National

New Saga governor reconsiders Osprey deployment proposal

Kyodo

New Saga Gov. Yoshinori Yamaguchi said Wednesday he will undertake a new review of the proposal to militarize Saga airport by letting the Ground Self-Defense Force deploy a fleet of Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft there.

His predecessor had supported the plan.

“I will deal with the issue without bias,” Yamaguchi said at his inaugural press conference after winning the Saga gubernatorial election Sunday.

“My prefectural administration will not be just a continuation of the previous administration,” the former bureaucrat said.

The previous governor, Yasushi Furukawa, said he was ready to host the aircraft, which has vertical-takeoff and -landing capability but a checkered safety history spanning dozens of deaths.

Last July, the central government asked the Saga Prefectural Government to let the GSDF deploy 17 Ospreys at Saga airport in fiscal 2019 in preparation to form a new brigade in neighboring Nagasaki.

Furukawa said in October that a final decision on the proposal would be made in fiscal 2015 starting April. He said the militarization of Saga airport would not obstruct its civilian operations.

“This is an extremely important issue that will determine the direction in which Saga is headed,” Yamaguchi said.

The new governor said there are several issues to consider, including noise pollution and the potential impact on the fishing business.

In the gubernatorial election held after the resignation of Furukawa, who won a seat in the House of Representatives in December’s snap election, Yamaguchi beat a candidate backed by the ruling bloc, led by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party.

On restarting reactor Nos. 3 and 4 at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Genkai nuclear plant in Saga, Yamaguchi said he would support reactivation if the complex is determined to be safe by the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s inspection.

All of Japan’s 48 commercial reactors remain offline amid heightened safety concerns following the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

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