By Yutaka Shinkai
In reaction to the Osprey accident in Okinawa, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) members voiced criticism of the repeated U.S. military accidents and the U.S. side’s approach to information disclosure at a joint meeting of the National Defense and other divisions on Dec. 15. This accident not only highlighted issues in the operation of U.S. military aircraft; it is also very unusual for the LDP, which supports the Abe administration which has been stressing the safety of the Ospreys, to voice criticism of Japan-U.S. defense policies.
Even former defense ministers of the Abe cabinet voiced harsh opinions at the LDP meeting.
Gen Nakatani, who was defense minister until last August, said: “How were they conducting airborne refueling exercises flying at a speed of several hundred kilometers per hour at night? There needs to be a proper investigation.”
Since the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) is also planning to procure 17 Ospreys by FY18, Nakatani asked: “Will the SDF also conduct nighttime refueling exercises?” A senior Defense Ministry official answered: “Details of training plans are yet to be decided.” He did not deny such a possibility.
Former Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera commented on the crash of the U.S. Marines’ FA-18 combat jet in waters off Kochi City on Dec. 7. He said: “Two accidents have occurred within a week. Do the Marines have a proper governance system?”
Diet members elected from areas that will be hosting Ospreys also stressed that there will a serious impact.
A Diet member elected from Okinawa criticized U.S. Forces Okinawa Area Coordinator Lt. Gen. John Nicholson’s statement that people should be thankful that the pilot did not injure the Okinawan people. He said: “That was a questionable statement. He needs to give consideration to the Okinawans’ sentiment.”
Another lawmaker elected from Saga Prefecture, where Ospreys will be deployed at Saga Airport, noted that, “This is affecting our efforts for the acceptance of the deployment.” The Defense Ministry will send officials to Saga on Dec. 16 to give an explanation on the investigation into the accident. (Slightly abridged)