A protester demonstrates against the arrival of the U.S.
military's Osprey aircraft, outside the prime minister's
official residence in Tokyo,
Deployment, Japan Government 'Cannot Be Trusted' (Ibaraki Shimbun,
deployment was forced through while police and local residents had a standoff outside
Futenma's gates is deeply disappointing. Community leaders have denounced the
decision, expressing the fact that they are 'overcome with anger' and that the
decision is 'beyond comprehension.' ... Okinawa will never accept deployment of
the Osprey. ... Any government that could so carelessly declare such an
arrangement 'safe' cannot be trusted."
The voice of Okinawa has been ignored once again. Despite
unresolved concerns about their safety, MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft have
been deployed at the Futenma Airbase in Ginowan City.
That the deployment was forced through while police and
local residents had a standoff outside Futenma's gates is deeply disappointing.
Community leaders have denounced the decision, expressing the fact that they
are "overcome with anger" and that the decision is "beyond
Given these events, the government should bear in mind that
it carries the heaviest burden of accountability. That should come as no
surprise considering its declaration that "the Osprey’s operational safety
has been adequately confirmed," even though there have already been two
crashes this year.
The government has the pressing task of monitoring the use
of the Osprey aircraft it has wholeheartedly endorsed, and to have the American
military immediately rectify any problems that arise. Looking at its record of past
dealings with U.S. forces, that won’t be easy. These troops value operational responsiveness
over all else, so the Japanese government will have to approach any talks with
a steely resolve.
Japan and the United States have agreed on measures to
ensure safety, but these aren't what they seem. There are clauses that discuss
late night and early morning flight restrictions, and flight paths that avoid
highly-populated areas - but they are conditioned by phrases like "as far
as possible" or "with the exception of situations in which they are
These measures are much like the 1996 U.S.-Japan agreement
on noise prevention at the Kadena and Futenma
airbases. The agreement prohibits flights between 10pm and 6am, but only "as
far as possible," and so in practice this is disregarded.
In 2010, the Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court ordered
the state to pay local inhabitants nearly 370 million yen [about $4,724,000] in
compensation for noise pollution from Futenma Airbase. The verdict statement
condemned the state for "not taking appropriate measures" and
described the agreement with the U.S. as being "effectively non-existent."
It referred to the 2004 incident where a U.S. Army helicopter crashed on the
grounds of a nearby university, and pointed out that it "made fear of
crashes on the part of local residents more real, and increased their general
feeling of emotional distress." The ruling was final.
Pressed by the legal ruling, the Japanese government has
again asked the U.S. military to refrain from flying at night. The has U.S. responded
by saying that it would comply, but there have yet to be any changes made.
According to data collected by Okinawa Prefecture, the number of evening cases
of noise pollution near Futenma Airbase stood at 670 during fiscal year 2011.
As a result, the number of noise pollution lawsuits filed by
local residents has skyrocketed, and new lawsuits related to the Osprey are
also in the pipeline. The government mindset that thinks such matters can be
settled by paying compensation (since it is unlikely there will be a legal
decision banning these flights) is completely inexcusable.
Posted by Worldmeets.US
When test flights for the Osprey were being carried out, the
Shimonoseki City Council in Yamaguchi Prefecture approved a memorandum
expressing criticism that "contrary to initial briefings, low altitude
flights have been taken over city center." This time, the government
should make the Americans unconditionally keep their promise.
Whatever happens, though, Okinawa will never accept deployment
of the Osprey. It is impossible to eradicate all problems related to aircraft, yet
the government has permitted the deployment of a new and untested model, at Futenma,
the "world’s most dangerous airbase," where residential areas are in
close proximity. Any government that could so carelessly declare such an
arrangement "safe" cannot be trusted.
Furthermore, the government has known of America's aircraft
deployment plans for over fifteen years, but has withheld this knowledge from
Okinawa. Suspicion has understandably reached a new high. Strengthening the
Japan-U.S. alliance without the understanding of the public will prove
Comprehensive safety measures for a worst case scenario are the
absolute minimum the government must do. It also has an obligation to transfer
the Osprey to Guam and other bases where the aircraft’s long-range capability
can be put to better use, and return Futenma to the Okinawan