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Okinawa reaction to Osprey deployment in Kumamoto

Today’s major Okinawa papers both carried several stories on the mobilization of the Futenma-based MV-22 Ospreys for disaster relief operations in Kumamoto. Ryukyu Shimpo ran an editorial initially expressing appreciation for the transportation of relief supplies by two of the tilt-rotor aircraft. However, the daily took issue with the use of the planes for “political purposes” by the Abe administration, claiming that the central government decided on the use of Ospreys to play up their safety and performance because the proposed deployment of the aircraft for the GSDF at Saga Airport has been stalled due to local opposition. The paper stressed that the SDF possesses a number of helicopters that could have been used for disaster relief in Kyushu. The daily separately took up a report on the Osprey mission in Kumamoto posted on a U.S. military website called “Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System,” in which a senior Marine reportedly stated that “people in Okinawa are pleased to host Marine personnel and aircraft, including the highly-capable Ospreys.”


The Okinawa Times highlighted press remarks on Tuesday by Defense Minister Nakatani, who indicated that disaster relief operations by Ospreys will probably continue for a while by saying: “The delivery of relief supplies is not finished yet. There are still a number of things that must be done to help the evacuees.” According to the daily, the Japanese official spoke by phone with Ambassador Kennedy yesterday and expressed appreciation by saying: “The use of Ospreys is very significant in that it will increase interoperability between the U.S. and Japan and play up the strong bonds of the bilateral alliance.” In a separate piece, the paper’s Washington correspondent highlighted doubts voiced by a U.S. expert about the mobilization of the tilt-rotor aircraft in response to the Kumamoto quakes. The expert claimed that the SDF’s CH-47s are more suited to transporting relief supplies to the quake-hit areas, speculating that the Osprey deployment was intended to raise Japanese people’s awareness of the tilt-rotor planes.

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