Joint drills involving Osprey to be held in 2 western Japan prefs.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Friday Japan and the United States will conduct joint drills involving MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft in two western Japan prefectures next month.

With the two countries aiming to ease the burden of U.S. military bases borne by people in Okinawa, Onodera will seek approval of local communities in Shiga and Kochi prefectures for the drills.

These will be the first drills involving the Osprey outside Okinawa, where the aircraft are deployed at the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station.

The minister will also visit Okinawa Prefecture on Saturday to explain the plan to Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima.

In Shiga, which borders Kyoto Prefecture, personnel from Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force and U.S. Marines will engage in regular training in mid-October, during which they will rappel from hovering Ospreys to deploy on the ground.

In Kochi, located on Shikoku Island, military personnel from both countries will be involved in emergency drills late October. They are using the scenario of a powerful earthquake occurring in the Nankai Trough off central and western Japan in order to examine the efficacy of the Osprey in time of disaster.