Japan, U.S. agree to reduce burdens on Okinawa

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera agreed with the commander of U.S. forces in Okinawa on Tuesday to reduce burdens on Okinawa by conducting some MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft training flights outside the prefecture.

"I would like to ask for your cooperation in reducing burdens on Okinawa," Onodera told Lt. Gen. John Wissler at a meeting in Tokyo which was open to the press, before Japanese and U.S. forces hold a joint exercise using Ospreys in Shiga Prefecture on Wednesday.

Wissler, who doubles as commanding general of U.S. Marine forces in Okinawa, accepted the request. Ospreys are based at the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Okinawa.

Wissler emphasized the significance of the joint exercise in enhancing interoperability between Japanese and U.S. forces, and said he will fly by Osprey from a U.S. Marine air station in Yamaguchi Prefecture to Shiga Prefecture for the exercise Wednesday.

On Oct. 25, Japanese and U.S. forces will also carry out a joint disaster response exercise using Ospreys in Kochi Prefecture.

At a later closed meeting with Onodera, Wissler pledged to cooperate with Japan in creating a Japanese Self-Defense Forces amphibious unit for defending remote islands, a Defense Ministry official said.