Okinawa governor presses for review of Marine Osprey deployment

Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima renewed his call on Thursday for the reconsideration of the deployment of MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft at a U.S. Marine Corps base on the prefecture's main island, telling senior government officials to take steps acceptable to local residents.

He made the call just days after a hard landing by an MV-22 near a military base in Nevada, raising fresh concern among the people of the southern island prefecture about the safety of the combat troop carriers.

"The anxieties of the people of the prefecture have not been addressed at all," Nakaima said at a meeting with Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida as he and several Okinawa municipal chiefs handed a petition to the minister.

The governor urged the central government to take steps acceptable to people in his prefecture, proposing that the newly deployed Osprey aircraft at the Marines' Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, be stationed at bases outside the prefecture.

In response, Kishida told Nakaima that the Japanese government has pressed the U.S. side to swiftly come forward with information about Monday's incident, adding that Tokyo intends to brief Okinawa on the matter once it is supplied with the information.

On the controversial plan to build a new Marine airfield in the coastal area of Nago, also in Okinawa, to replace the existing base in Ginowan, Nakaima told Kishida that it would take "too long" to realize.

Kishida did not reply to the remark, according to Nakaima.

Japan and the United States have agreed to move flight functions from the Futenma base, located in a densely populated area, to a new airfield to be built in Nago, a less densely populated area, but the construction project has run into trouble amid stiff local opposition.

Nakaima made a similar case at a meeting with Senior Vice Defense Minister Akinori Eto earlier in the day.

The Marines deployed 12 Ospreys at Futenma last October and have been in the process of deploying 12 more of the aircraft at the base since the beginning of this month.

The presence of the tilt-rotor aircraft, which take off and land like helicopters and cruise like fixed-wing airplanes, has unnerved many people in Okinawa, in part because of a series of accidents overseas involving the aircraft and their variant.