The United States has voiced reluctance over Japan’s proposal to temporarily relocate MV-22 Osprey military transport aircraft from a U.S. base in Okinawa Prefecture to Saga airport, sources said Thursday.
The United States cited reasons such as difficulties in redeploying troops and securing a training area, the sources added.
The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had hoped to make the proposal a centerpiece of efforts to ease the burden on Okinawa from hosting the bulk of U.S. military forces in Japan.
As for another plan to conduct drills outside Okinawa, including at Saga airport, the government is going to hold talks with the United States to realize it, the sources said.
Tokyo was studying the possibility of moving U.S. Ospreys to Saga airport until a replacement facility for U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa is built within the same prefecture, in line with the Self-Defense Forces’ plan to introduce the tilt-rotor aircraft in fiscal 2019 at the airport.
But the U.S. side told Japan last month that the proposal was unrealistic, saying it could not separate the U.S. military’s Northern Training Area in Okinawa from housing for its members and their families, the sources said.
The Japanese government has judged it would be difficult to make progress on the proposal without U.S. consent, and is now mulling consultations over other ideas such as using Saga airport as a supply base once training involving Ospreys is relocated from Okinawa to other parts of Japan, the sources said.
The idea of temporarily transferring Ospreys had been considered mainly by the prime minister’s office in response to a request from Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima, who has been calling for operations at Futenma to be halted within five years.
Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party-led government was also hoping the proposal would lend support to Nakaima, who declared earlier Thursday he will seek a third four-year term in the Okinawa gubernatorial election in November.