Osaka mayor, governor call for transfer of Osprey flight drills to Kansai

JIJI, Kyodo

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto and Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui proposed Saturday that local leaders in Kansai urge the central government to consider transferring to their municipalities some MV-22 Osprey training drills from Okinawa.

Hashimoto and Matsui believe the central government should examine whether airports or Self-Defense Forces facilities elsewhere in the nation could host training flights by the tilt-rotor Ospreys deployed at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa.

Hashimoto, who also serves as co-leader of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), and Matsui, the opposition group’s secretary-general, suggested the idea at a meeting of the Union of Kansai Governments, which consists of seven prefectures and four cities in the region.

At the gathering, the two said they proposed to the central government earlier this month that part of the MV-22 exercises be transferred to Yao Airport in Osaka Prefecture, and urged the local government leaders to take action to help reduce Okinawa’s burden from hosting U.S. forces.

But the meeting was unable to reach agreement, partly due to concerns about the negative impact the move would likely have on residents and officials in the city of Yao. The hybrid Osprey, which takes off and lands like a helicopter but cruises like a plane, was involved in two high-profile crashes overseas last year, alarming Okinawa residents.

Meanwhile, Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba said it is not feasible for the Ospreys currently at the Futenma base to conduct training exercises in Osaka Prefecture. “The airport (in Yao) is located in a residential area. You can’t conduct training in such a place,” Ishiba said on a television program.