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US Marines To Allay Okinawans' Concerns About Osprey Aircraft

In a bid to earn the confidence of the local population, U.S. Marines in Japan's Okinawa prefecture plan to let some of the residents to view the recently deployed Osprey military aircraft at close range, Japanese media reported on Tuesday.

Display of the controversial tilt-rotor aircraft is seen as an attempt to allay safety concerns of the local people who were opposed to their deployment at the U.S. Futenma Air Station in Okinawa.

The Marines will invite 300 children and parents who have applied in advance to an event on March 3 at the air station, where a dozen Ospreys had already been deployed three months ago despite protests by the locals and prefectural officials.

According to Japan's NHK broadcaster, Marine officers, assisted by pilots and other crew-members, will explain the aircraft's performance and safety systems, and its role in the Japan-U.S. security alliance.

The U.S. military apparently wants to stress the Osprey's safety and operational transparency. Okinawans were opposed to the deployment of the Bell-Boeing made aircraft as a couple of them were involved in accidents in the United States and elsewhere before its arrival in Okinawa in October last.

Residents were also complaining about the Marines ignoring operational rules for Osprey flights, such as avoiding passage over populated areas. Representatives of all municipalities in Okinawa had met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo last month seeking withdrawal of the aircraft from the island prefecture.

A staunch U.S. ally in the Asia-Pacific, Japan is home to several American military bases with more than 50,000 soldiers. Its southernmost Okinawa island is hosting two major U.S. bases.

by RTT Staff Writer

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