LEAD: U.S. unveils plan to operate vertical-landing aircraft in Japan
Friday, September 10, 2021 12:50 AM

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WASHINGTON, Sep. 10, 2010 (Kyodo News International) --

The Pentagon said Friday that it plans to operate the V-22 Osprey, a vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, at U.S. bases in Japan, officially acknowledging the deployment for the first time.

''We anticipate that Ospreys will indeed operate in Japan. And we've told the Japanese government as much, where and when and how are things to be determined,'' Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told a news conference.

Morrell said that the Osprey is ''an incredibly effective form of airlift that will enhance our alliance capabilities.'' He did not specify when the aircraft will be introduced in Japan, only saying ''at some point.''

According to sources close to the matter, the United States aims to deploy the Ospreys at the planned replacement facility for the U.S. Marines' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture.

But the plan is likely to draw fire from residents in the prefecture due to safety concerns, as a number of people were killed during the aircraft's test flights.

The deployment could affect the relocation plan of the Futenma base by causing a change in flight routes at the facility.

The Japanese government, fearing opposition from people in Okinawa, has not officially acknowledged the U.S. deployment plan.

In Tokyo on Friday, Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa told reporters that any potential Osprey deployment would follow the established trend of U.S. military deployment.

''We are exchanging opinions at the working level on that assumption (of Osprey deployment),'' Kitazawa said, adding that the United States has not yet formally notified Tokyo about its deployment in relation to the Futenma base relocation issue.

Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima separately expressed displeasure at the envisioned deployment, given the security risks posed by the aircraft.

At a Diet panel earlier this month, however, Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada referred to the possibility of such a deployment taking place and indicated that the government plans to explain to local governments in Okinawa about U.S. deployment plans and flight routes.

Meanwhile, Morrell suggested that Japan and the United States will study Tokyo's proposal for joint use between U.S. forces and Japan's Self-Defense Forces of the replacement facility for the Futenma base through their experts' group.

The two countries agreed to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station from a crowded residential area to a less densely populated area in the southern Japanese prefecture.

But they still differ on the design of the replacement facility and aircraft flight routes, issues that are linked to the degree of impact on the local marine environment and noise pollution.



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