Plans for the United States' Okinawa military base to relocate to a new facility on the island moved forward on Thursday even though protests continue to plague the project.
Okinawa's central government agreed to a plan to move the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from a residential area in Ginowan to a more sparsely populated coastal area of Nago, according to Kyodo News
. The island's land ministry upheld the move recently, overruling the southern island's prefecture who wanted to stop the move.
Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said Thursday that he hopes that work on the new base can be sped up to "remove anxiety of people living near the (Futenma) air base and eliminate the noise pollution and risks" caused by aircraft flying over residential areas.
NBC News reported that Okinawa currently hosts
75 percent of all U.S. military installations in Japan.
"The fact that they forcibly executed this construction, there is nothing but anger," Takashi Kishimoto, of the Okinawa Peace Movement Center, told NBC News. "We are outraged at these political tactics which ignore will of the people."
Some residents still oppose moving the base site. Takeshi Onaga, the local governor, rescinded permission to build on the Nago site, even though it was approved by the governor before him, according to NBC News. More than 200 protesters rallied outside the construction area gates this week.
Nearly 100,000 civilians lost their lives fighting on the island in World War II, leaving some to resent any American military presence there.
"We will by no means allow any more construction of new bases," Kishimoto told NBC News. "We will not let them dirty this beautiful Ooura Bay."
Kyodo News wrote that Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine was among the protesters near the site while others vowed to fight the central government's plan.
Japan and the United States signed an accord to return the current base in Futenma to Japanese control in 1996. Both said the current relocation plan is the "only solution" to resolve the issue without undermining the alliance of the two countries in East Asia.
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