Onaga calls for removal of “defective” Osprey; government refuses to cancel land return ceremony
December 16, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo
After the recent Osprey crash, on December 15, Governor Takeshi Onaga visited Minister of Defense Tomomi Inada at the Ministry of Defense. In his meeting with Inada, Onaga called the Osprey, which has seen continuous problems such as belly landings, a defective aircraft, and said, “Okinawans have strongly opposed the deployment of the Osprey. I cannot contain my anger that it has caused this accident, and I strongly call for an immediate cessation of flights and withdrawal of the aircraft, and strongly protest,” once again demanding that the Osprey deployment be withdrawn. Inada only stated, “We at the Ministry of Defense intend to thoroughly endeavor collect information, make it public, and confirm safety.” Meanwhile, on the same day, Vice Governor Mitsuo Ageda met with Vice Minister of Defense Kenji Wakamiya at the Prefectural Office, and Wakamiya effectively refused the demand that the Osprey be withdrawn. Wakamiya visited Ginowan Mayor Atsushi Sakima in Ginowan and said, “We believe the removal of the dangers posed by U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is of utmost importance. Therefore, we want to make it our top priority and move the plan forward.” It was the first time a national government official made a comment promoting the Henoko relocation since the Osprey accident.
Onaga requested that the national government cancel the ceremony planned for December 22 in honor of the return of more than half of the U.S. military’s Northern Training Area, which is conditioned on the construction of helipad landing strips (helipads) where the Osprey will train, in light of the accident. Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kazuhiro Sugita, who met with Governor Onaga at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence, denied this request, clearly stating that the government wants to hold the ceremony. After the meeting, Governor Onaga revealed this fact to reporters. Onaga made the same protest to Parliamentary Secretary Kiyoshi Odawara at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Regarding the national government’s response, Governor Onaga said, “It is exactly the same as the government’s methods have always been, but I want them to realize that this time [this accident] is different.”
Meanwhile, Vice Minister of Defense Wakamiya refused the prefectural government’s request for withdrawal of the Osprey in his meeting with Vice Governor Ageda, saying, “In the unstable security environment of East Asia, [the Osprey] is essential.”
After the meeting, Wakamiya expressed to reporters the government’s intention to move forward with the Henoko relocation, saying, “I think that in the sense of increasing safety as well, it is very meaningful. We want to put in our utmost efforts to move the relocation forward as soon as possible.”
In Ginowan, Mayor Sakima said, “The most important thing is the lives of the people of Ginowan and of Okinawa. I want you to think seriously about what should be prioritized from the perspective of the people of Ginowan, who have endured [Futenma] for more than twenty years [since an agreement was made for its closure], and return Futenma as soon as possible.” In response, Wakamiya said, “The Abe administration will work to overcome ministry and agency boundaries and do all we can.”
(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)
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