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Wednesday, Sep. 26, 2012

Nakaima pushes to nix Osprey deployment


Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima, citing safety concerns, again called for the cancellation of the U.S. Marine Corps' plan to deploy Osprey military aircraft at the Futenma air base.

"I want (the U.S. military) to stop short (of the deployment) one way or another," Nakaima said in a meeting Monday in Tokyo with Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto.

The central government last week declared the MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft safe to fly in Japan, giving the green light for their deployment at Futenma, which is situated in a crowded residential area of the city of Ginowan.

During the meeting, Nakaima handed Morimoto a petition stating that the "deployment of the Osprey increases the risk of the Futenma air base" and that the "deployment plan can never be approved."

Morimoto replied that maintaining the U.S. military's deterrence capabilities is an "agenda" Japan needs to address.

The central government wants to send Morimoto to Okinawa this week to explain the deployment and try to gain the understanding of local authorities.

But so far his visit has not been finalized due to strong local opposition to the Osprey. Safety concerns over the aircraft grew even more intense following a deadly crash in Morocco in April and another crash in Florida in June.

Twelve Ospreys are currently being held at the air base in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, before eventually being deployed to Futenma. Some of the transport aircraft were recently put through test flights following the government's safety declaration.

A government source said it is possible that deployment could be delayed from Sept. 28 until some time in October.

Such a delay would unlikely affect the U.S military's plan to complete the deployment by the end of October, the source said.

On Thursday, local officials are scheduled to ride in an Osprey to get a first-hand look at the controversial aircraft.

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