Tokyo, Aug 14 (IANS) Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga on Monday expressed his dissatisfaction with the Japanese government for allowing accident-prone Osprey aircraft to fly in the country just days after a fatal crash off the coast of Australia.
In a meeting with newly-appointed Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera in Okinawa’s capital of Naha, Onaga said Japan backing the US’s decision for the tilt-rotor planes to be flown was not in the interest of the safety of people, Xinhua news agency reported.
“The response was extremely disappointing from the viewpoint of protecting the lives of the people in the prefecture and in the country,” Onaga said.
Onaga’s remarks follow Okinawa Deputy Governor Moritake Tomikawa on August 8 lodging a strong protest with US forces for flying an Osprey in Japan’s southernmost prefecture.
Tomikawa’s protest came on the heels of the central government requesting a halt to flights, following the crash in Australia on August 5 that left three US Marines dead.
Onodera told Onaga the transport plane was “very important for our country’s security” and promised the Governor that he would repeatedly implore the US to fly the planes safely.
The US Marine Corps on Wednesday decided the Ospreys were safe to be flown following an investigation.
This decision was backed by the government here on Friday, much to the consternation of Okinawans who host the bulk of US military forces in Japan and are concerned about the safety of the Ospreys.
An Osprey making an emergency landing in Okinawa in June caused locals fears to be stoked once more following the crash landing of one of the planes in the waters off Nago in Okinawa, near the US Marine Corps’ Camp Schwab last December.
The crash marked the first major accident involving an Osprey since its deployment in Japan in 2012 and had Okinawan officials vehemently call for the planes to be permanently withdrawn from Japan.
Prior to these accidents, Ospreys have been involved in multiple crashes around the world leading to numerous fatalities, dating back to the plane’s developmental in 2000.
The US military currently has more than 20 MV-22s deployed at US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, the base itself which is central to a relocation spat between Okinawa and Tokyo.
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