Six MV-22 Ospreys were transferred Monday morning to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, the Defense Ministry said, as local residents protested vociferously in front of the base.
It is not clear when the remaining six tilt-rotor Ospreys currently at the U.S. Iwakuni air station in Yamaguchi Prefecture will arrive in Okinawa, but the U.S. Marine Corps is expected to deploy all 12 to Futenma and start low-altitude test flights across Japan later this month.
The hybrid transport aircraft’s deployment to Futenma, situated in a heavily populated neighborhood in Ginowan, comes despite Tokyo and Washington’s failure to placate local opposition.
Okinawans remain deeply concerned over the aircraft’s safety following the crash of an Osprey in Morocco that killed two marines in April and a second accident in June that injured five crew members in Florida. Continue reading →
An aerial photograph shows thousands of people gathering in Naha to protest the deployment of the controversial Osprey aircraft. KYODO PHOTO
NAHA — Tens of thousands of people gathered for a rally in Okinawa on Sunday to protest against the planned deployment of U.S. Ospreys in the prefecture in the face of a series of problems involving the tilt-rotor military aircraft.
An elderly demo participant holds a sign bearing the kanji character for “anger.”
“It cannot be considered normal to live under conditions in which an Osprey may fall from the sky at any moment,” Masaharu Kina, chairman of the Okinawa prefectural assembly, told the protesters at a seaside park in Ginowan, which hosts the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station.
Organizers said 101,000 people took part in the rally.
The protest was held after safety concerns over the deployment of the aircraft in Japan were amplified following Osprey crashes earlier this year in Morocco and Florida. Pentagon reports suggest human error was a factor in both crashes.
On Saturday, it was also reported that an Osprey made an emergency landing at a field behind a church in Jacksonville, North Carolina, on Thursday.
Ginowan Mayor Atsushi Sakima told the rally the U.S. and Japanese governments “aim to bring Ospreys, whose safety cannot be assured, into Futenma without making any improvements.”
Among the participants was Yoshitaka Shinjo, 45, a neighborhood community leader from Ginowan. “While I oppose the Osprey deployment, I also believe in the need to remove the dangerous Futenma air base.”
The rally on Sunday was organized by the prefectural assembly as well as Okinawa municipality leaders and business circles. Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima did not attend.
In a message sent to the rally organizers and read out to participants, Nakaima said, “I will continue to convey Okinawa residents’ opposition to the deployment to the Japanese and U.S. governments.” Continue reading →
TOKYO — Japan’s years-long bout of indecision over plans to move a U.S. military base on Okinawa appeared to be descending into farce Tuesday when protesters stopped couriers from delivering a report.
Around 100 people opposed to plans to shift the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station at Futenma to a quiet coastal spot on the southern island surrounded a delivery van carrying an environmental impact assessment.
Local media say the government-commissioned report, which Washington demanded be completed by the end of the year, is likely to say nature would suffer little if a giant runway-on-stilts was built in turquoise seas by a pristine shoreline.
Many Okinawans, angry at decades of having shouldered the burden of more than half of the around 50,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan, say they do not want the facility at Henoko on the east coast of the island.
They say another part of Japan should take the base, which currently sits in a crowded urban area of the island, near dozens of schools and hospitals. Continue reading →