Despite a protest of over 100,000 people in Okinawa this month, the Japanese government has made its final decision in agreement with the U.S. on the safety the MV-22 Osprey. After months of back-and-forth discussions between the Pentagon and Japan’s Defense Ministry about the causes of several crashes involving the military aircraft, the Osprey has been cleared for deployment at the bases on Japan’s southern island. While the government has often said it discussed the accidents with the U.S., it has done very little to actually convince the people of Okinawa of their safety.
The announcement was made in Tokyo on Wednesday by Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba and Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto, two days after U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made a visit to Japan to discus the Osprey, along with the escalating tensions with China. 12 of the tilt-rotor aircrafts were shipped to Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, this summer for assembly before heading to Okinawa, but due to more public demonstrations at their arrival, their deployment was put on hold.
After several repeated delays, Morimoto says the aircrafts will now most likely begin operations next month. The Osprey offers several advantages over, and are a replacement for, the aging helicopters currently used in Okinawa. As the Futenma base is very close to residential areas, the people of Okinawa have stated that any malfunction, whether it be in the aircraft or pilot error, would put thousands of lives at risk. One of the previous accidents that has prompted the most concern took place in Morocco and killed two Marines.