[Editorial] U.S. and Japan should remove Osprey from Okinawa

October 4, 2014 Ryukyu Shimpo

With the U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense and Japan’s Ministers for Foreign Affairs and of Defense in attendance, the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee, otherwise known as the “two-plus-two” security meeting, has convened in Tokyo. Japan and the United States agreed to increase the level of MV-22 Osprey training outside Okinawa and Japan.

The transfer of Osprey training outside of Japan does not fundamentally resolve the issues that the Okinawan people face. Removal of all Osprey aircraft from Okinawa is the only solution.

The U.S. military insists that when viewed in terms of the low number of Class A category mishaps the Osprey is the safest aircraft around. However, Class A Mishap accidents involving the Osprey happened in June and August and this aircraft also made an emergency landing in September. In the same month, an Osprey had a problem with its landing gear at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. So surely it is anything but the safest aircraft.

While the Japanese government asserts that deploying the aircraft in Okinawa enhances deterrence, the Osprey is a transport aircraft and is not capable of protecting Japan from attack. This aircraft is noisy and is a threat to the safety of the Okinawan people.

The U.S. military does not adhere to the agreement put in place in the U.S.-Japan Joint Committee. Both governments banned Osprey flight training after 10:00 p.m., but the military continue to fly the aircraft long past this time. As long as the Osprey are in Okinawa, there is no fundamental resolution to the problem.

The security meeting did not give the details on the transfer of Osprey training.
The Japanese government will need to discuss the transfer with the heads of municipalities where the Osprey training could take place and the plan to transfer the training may come to nothing if these governments oppose it.

The committee states, “As an essential element of this effort, the Ministers confirmed that the plan to construct the Futenma Replacement Facility (FRF) at Camp Schwab-Henokosaki area and adjacent waters is the only solution that addresses operational, political, financial, and strategic concerns and avoids the continued use of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma.”

We have difficulty understanding how the plan resolves financial concerns. To move the facilities at Futenma to existing military installations outside Okinawa or Japan is far cheaper than what is proposed in the plan.

The political concerns mentioned in the statement remind us of what former Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto said: “The Japanese government will move the base within Okinawa for political not strategic reasons.”

To us, the U.S. and Japanese governments saying in the official statement that the military will move the base to Henoko is because the Japanese government does not want to move it to other areas of Japan for political reasons. If this is the case, then both governments are clearly discriminating against Okinawa.

The U.S. and Japanese governments also agreed that from the end of December the Lockheed P-3 Orion aircraft at Kadena Air Base will be replaced by the Boeing P-8 Poseidon.

While both governments pretend to reduce the burden of bases on Okinawa by transferring the Osprey training outside of the prefecture, they then reinforce the bases in Okinawa with new military aircraft. We will not tolerate such an agreement.

We demand that the U.S. and Japanese governments remove all of the Osprey aircraft from Okinawa, and seek the early closure of the base and the return of the land that it uses. We also demand that both governments cancel bringing the P-8 Poseidon aircraft to Okinawa.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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