The city of Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, has stated that it is forbidding the United States Military to deploy its MV-22 Osprey aircraft at the local base before its use in Okinawa. As there was a fatal crash in April involving the type of aircraft, the city will not allow exercises involving the plane to be conducted until its safety has been assured. Satoshi Morimoto, Japan’s newly appointed Minister of Defense, said today that he is considering a trip to Iwakuni to speak with the local officials.
The mayor of Iwakuni, Yoshihiko Fukuda, has said he needs to ensure the safety his city’s residents, and after a crash in Morocco, he needs more assurances before he can give his approval. The MV-22 Osprey is an aircraft used for transport, featuring rotating propellers that let it make vertical landings and takeoffs. As the helicopters in use on Okinawa are aging, the Osprey is intended to be a replacement. The goal was to undergo tests for around two weeks in Iwakuni, where there would little impact from noise, to reduce the burden put on the people of Okinawa. Mayor Fukuda understood this situation, but could not consent without additional information about the safety of the aircraft.
Sekinari Nii, the Yamaguchi Prefecture Governor, has also said that he cannot agree until he speaks with Iwakuni officials. The plan to begin use of the Osprey in Okinawa began to face strong resistance in April, after a crash in Morocco resulted in the death of two marines. The U.S. has formally notified the Japanese government that the accident was related to human error, not any sort of mechanical failure.
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