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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 August 23 - 29  > US court decides to reexamine legality of Henoko base construction
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2017 August 23 - 29 [POLITICS]

US court decides to reexamine legality of Henoko base construction

August 23, 2017
A U.S. federal court has overturned a lower court decision rejecting Japanese and American citizens’ request to examine whether the ongoing construction project of a U.S. military base in Okinawa violates a U.S. law. The plaintiffs, including Okinawans, argue that the project is threatening the survival of dugongs, an endangered sea mammal.

The Japanese and U.S. governments are pushing forward with the plan to construct the offshore base in the sea area off Nago’s Henoko district in Okinawa. Environmental groups in the two countries and local residents in 2003 started a court battle in the U.S., demanding an injunction against the construction project which they say would destroy habitats of dugongs.

The federal district court of San Francisco in 2015 turned down the citizens’ request on the grounds that they lack the eligibility to be plaintiffs. However, the federal court of appeal in San Francisco on August 21 repealed the decision and sent the case back to the district court.

Okinawa University Professor Emeritus Sakurai Kunitoshi welcomed the latest ruling. He said that the U.S. National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) obliges the U.S. government to pay due care and attention to anticipated outcomes that its actions might bring about both inside and outside the country. Sakurai pointed out that three dugongs had been observed in waters near Okinawa’s main island. The youngest one of the three, Sakurai went on to say, has not been seen for two years according to Japan’s Defense Ministry.

With the case sent back to the district court, judges would take into consideration additional evidences and check again to see if the U.S. government sufficiently implemented measures for dugong preservation, Sakurai said.

Past related articles:
> Lawyer calls U.S. new base in Nago illegal under U.S. law [December 17, 2009]
> U.S. government ordered to research effects of Okinawa’s base construction on dugongs [January 27, 2008]
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