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Osprey's Okinawa deployment planned for July

Date Posted: 2012-04-26

The U.S. government has moved up plans for deploying the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft at Futenma Marine Corps Air Station on Okinawa.

A Japanese government source says deployment of the controversial aircraft to Futenma was initially planned for this autumn, but that the U.S. has decided to expedite the timeline. "That's absolutely terrible” says Okinawa ‘Governor Hirokazu Nakaima, who was speaking to reporters in Tokyo. “We are opposed to the deployment from the beginning.” The source says the United States has apparently already informed Japan of its decision to base the Osprey at Futenma beginning this summer.

Speaking to reporters in Ginowan, the host city to Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, Mayor Atsushi Sakima also expressed his renewed opposition to the Osprey deployment. Local communities around the base are strongly opposed to the planned deployment, due to safety concerns boosted by a spate of crashes involving the aircraft.

Earlier this month, an Osprey crashed during a drill in Morocco, killing two U.S. soldiers.
The Japanese government has called on the U.S. to provide a report about the cause of that crash. Still, the source said the timing of the Osprey deployment in Okinawa is not affected by developments involving an investigation into the accident.

In an effort to underline the safety of the Osprey, the Japanese and U.S. governments previously planned to temporarily deploying the aircraft at a U.S. base in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, western Japan, before deploying it in Okinawa. But they abandoned That idea was abandoned as it seemed difficult to gain support from local residents in Yamaguchi.

The earlier-than-initially-planned Osprey deployment could harden opposition from the people of Okinawa, at a time when they are increasingly concerned that Futenma will remain as it is. In an upcoming joint statement on the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, Tokyo and Washington are expected to announce a plan to maintain the Futenma base until a planned relocation is implemented. The plans to relocate the Futenma to the Henoko coastal area of Nago City in northern Okinawa, have been stalled due to local opposition.

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