OPG official opposes Osprey deployment in meetings with U.S. officials

July 25, 2012 Hideki Matsudo of Ryukyu Shimpo reports from Washington D.C.

On July 23, the head of the Executive Office of the Governor, Susumu Matayoshi, who is traveling in the United States, met with U.S. government officials and expressed the opposition of the Okinawa Prefectural Government (OPG) to the deployment of the MV-22 Osprey vertical take-off and landing transport aircraft to MCAS Futenma. Matayoshi said, “We oppose the deployment plan because the people of Okinawa are worried about the safety of the aircraft.” According to Mayayoshi, U.S. government officials indicated that they understood the concern of the Okinawan people, but stated that the U.S. government would not change the schedule for deployment.

Matayoshi met Christopher Johnstone, the Pentagon director for Northeast Asia, and Marc Knapper, director of the Office of Japanese Affairs at the State Department. After the meetings, Matayoshi answered questions asked by reporters in Washington D.C. Considering the fact that Osprey aircraft have had more than one crash this year, Matayoshi told the U.S. officials about the plan to stage a protest rally on August 5 in Okinawa against the deployment. He told them about the tense situation in Okinawa regarding the issue, saying, “The event will represent a major declaration of intent on the part of the Okinawan people.”

However, in response the U.S. officials asserted that the transport aircraft is necessary for the defense of Japan, and went on to say that they intend to work on easing the concerns of the Okinawan people before commencing operation of the aircraft in October.
Matayoshi explained that the excessive burden placed on Okinawa by the prefecture’s hosting of the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan and the Okinawan people’s concerns over the risk posed due to the presence of Futenma Air Station sit in the background to this issue. He also passed on Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima’s call for the easing of the burden and the relocation of the air base out of Okinawa.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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