Four arrested in Okinawa for obstructing U.S. base transfer work
NAHA, OKINAWA PREF. – Four men were arrested Tuesday for obstructing work on moving a major U.S. military base within Okinawa, police said, despite local pressure for it to be shifted outside of the island prefecture.
The four men are suspected of piling around 1,400 concrete blocks at the gate of the U.S. Marine Corps Camp Schwab from Jan. 28 to 30, blocking the passage of vehicles used for construction work, the police said.
The four also allegedly obstructed the movement of trucks hauling construction materials by standing in front of the vehicles, and had other protesters sit on the blocks on Jan. 30.
Camp Schwab is located close to where Japan is building a replacement facility for Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
The four are Hiroji Yamashiro, 64, the head of a social activist group opposing to the base relocation, Hiroshi Inaba, 66, Takemasa Kinjo, 59, and Kobun Sasaki, 40. The police did not say whether the four admitted to the charge.
Protesters have staged sit-ins in front of the gate in an attempt to block construction work for the relocation, frequently leading to scuffles with riot police.
Under the relocation plan, which is based on a 1996 agreement between Japan and the United States, the Futenma base is to be transferred from a crowded residential area in Ginowan to the less-populated area of Nago in the Henoko coastal area.
While the central government has maintained that the plan is the only solution to address safety and noise problems posed by aircraft at the base, many Okinawa residents want the base moved outside the prefecture, where the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan are located.