TOKYO (majirox news) Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima said on June 19 that the Japanese government has a responsibility to protect the lives and property of its people. He was referring to the controversial planned deployment of the MV-22 Osprey aircraft at the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station on Okinawa. He expressed his concerns to the Defense and Foreign Ministers about possible safety issues with the 70 million dollar aircraft.
Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said the central government will gather as much information as possible from the United States on the safety of the Osprey.
“The Osprey has crashed eight times since it first flew in 1989,” said Jun Tisaka,secretary general for Japan Peace Committee for Okinawa “More than 34 people have died in these accidents, and this aircraft has been dubbed a ‘widow-maker.’ Its deployment poses a threat to the citizens of Okinawa, especially since the Futenma airfield is located in the center of Ginowan City at Okinawa.”
Following the June 14 crash of the half-helicopter, half-airplane Osprey in Florida on June 14, around 5,200 Okinawans rallied against the planned deployment. There have also been many protests in the past against the U.S. military bases, forcing dialogs between the Japanese government and the US military. This issue is a frequent subject discussed in high-level summit meetings.
“The Japanese government stance follows American policy, and Japan must change this attitude,” Tisaka said. “If the central government doesn’t listen to the voice of the Okinawans, whereby 90 percent of the population, including 41 cities and villages, oppose the Osprey deployment, the voices of the people will grow louder, and the battle-lines will be drawn.”
However, many in Tokyo remain undecided about the issue. They prefer the safety of the Osprey to be established before it is deployed in September.
“Recently there have been two accidents,” said Yasuhiko Masushita, a businessman in Tokyo. “They need to investigate the safety of the aircraft before they deploy it. Once that’s established, I’m for the deployment.”
The plan was for the Osprey to replace the current Marine Corps helicopter fleet based at Futenma. But the majority of the residents of Okinawa would prefer there to be no U.S. Marine Corps air activity there at all.
Once again the issue of the U.S. military bases on Okinawa has made front page news in Japan. It remains to be seen, if the Japanese living outside Tokyo will lisen to the frustrations of the Okinawans.