Okinawa seeks probe of ‘illegal’ Osprey flights

JIJI

Okinawa has formally asked the central government to investigate allegedly unauthorized flights conducted by tilt-rotor MV-22 Ospreys deployed to the U.S. Futenma air base.

In a written request filed Tuesday, local authorities in Okinawa claimed that some 318 Osprey flights violated safety rules agreed on by Tokyo and Washington since the contentious deployment in October of 12 Osprey transport aircraft to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima addressed the request to Hirofumi Takeda, head of the Defense Ministry’s Okinawa Defense Bureau, and to Haruhisa Takeuchi, the Foreign Ministry’s point man for Okinawa issues. Videos and photos showing Ospreys allegedly breaching the safety rules were included among the materials submitted.

The Okinawa authorities called on incoming Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government to check whether the U.S. Marine Corps is following the safety rules for Osprey flights, to publicly disclose the probe’s findings and to outline the Marine Corps’ flight training schedule for the MV-22s in airspace above the nation’s main islands.

“Safety concerns among the people of Okinawa have not been dispelled,” Nakaima stated in the request.

A survey by the Okinawa Prefectural Government and 27 municipalities hosting U.S. bases in the prefecture confirmed there were 517 Osprey flights in October and November. According to the local authorities, 318 of them appear to have violated the new flight safety regulations, including a ban on the MV-22s operating in helicopter mode above residential areas.

Bar owners slam curfew

MISAWA, Aomori Pref.

A group of bar and liquor store owners around the U.S. Misawa air base in Aomori Prefecture is calling for a relaxation of a recently introduced curfew on all American service members, arguing it is harming their business.

The 27 owners submitted a petition to the Misawa Municipal Government on Tuesday, requesting it urge the U.S. military to relax the 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew imposed on all service members stationed in Japan and, in the case of the Misawa base, to ease a nighttime drinking ban ordered in October.