S. military bases. He has said he wants the air station moved off of Okinawa entirely.

Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.

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