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