Japan will not allow any flight of the U.S. military's Osprey transport aircraft until safety concerns raised by the Japanese people are addressed first, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told the 'Diet' (Parliament) on Tuesday.
He said no flights of the controversial aircraft, brought to Japan on Monday, would be allowed to take place until investigations into two recent crashes were completed, media reports said.
An Osprey crashed in Morocco in April killing two airmen and another went down in the U.S. state of Florida last month raising concern over safety of the Bell Boeing-made tilt rotor aircraft used to transport troops.
A dozen of MV-22 Osprey arrived at the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station in Iwakuni in Yamaguchi prefecture on Monday for test flights before their deployment in the U.S. Futenma Air Base in Okinawa in October. Arrival of the aircraft on the Japanese coast has triggered widespread protests led by local government officials and activists giving Noda's government a tough time.
Okinawa hosts more than half of the roughly 50,000 U.S. troops in Japan.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said a Japan-U.S. panel of Foreign and Defense officials would meet on Thursday in response to public concerns over the safety of the Osprey aircraft. He said it was important to ensure safety while also maintaining national security.
Gemba said the Osprey deployment in Okinawa was important to strengthen Japan's deterrence and ensure security over the nation's southern islands, Japanese media reported.
A series of Osprey accidents has alarmed residents across the aircraft's flight path. Officials of 14 prefectures with U.S. bases have asked the Foreign Ministry details about plans to conduct training flights over Japan.
Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto said he would quickly report to Okinawa the outcome of talks he had with U.S. officials on the safety of the aircraft. Morimoto is due to visit the United States from August 3, and scheduled to meet his U.S. counterpart Leon Panetta and other officials.
Morimoto told reporters that he would brief Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima soon on the outcome of the talks.
by RTT Staff Writer
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