Editorial: Osprey crash – US Marine Corps has no choice but to leave and land return ceremony should be canceled

December 15, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo

As long as these dangerous and eerie-grey-colored aircrafts continue to fly, it would be no surprise if they eventually crashed somewhere. It has become all the more clear what needs to be done in order to protect the lives and dignity of Okinawans and to prevent casualties.

This is not limited to the removal of these dangerous aircrafts. It also involves a strong demand to completely remove the U.S. Marine Corps who are stationed in Okinawa that operate these defective aircrafts, and to abandon the construction of the new Henoko base and the Takae helicopter landing strips, or helipads.

On the night of December 13, a Marine Corps vertical takeoff and landing aircraft MV-22 Osprey crash-landed on the coast of Abu in Nago City. Many Okinawans are experiencing a spine-chilling fear and are saying that this was bound to happen.

Indignation toward both Japanese and U.S. governments, which neglect these dangerous trainings while forcing Okinawa to host the Ospreys, is pervading the island where the military bases are located.

Contemptible trivialization

The Japanese and U.S. governments have plans to hold a ceremony for returning most the Northern Training Area (NTA) back to Okinawa on December 22. However, an authoritarian push to speed up the construction of the helipads in Takae of Higashi Village continues to cause strong backlash. Now that the crash-landing has happened on top of that, forcibly going through with the ceremony will only rub Okinawans the wrong way.

Because of this, Governor Takeshi Onaga has requested for the ceremony to be canceled. Despite the imminent return of the NTA, efforts to strengthen the military base’s functions have become conspicuous. The Abe administration’s so-called “decreasing the burden” is just for show. Abe administration’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who is responsible for “decreasing the burden of hosting the base” should cancel the ceremony.

According to the Marine Corps, the accident was caused by the fuel hose being severed during a midair refueling training and damaging the propeller, resulting in the aircraft becoming unstable. It crashed because it could no longer be controlled. The impact of the crash caused the aircraft to break into pieces, which floated in the ocean. However, rather than calling this a “crash-landing,” the Marine Corps and the Japanese government have insisted that this was an “emergency shallow water landing.” Their efforts to trivialize this matter by trying to suppress the effects of this on the plans for the new Henoko base that Ospreys would be operating at is contemptible.

The cause of the crash-landing also lies in intense training. The frequency of Ospreys taking off and landing at the Takae helipads have increased. Despite protests by people of Ginoza Village and Kin Town, training involving suspending goods midair above residential areas in the middle of the night continues. This infringes on the Noise Reduction Initiatives.

Furthermore, the crash-landing occurred during a midair refueling training when it was dark with high wind speeds. Making skills improvement the top priority, the Marine Corps system that ignores the will of the people by forcing through with dangerous trainings, and a weak sense of human rights is what caused the crash. On the night of the same day, it was revealed that another Osprey had made a belly landing at the Futenma Air Station, which is where the aircraft was deployed.

Safety management by the Marine Corps is not functioning at all. In 2012, 41 heads of municipalities and the chairman signed a petition and opposed the deployment of Ospreys “with all of Okinawa.” That petition is still alive. The Onaga prefectural administration should come up with comprehensive policies for the bases that will lead to the removal of the Marine Corps. The administration should also strengthen its ability to negotiate with the U.S. and Japanese governments.

Offensive remark that looks down on Okinawans

Area Coordinator Nicholson, the top Marine Corps officer in Okinawa, does not understand the emotions of the residents who live where the U.S. forces are stationed. What is going on with this person’s train of thought? It makes one feel as if Okinawa is under U.S. military authority again.

Area Coordinator Nicholson expressed displeasure toward Vice Governor Mitsuo Ageda’s complaint regarding the Osprey crash-landing. He said that the pilot did not cause any damage to houses and residents, that Okinawans should be thankful, and that this act was worthy of a commendation. At one point, he hit the desk and became defiant, questioning whether Vice Governor Ageda was trying to make this into a political issue.

This is when Area Coordinator Nicholson made the offensive remark looking down on Okinawans, showing his colonialist mentality.The attitudes of top officers have adverse effects on the military organization. The Marine Corps has morphed into a foreign object that is completely incompatible with the Okinawan society. They must leave as soon as possible.

This is the second time this year and the 48th time since Okinawa was relinquished to Japan that a U.S. military aircraft has crash-landed in Okinawa. In what other prefecture do U.S. military aircrafts crash more than once a year? Including the prototype stage, Osprey-related crash accidents have occurred one after another, resulting in 37 casualties.

If these defective aircrafts continue to fly, a major accident involving a crash will be unavoidable. Even if every effort is made to ensure safety, this cannot serve as collateral to prevent further casualties. The only way to be completely safe is for them to leave the Okinawan skies.

The U.S. military has not responded to the Japan Coast Guard’s request for a joint inspection. The U.S. military was also seen urging the Okinawa prefectural police to enforce regulation by keeping the press away from the scene. Japan being unable to display their sovereignty during such situations and the faulty Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement must be corrected.

(English translation by T&TC and Chelsea Ashimine)

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