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The United States will ship a second batch of MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft to a U.S. Marine air station in Iwakuni, western Japan, in late July prior to their eventual deployment at a Marine base in southern Japan's Okinawa Prefecture, Japan's Defense Ministry said Monday.
The 12 tilt-rotor aircraft, which will arrive at the U.S. Iwakuni Air Station in Yamaguchi Prefecture between July 28 and 31, are expected to be additionally deployed at the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa in early August after undergoing test flights and maintenance, it said.
Twelve Ospreys have already been deployed at the Okinawa base since last October.
The Marines earlier planned to deploy a total of 24 Ospreys at the Futenma base by 2014 to replace aging CH-46 helicopters. The deployment of the aircraft, which can take off and land like a helicopter and cruise like an airplane, has sparked anger among Okinawa residents due to its track record of crashes.
Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima told reporters in Naha on Monday that he will continue to seek the cancellation of the Osprey deployment plan.
Akira Sato, parliamentary vice defense minister, said in meetings with Yamaguchi Gov. Shigetaro Yamamoto and Iwakuni Mayor Yoshihiko Fukuda in Yamaguchi Prefecture that the second batch of Ospreys is expected to remain in Iwakuni for about a week.
The governor and mayor showed understanding over the arrival of the aircraft but called for an early end to the presence of Ospreys at the Iwakuni base.
"Local citizens' concerns have yet to be addressed," Yamamoto said during his meeting with Sato, while urging the government to ensure the United States provides information on Osprey flights and adhere to rules on flight altitude and time, as agreed by a Japan-U.S. joint commission.
Fukuda said, "This is against our will, but it has been explained to us that it will reduce Okinawa's burden and we have accepted this to some extent."
The Okinawa Defense Bureau, a local unit of the Defense Ministry, also provided an explanation Monday regarding the additional deployment of Ospreys to officials of Okinawa Prefecture and the city of Ginowan, which hosts the Futenma facility. The prefectural and city officials called for the cancellation of the deployment plan.
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