Japan, U.S. to hold joint antidisaster drills using Osprey aircraft

Japan and the United States will hold joint antidisaster drills in southwestern Japan in February using U.S. Marine Corps' MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Tuesday.

Onodera said the joint exercise is aimed at maintaining effective antidisaster measures in the event of a major earthquake originating in the Nankai Trough, a huge submarine fault line south of two of Japan's four main islands -- Honshu and Shikoku.

The exercise is also aimed at strengthening cooperation between the U.S. forces and Japan's Self-Defense Forces, Onodera said. Ministry sources said the drills are planned for Feb. 7.

The U.S. Marines Corps has deployed 24 MV-22 Ospreys to the Futenma air station in Okinawa Prefecture amid opposition by local authorities and residents.

The Osprey aircraft will fly to the Ground Self-Defense Force's Kochi garrisons in Konan, the Air Self-Defense Force's Tosashimizu air base in Tosashimizu, both Kochi Prefecture, and the ASDF's Tsuiki air base in Chikujo, Fukuoka Prefecture, the sources said.

The drill was originally planned for last October but was postponed due to a typhoon.