A protester demonstrates against the arrival of the U.S.

military's Osprey aircraft, outside the prime minister's

 official residence in Tokyo, July 23.



After Osprey Deployment, Japan Government 'Cannot Be Trusted' (Ibaraki Shimbun, Japan)


"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 comprehension.' ... Okinawa will never accept deployment of the Osprey. ... Any government that could so carelessly declare such an arrangement 'safe' cannot be trusted."




Translated By Violet Knight


October 10, 2012


Japan - Ibaraki Shimbun - Home Page (Japanese)

Protesters block an entrance to the Futenma Airbase in Ginowan City, Japan.

NHK NEWS VIDEO, Japan: Tokyo declares the Osprey safe to operate, frustrating Okinawa residents, Sept. 19, 00:02:46RealVideo

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 comprehension."


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 operationally necessary."




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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.


Chunichi Shimbun, Japan: On Okinawa Battle Anniversary, People Feel Abandoned
Ryukyu Shimpo, Japan: Okinawans ‘Unswervingly’ Against ‘Defective’ Osprey
Tokushima Shimbun, Japan: Okinawa Deserves Freedom from American Bases
Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan: Okinawa Governor 'Adament' About Osprey
Asahi Shimbun, Japan: Opposition to Osprey Deployment Grows
The Okinawa Times, Japan: It's Time to End Japan's 'Servitude to America'
Nishinippon Shimbun, Japan: It's Imperative for Japan to Look Outward Again
Nishinippon Shimbun, Japan: Revise ‘Inequitous’ U.S.-Japan Security Deal
Ryukyu Shimpo Shimbun, Japan: After Quake, Japan Can Ill Afford U.S. Base Repair
People's Daily, China: Australia Should Avoid Helping U.S. Hurt China's Interests
Australia: Aussie Coverage of Obama's Visit to Darwin; His Challenge to China
Isen Shimbun, Japan: Despite its Mistakes, Japan Needs U.S. More than Ever


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.

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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 difficult.


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 people.




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[Posted by Worldmeets.US Oct. 10, 11:49am]