On Sept. 9, rally organizers say over 100,000 people took part in a protest in Ginowan City, Okinawa Prefecture, to oppose the plan to deploy 24 MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which is in Ginowan.
The participants adopted a resolution calling for withdrawal of the Osprey deployment plan and removal of the Futenma air base. On the same day, some 10,000 people surrounded the Diet Building to protest against the plan to station the aircraft at Futenma, according to the organizers.
It is clear that Okinawan residents have strong apprehension about the safety of the tilt-rotor aircraft, which are to replace CH-46 helicopters now deployed at the Futenma facility. They also feel that the Osprey deployment will further increase the host burden on Okinawa, where 74 percent of the U.S. military bases in Japan are concentrated in terms of area.
The deployment will intensify the feelings by Okinawans that they are discriminated against. If the United States and the Japanese government force the deployment of the Osprey at Futenma, the Okinawan people’s resentment could grow so strong as to jeopardize Japan-U.S. relations themselves. The U.S. and Japan should rethink the Osprey deployment plan.
Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima refrained from attending the Ginowan rally. But Mr. Masaharu Kina, chairman of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly, said at the rally, “It’s not normal that we have to live in a situation in which (the Osprey aircraft) could fall from the sky at any time.”
Ginowan Mayor Atsushi Sakima accused Washington and Tokyo of trying to deploy the Osprey without giving assurances as to its safety and without having improved the design.
In 2010, a CV-22, the U.S. Air Force version of the Osprey, crashed in Afghanistan killing four. Two marines died and two others were seriously injured in an Osprey accident in April 2012 in Morocco. In June 2012, there was a crash involving an Air Force Osprey in Florida. On Sept. 6, a Marine Corps Osprey made an emergency landing in a field behind a church in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
The U.S. denies that mechanical or design problems caused the Morocco and Florida accidents and, instead, says that human error was to blame
Would it be far-fetched, then, to suggest that the basic design of the Osprey is so complicated that the aircraft is susceptible to human error leading to accidents?
On the Hawaiian islands of Molokai and Hawaii, the U.S. Marine Corps stopped flying the Osprey for training purposes after residents expressed concern about its impact on the environment. In Colorado and New Mexico, the U.S. Air Force temporarily halted low-level flight training of the aircraft over concerns expressed by local communities.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda should ask the U.S. to give up the Osprey deployment plan for Futenma. The U.S. and Japan should realize that the attempt to deploy the Osprey at Futenma — after suspending training flights in the U.S. — further intensifies the feelings by the people of Okinawa that they are discriminated against.