A lawsuit demanding local bureaucrats stop blocking the construction of a U.S. military base in Okinawa was filed by Japan’s central government Friday, the latest in the spat between Tokyo and the southern island.

 

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Tokyo wants to move the unpopular U.S. airbase in a crowded residential district on Okinawa’s main island to a sparsely populated area in its northern part, but many residents want the base moved off the island altogether.

 

In Friday’s suit, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government asked the court in Okinawa’s capital city Naha to declare that a move by the region’s governor to block construction for the base is illegal.

 

“The national government’s hardline attitude toward Okinawa’s U.S. base issue is extreme,” Okinawan governor Takeshi Onaga told reporters in Tokyo, citing local election results showing voters favor moving the base off the island.

 

“I have no choice but to call it a far cry from democracy,” he said.

 

But Gen Nakatani, defense minister, reiterated that Onaga’s decision was illegal and the government would make its case in court.

 

“Governor Onaga’s decision to cancel the approval was illegal. We will argue that the infrastructure minister’s order (for him to reverse his move) is appropriate,” Nakatani said.

 

More than half the 47,000 American troops in Japan under a decades-long security alliance are stationed on Okinawa, the site of a major World War II battle that was followed by a 27-year U.S. occupation of the island.