Gov't invites tenders for U.S. base replacement facility in Okinawa

Japan's Defense Ministry on Tuesday invited tenders for work related to the construction of a controversial replacement facility for a U.S. Marine base in Okinawa Prefecture.

The ministry's Okinawa Defense Bureau hopes to sign contractors by the end of March to build a new base in a coastal area of Nago, where functions of the Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station will be transferred from a crowded residential area of Ginowan under a Japan-U.S. accord.

The bureau plans to spend a year on exploratory boring and designing of the facility before starting land reclamation work in the spring of 2015.

The announcement was made despite local opposition to the base relocation. Antibase Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine, who was re-elected Sunday, told reporters Tuesday it is "insensitive" for the ministry to "ignore the election results" and place the tenders for the facility.

The ministry invited tenders on three orders -- designing of land reclamation work and surveys on the surrounding coral reef as well as equipment to monitor dugong, an endangered marine mammal, in nearby waters.