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Osprey Deployment Draws High-level Attention

Date Posted: 2012-07-20

Japan’s Prime Minister says his country has no say in the deployment of the MV-22 Osprey, Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima is demanding review of the plan, and a top U.S. Defense Department official is coming to Japan to offer more explanations and assurances.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter is visiting Japan and three other Asian countries, and is meeting with Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto and other officials to seek their understanding of the U.S. plan to deploy controversial Osprey aircraft to the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station. Sources say Carter will likely point out at the meetings how the tilt-rotor plane is safe and useful.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is now saying his government has no choice in accepting the tilt-rotor transport plane, saying “the deployment itself is a plan by the U.S. government.” He points out Tokyo has no say in Washington decisions, but does note the U.S. has promised to fully share details of several Osprey crashes in recent months. Japan will, he says, check the safety of the Osprey before trial flights begin at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station in Yamaguchi Prefecture late this month.

Unhappy with the arrangements, and still undeterred, Okinawa’s governor has handed a statement to Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura in which he demands a review of the planned deployment of the U.S. Marine Corps' MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft in his prefecture. The statement from Governor Hirokazu Nakaima says the Okinawa prefectural government is against the deployment unless its safety is confirmed and the concerns of local residents are dispelled. Ginowan Mayor Atsushi Sakima, who accompanied Nakaima to Tokyo, says he is strongly opposed to the deployment because there is no guarantee of safety.

Fujimura responded to Nakaima and Sakima that the government will confirm the safety of the aircraft, which have caused accidents abroad. The statement presented by the governor was drawn up by the Council for Promotion of Dezoning and Reutilization of Military Land in Okinawa, chaired by Nakaima.Nakaima and Sakima also submitted the statement to Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi, parliamentary senior vice foreign minister.

Carter is visiting the Asian countries, including Thailand, India and South Korea, to lay the groundwork for the United States to implement programs under its new military strategies focusing on Asia. At the talks in Japan, he is also expected to discuss the planned transfer of Marines in Okinawa to Guam, bilateral defense cooperation and regional situations.

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