Osprey drills get nod in Gunma

Kyodo

The municipal assembly in Shinto, Gunma Prefecture, has approved holding military exercises involving the MV-22 Ospreys flown by the U.S. Marine Corps.

The municipality is home to the Ground Self-Defense Force’s Somagahara training range. The resolution, passed Thursday, says Shinto will accept joint drills between Japan and the United States involving the tilt-rotor transport aircraft.

Shinto is the first municipality to pass such a resolution, according to the Defense Ministry. It says the municipality is willing to host such drills on condition it will help reduce the base-hosting burden on Okinawa.

It also says that a GSDF deployment of Ospreys would be acceptable. Japan does not yet own any of the aircraft, which has a checkered safety record.

The troop carriers were deployed to Futenma air station in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, raising public criticism fueled by safety concerns.

More broadly, the concentration in Okinawa of U.S. military bases has led to growing calls from residents there for concrete steps to reduce the U.S. military footprint. The central government has promised to move some Osprey training exercises out of the prefecture.

Shinto Mayor Narumi Akuzawa said he and the assembly are on the same page on Osprey drills, but added that the resolution does not mean unconditional acceptance.

“We call for safety to be vouched for,” he said.

The assembly also said the resolution was not adopted at the request of the Defense Ministry. Shinto gets 3 to 4 percent, or around ¥150 million, of its budget from the ministry for road repair and noise abatement.

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