Protesters holding "no base, no more base" placards stage a demonstration march against US military presence on the southern island of Okinawa, in Tokyo on June 12, 2016. (KAZUHIRO NOGI / AFP)
TOKYO - Japan's central government on Tuesday began delivering crushed rocks by sea to the site of a controversial replacement facility to be built for a US air base in the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa.
Heavy US military presence and plans to relocate the base within Okinawa are a form of discrimination against the islanders
The latest move by the central government saw protests by locals opposed to Okinawa hosting the majority of US bases in Japan. Protestors took to boats to try and hinder the delivery of the rocks, local media reported.
The delivery of rocks by sea, purportedly to be more efficient than using trucks, comes on the heels of Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga telling US Ambassador to Japan William Hagerty on Monday that the heavy US military presence and plans to relocate the base within Okinawa are a form of discrimination against the islanders.
Hagerty said he is committed to reducing the base hosting burdens of Okinawans, while Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Tuesday that bringing in the rocks by sea would be better for the environment.
Onaga, however, asked the Defense Ministry to halt the transportation of construction materials by sea until an agreement is reached between local and central governments which are currently at odds in a legal battle following Onaga filing a lawsuit in July to halt the construction.
The crushed rocks will be used to build seawalls on the southern side of the construction area in the coastal region of Henoko in Nago, where the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan will be relocated under an accord inked between Japan and the United States in 1996.