(Tokyo Shimbun: May 13, 2015 – p. 2)
Defense Minister Gen Nakatani announced at a news conference on May 12 the U.S. Air Force’s plan to deploy CV-22 Ospreys at the Yokota base. The following is the gist of the news conference:
Q: What is the purpose of the deployment?
Nakatani: This is the embodiment of the U.S. policy of rebalancing to Asia and the Pacific and it signals the U.S.’s commitment to the bilateral security alliance. Japan’s security environment is becoming harsher. This will enhance the deterrence and response capability of the Japan-U.S. alliance and contribute to stability in Asia-Pacific.
Q: What sort of exercises will be held in Japan?
Nakatani: The CV-22s are responsible for transporting U.S. special forces stationed at multiple bases in Asia-Pacific (including Okinawa). They will normally conduct low-altitude and night flight exercises to ensure they are able to accomplish their mission. The Yokota base was chosen because it has facilities that meet operational, training, and maintenance needs and has the space for stationing the CV-22s. The presence of the Ospreys in the Tokyo metropolitan area will also enable response to massive disasters such as an earthquake directly under Tokyo or a Nankai Trough earthquake.
Q: The local residents have voiced concern about safety.
Nakatani: Before the MV-22s’ deployment in Okinawa in 2012, investigation reports on accidents overseas were analyzed and assessed and safety was confirmed. Although the CV-22s and the MV-22s are different models carrying different equipment, they have the same level of safety. While safety will be fully ensured during low-altitude flight training, we will continue to make requests to the U.S. side with regard to safety.
Q: Will there be an increase in flights to Okinawa?
Nakatani: That is possible, but at this point, we have not been informed by the U.S. forces on operations in Okinawa.
Q: Will operations involving the deployment of special forces contribute to Japan’s security?
Nakatani: We were told by the U.S. that the special forces will be holding joint exercises (with the Self-Defense Forces). There are various conceivable situations, so we will respond to them.