Japanese and U.S. officials will continue to try to allay the concerns of Japanese people over the safety of the U.S. Osprey military aircraft being deployed in American bases in Japan.
A series of accidents involving Ospreys have raised concerns in Japan about the safety of the Bell Boeing-made transport aircraft ahead of their full deployment in the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Okinawa, southern Japan. Various organizations led by local government officials and trade union leaders have planned a 50,000-strong rally in Ginowan city to protest against Osprey deployment in Japan.
Two airmen have been killed in an Osprey accident in Morocco in April and another crash-landed in the U.S. state of Florida last month.
At a meeting held at the State Department in Washington on Friday, the officials agreed that a bilateral joint committee of Foreign Affairs and Defense officials will continue to work to allay the concerns in local Japanese communities. However, they also agreed that Ospreys will play an important role in the stability of the region, noting the aircraft's increased performance.
Osprey, which can fly like a helicopter and an airplane, will replace the Marine Corps' aging CH-46 helicopters at the Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa. A dozen Ospreys arrived in the U.S. Marine Corps' Air Station in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi prefecture on Monday for test flights before they were deployed at the Futenma base in October.
Concerns are growing not only in Yamaguchi and Okinawa but in other regions as flight trainings using Ospreys were planned across Japan, a strong U.S. ally in the Asia-Pacific region.
The U.S. government is expected to come out soon with a report on its investigations into the accidents involving the aircraft. The Japanese government has also set up a panel of experts to conduct its own assessment of the aircraft's safety.
At Friday's meeting, Japan was represented by Junichi Ihara, Director-General at the Foreign Ministry's North American Affairs Bureau, and Masanori Nishi, Director-General of the Defense Ministry's Policy Bureau. U.S. Assistant Sate Secretary Kurt Campbell and Assistant Defense Secretary Mark Lippert attended the meeting.
Japan's Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto is scheduled to visit Washington next week to hold talks with his U.S. counterpart Leon Panetta.
by RTT Staff Writer
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