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Osprey Protests Strengthen In Japan

Local resistance against deployment of the U.S. military's Osprey transport aircraft is getting strengthened in Japan as a 50,000-strong rally was planned for next month in Ginowan city, Okinawa, which hosts the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station.

More than 100 leaders of 70 organizations based in Okinawa, including labor unions and youth groups, gathered at the prefectural office on Thursday and decided to stage the mass rally on August 5. The prefectural assembly, which serves as the rally's secretariat, says most municipalities in Okinawa will join the protest. Participants of the rally will wear red ribbons and headbands as an expression of their strong resolve, Japanese media reported.

Naha Mayor Takeshi Onaga, who is a co-leader of the scheduled rally, told supporters that they had to make the protest a success as the first step toward having the deployment scrapped. The Okinawa prefectural assembly and almost all municipal bodies in the island have voiced their protest against the deployment of the tilt-rotor aircraft that can fly like a helicopter and an airplane.

Japanese people are concerned about the safety of the aircraft in the wake of a series of Osprey accidents in recent months. Two airmen have been killed in one such crash in Morocco in April.

A dozen of the MV-22 Ospreys arrived in Japan on Monday amid protests, and the U.S. military proposed to start full operations of the aircraft at the Futenma base in October.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda had met with U.S. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon in Tokyo on Thursday seeking help to allay concerns of the Japanese people over the aircraft's safety. He had also asked the U.S. official to make available results of the investigation into the recent Osprey crashes.

A close U.S. ally in the Asia-Pacific region, Japan hosts nearly 50,000 American soldiers on its soil, mainly in Okinawa island.

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