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U.S. promises safety first with Osprey in Japan

Date Posted: 2012-07-13

The U.S. Secretary of State is promising that the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft soon to be deployed to Okinawa will be operated safely.

“The United States cares deeply about the safety of the Japanese people,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told her colleague, Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba, at a meeting in Tokyo. “We will work closely with our Japanese partners to make sure that any American equipment in Japan will meet the highest safety standards,” she added, while hinting the U.S. has no plans to alter the Osprey’s deployment schedule to Futenma Marine Corps Air Station in Okinawa, to replace aging CH-46 helicopters.

Gemba was calm during discussions on the Osprey, which took place on the sidelines of an international conference regarding aid to Afghanistan. He told Clinton he shares safety concerns Okinawans and Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture have, asking that the U.S. provide complete reports on investigations into earlier accidents involving the Osprey.

Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto, for his part, isn’t so comfortable with the Osprey deployment. He’s planning to make his first official visit to the United States later this month, where he’ll meet with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. Morimoto says the Osprey deployment is high on his list of things to talk about.

Morimoto says he’d like to take a flight in an MV-22 Osprey during his trip. The hybrid transport that can take off like a helicopter and then fly like a plane has suffered two accidents over the past several months, in Florida and Morocco, leaving already unhappy Okinawans more worried about the aircraft’s safety. The U.S. says it’s investigating, while insisting there were no mechanical problems. Some media reports have suggested the Osprey could have technical deficiencies that prevent safe emergency landings.

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