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Citizens don't want them but Japan will deploy U.S. military Osprey aircraft

Christian Fernsby |
Japan's Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya said that he wants to deploy on a temporary basis the U.S. military's Osprey transport aircraft to a Self-Defense Force base in Kisarazu City, near Tokyo, in March of the next year at the earliest.

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The Defense Ministry plans to deploy a total of 17 Ospreys for use by the Ground Self-Defense Force by 2021.

However, a plan to deploy the first five Ospreys last fall at an airport in Saga Prefecture, southwestern Japan, was delayed due to stalled negotiations with local fishermen, who own part of the land for the airport.

When asked about the reason for the temporary deployment in Kisarazu City of Chiba Prefecture, Iwaya said that the base is big enough to hold 17 Ospreys, and that the facilities there can be used for the deployment.

He added that he wants to start the temporary deployment after obtaining approval from Kisarazu City.

The decision was strongly opposed by local residents. A representative of a citizen group said that once the Ospreys are deployed, the residents around the base will feel uneasy.

The representative added that the Ministry of Defense did not specify the time limit for the deployment, which make people feel untrustworthy.

Kisarazu Mayor Yoshikuni Watanabe told reporters that he has not yet received a sufficient explanation about the aircraft's safety and possible influence on the lives of the citizens.

He also said he wants to know the duration of the temporary deployment, as this would be important in gaining the support of the residents.

The accident-prone tilt-rotor aircraft, which can take off and land like a helicopter and fly like a fixed-winged plane, has concerned citizens across Japan due to its checkered safety history since its design phase.

A U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey made an emergency landing in Japan's Oita Prefecture, on the eastern coast of Kyushu, in August 2017, while a similar plane made a crash-landing off Nago in Okinawa in December 2016.

The turboprop plane was also involved in a fatal crash off the coast of Australia in August 2017 that killed three personnel aboard.

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