• Kyodo

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Saga Gov. Yoshinori Yamaguchi said Thursday he will allow the central government to conduct surveys needed for the proposed deployment of Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft at a local airport in the prefecture.

Yamaguchi expressed his intention during talks with Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, who sought approval for the deployment of the V-22s the Ground Self-Defense Force plans to acquire.

The governor said he “needs some time” to decide whether to consent to the plan and that he would “respond carefully” to the matter.

In an apparent effort to secure a compromise, Nakatani told the governor that he would withdraw another controversial request to have Saga airport accept some of the U.S. Marine Corps’ training exercises that involve Osprey aircraft deployed in Okinawa.

The plan to transfer Osprey exercises was aimed at lessening Okinawa’s burden of hosting the bulk of the U.S. military presence in Japan, but both the United States and many people in Saga have been reluctant to see it happen.

Yamaguchi hailed Nakatani’s decision to drop his request over the proposed Osprey exercises, saying it has “great significance.”

In July last year, the central government proposed deploying 17 GSDF Ospreys at Saga airport starting April 2019 as part of efforts to enhance its defense of remote islands.

The Defense Ministry earmarked some ¥10.6 billion in the current fiscal year budget for necessary construction work, but a lack of local consent meant the money has yet to be used.

Public concerns center on safety and noise problems related to the transport aircraft, which can take off and land like a helicopter but cruise like a fixed-wing airplane.

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