By Emre Aytekin
ANKARA (AA) – The Japanese government has begun land reclamation work to relocate a U.S. base despite local opposition, media reports said Monday
According to Japanese news agency Kyodo, work began Monday afternoon to pour sand on a 33-hectare section of the Henoko coastal area of the southern Okinawa prefecture.
The plan aims to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from the crowded residential area of Ginowan to Henoko.
A referendum in late February asked locals to approve or oppose the landfill work for the base. More than 70 percent of residents opposed it.
Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya on Monday in a statement said he will continue his efforts to convince the locals about the necessity of the relocation plan.
A treaty reached 1996 between the U.S. and Japan agreed to this relocation.
Okinawa hosts the vast majority of U.S. bases with some estimates putting the number to 50,000.
Locals claim they have suffered U.S. military related accidents.
*Writing By Dilara Hamit