Top Marine commander lauds drill with Osprey aircraft on Japan ship

The top U.S. Marine Corps commander on Wednesday lauded the first joint drill involving a Japanese ship and the U.S. Osprey transport aircraft which has been deployed in Japan amid safety concerns.

"It was pretty monumental," Gen. James Amos, commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, told reporters in Washington, referring to a recent drill in California in which the MV-22 aircraft landed on a Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force ship.

"It turned out to be an incredible amphibious exercise," Amos also said, referring to the drill which was part of a series of exercises involving the United States, Japan, Canada and New Zealand. The Dawn Blitz exercises which began earlier this month are aimed at enhancing the amphibious capabilities of participating militaries.

Amos also said cooperation between the U.S. Marine Corps and the Japanese Self-Defense Forces has been strengthened through joint disaster-relief operations following the mega earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan in March 2011.

"I'm continuing with the new Marine orientation to the Pacific, including exercises in Japan," he said.

The U.S. Marines' deployment of the tilt-rotor aircraft at its Futenma Air Station in a densely populated area in Japan's Okinawa in October 2012 has stirred controversy. Protests intensified over concerns about the aircraft's safety following a fatal crash in Morocco and a crash in Florida, both earlier in 2012.