Onodera tolerant of Osprey flights after crash
August 15, 2017
NAHA, OKINAWA PREF.- Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera at a meeting with Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga on Monday set out the central government's stance of tolerating flights of the US Marine Corps' MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor planes based in the southernmost Japan prefecture despite a recent fatal crash of one of the aircraft.
At the meeting, held in the Okinawa capital of Naha, Onodera also said that the government will continue work to relocate the Marine Corps' Futenma air station in Ginowan, Okinawa, to the Henoko coastal district in Nago in the prefecture.
The minister, visiting Okinawa for the first time since he took office earlier this month, thus rejected Onaga's requests for a halt to Osprey flights and the scrapping of the Futenma base relocation project.
The crash happened off the east coast of Australia on Aug. 5, killing three of the 26 crew. The Ospreys are deployed at the Futenma base.
Onaga expressed anger at the US military resuming Osprey flights soon after the accident and urged the Japanese government to press the US side to halt operations of the aircraft.
In response, Onodera said Tokyo has been informed by the US side that there is no structural flaw with the Osprey, adding that the Japanese government is asking the US military to continue putting safety first in Osprey operations.
Onaga handed Onodera a written request for the scrapping of the Futenma relocation project, telling the minister that it is impossible to obtain Okinawa people's understanding for the transfer.
But the minister said that the government wants to proceed steadily with the project.
Ahead of the meeting, Onodera offered flowers at a state-run cemetery for World War II victims, located in the Peace Memorial Park in Itoman, Okinawa. He also visited the park's Cornerstone of Peace, inscribed with the names of those who died in the Battle of Okinawa during the Pacific War, part of World War II.
Also on Monday, Onodera held a meeting in Naha with Maj. Gen. Charles Chiarotti, deputy commander of the US forces in Japan.
During the meeting, Onodera urged the US side not to conduct parachuting drills at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa's main island anymore. The Japanese and US governments have agreed to move the exercises to an auxiliary airfield on the island of Iejima in the prefecture.
Onodera assumed the defense portfolio in the Aug. 3 shake-up of the cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Jiji Press
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