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Saga is asked to accept Osprey deployment

JIJI

The Abe administration on Tuesday asked Saga Gov. Yasushi Furukawa to accept its plan to deploy MV-22 Osprey military transport aircraft at Saga Airport.

Parliamentary Senior Vice Defense Minister Ryota Takeda made the request when he met with Furukawa at the prefectural government office in the city of Saga.

Furukawa stopped short of giving an answer.

“People are wondering why Saga Airport is being picked and whether the Osprey is really a safe aircraft,” he said, calling on the central government to give a full explanation to the prefecture’s residents and obtain their consent if it wants to deploy Ospreys at the airport.

The central government plans to introduce 17 of the U.S. aircraft for use by the Ground Self-Defense Force between fiscal 2015 and fiscal 2018.

It hopes to station all of them at Saga Airport.

The Defense Ministry is considering using Ospreys to transport an amphibious unit that will be established in Sasebo in neighboring Nagasaki Prefecture for the defense of remote islands, including the Senkaku Islands, which are claimed by China.

Saga Airport, which is close to Nagasaki, is seen as ideal for deploying the Osprey.

If the Saga Prefectural Government accepts the request, the central government would have the civilian airport used jointly by the Self-Defense Forces and build hangars and other necessary facilities starting in fiscal 2015.

At the meeting, Takeda also said the ministry is considering having Saga Airport temporarily host U.S. Marine Corps Ospreys deployed at the Futenma air station in Okinawa Prefecture until that base, now in the city of Ginowan, is relocated to the Henoko coastal area of Nago in Okinawa.

Takeda told Furukawa that Saga Airport is the best location to host the Ospreys due to its geographical proximity to Sasebo and that the move will also help reduce Okinawa’s burden.