• Kyodo

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Martin Dempsey, the highest ranking officer in the U.S. military, pledged Thursday to reassure Japan that it will be safe to operate the MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft over populated areas.

Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters after a meeting with Gen. Shigeru Iwasaki, head of the Self-Defense Forces, that the United States wants “very much to assure the people of Okinawa and the Japanese people in general that it will be safe to operate (the plane) in and around their populated areas.”

“We will continue to work to overcome those concerns,” Dempsey said, stressing the importance of deploying the Osprey to Okinawa.

“The Ospreys are our next generation of tactical airlift and so very important to our modernization efforts in the future,” he said.

During the talks, Iwasaki, the chief of the joint staff of the SDF, also urged the United States to promptly release the results of its investigations into a crash in Florida in June involving a CV-22 Osprey, a variant of the standard marine version.

The U.S. Marine Corps said last week that there were no mechanical problems with the MV-22 that crashed in Morocco in April. The U.S. military is expected to brief Japan on its probe into the Florida accident soon, probably next week.

The two crashes fueled safety concerns in Japan. The United States plans to begin full operation of the aircraft at the Futenma base in Okinawa in early October, despite strong opposition.

Iwasaki also said he and Dempsey agreed to strengthen cooperation between the SDF and the U.S. military in surveillance activities.

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