YAO, OSAKA PREF. – Seita Tanaka, mayor of Yao, Osaka Prefecture, on Friday rejected a proposal by Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui to transfer some training flights of the Okinawa-based U.S. MV-22 Osprey aircraft to the airport in his city.
In their meeting at Yao City Hall, Matsui, secretary-general of Nippon Ishin No Kai (Japan Restoration Party), asked Tanaka to consider allowing the drills, which were first pitched publicly last week by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, co-leader of Nippon Ishin.
But Tanaka said, “I’m opposed to the proposal because the safety (of the tilt-rotor military transport aircraft) has not been proved.”
National security and crisis-management issues must be discussed by the entire nation, Matsui said, urging the city of Yao to consider hosting some of the Osprey drills.
Tanaka responded that it is “physically difficult” to agree to hosting Osprey training flights at Yao Airport, which is located in a crowded residential area. “Many citizens are concerned about the safety of the aircraft,” he added.
The proposal to shift some drills involving the Ospreys, which are based at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, was floated by both Matsui and Hashimoto, who met Thursday with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo to discuss the idea. Hashimoto technically has no authority over Yao.
Abe’s administration has welcomed the proposal and is examining whether holding Osprey drills at Yao is feasible.
Tanaka said Hashimoto and Matsui should have told his city about the proposal before making it public. Matsui said he wanted to raise the issue of how to reduce Okinawa’s burden as the host of many U.S. military bases.
The Futenma base has 12 MV-22 Ospreys. They were deployed last October. Okinawans have long opposed the base, and their opposition only increased when the Ospreys arrived.