World Bulletin / News Desk
Okinawa and Tokyo have been engaged in a long-running feud over the Futenma Air Station since 2015 when Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga revoked a landfill approval by his predecessor.
The Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court ruled Friday that the approval for land reclamation by the former governor was "legal", while Onaga acted illegally by not adhering to an earlier state order demanding that his revocation be retracted.
According to Kyodo News, the verdict is certain to be appealed by Okinawa’s government and end up in the Supreme Court.
Both sides have filed a series of suits over the base’s planned relocation from densely populated Ginowan city to reclaimed land on the less populated shore of Henoko.
Although a court-mediated settlement was reached in March, halting relocation-related construction work and directing both sides to hold talks on the matter, the central government sued Onaga in July after months of stalemate.
Onaga won the 2014 gubernatorial election with a pledge to oppose the relocation, and after an upper house election in July, all parliament seats representing the prefecture were secured by lawmakers sharing his stance.
The people of Okinawa have long felt oppressed by hosting around two-thirds of the entire U.S. military establishment in Japan since the end of World War II.
During a hearing last month, Onaga accused the Tokyo of " ignoring the will of the people of Okinawa and leaving [the prefecture] with an excessive base-hosting burden".
"If everything is decided in line with state policies, local autonomy will die," he was quoted as saying by Kyodo.
Criticism of the U.S. presence has mounted since April following the arrests of a number of people employed at American bases in the prefecture.
In June, prosecutors charged a former U.S. marine working on an American military base in the rape and murder of an Okinawa woman.