More MV-22s coming to Okinawa in early August

July 2, 2013 Ryukyu Shimpo

The Ministry of Defense announced on July 1 that the U.S. Marine Corps will send 12 additional MV-22 Osprey aircraft to U.S. Iwakuni Air Station, Yamaguchi, from July 28 to 31. The vertical take-off and landing transport aircraft will be deployed to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in early August after a week of maintenance and flight tests in Iwakuni.

Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima has made his opposition clear. He will visit Tokyo after the regular meeting of the assembly to ask the central government to cancel the plan.

Toshinori Tanaka, director of the Okinawa Defense Bureau, explained the plan to the Ginowan City authorities and the Okinawa Prefectural Government (OPG) on July 1. However, he did not reveal the specific timing involved. Tatsuo Oyakawa, deputy director general of military affairs in the OPG, said, “We have asked the government to rethink the plan and to send the aircraft in other prefectures.”

Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Defense Akira Sato visited Iwakuni Mayor Yoshihiko Fukuda and Yamaguchi Governor Shigetaro Yamamoto to request their understanding regarding the aircraft coming to Iwakuni. Governor Yamamoto responded saying, “Local residents’ concerns have not been resolved.” He asked the vice-minister to have the U.S. military provide appropriate information on the flights. The governor also requested an early end to the Osprey’s operation in Iwakuni and that the U.S. military adhere to the agreement by the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee on time and altitude for flights.

Mayor Fukuda commented, “It’s disappointing, but we have been told that this will
lead to a reduction of the burden on Okinawa, so to a certain extent we understand.”

This additional Osprey deployment will complete the plan to replace the CH-46 helicopters at the Futenma base with MV-22.

The Okinawa Prefectural Assembly and 41 municipalities delivered a petition requesting the cancellation of the Osprey’s deployment to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in January. On June 12, the Governor and mayors of the municipalities that host U.S. military bases asked the Prime Minister to cancel the plan, saying, “Our concerns over the aircraft’s safety have not been resolved.”

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey) 

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