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Osprey crash in Okinawa bound to affect Japan's U.S. military policy

Remnants of a U.S. military MV-22 Osprey aircraft that crash-landed in the water along the coast of the Abu district of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, on the night of Dec. 13, 2016, are seen here in the early hours of the following day. (Photo courtesy of The Ryukyu Shimpo)
A U.S. Osprey tilt-rotor transport aircraft. (Mainichi)

NAGO, Okinawa -- A U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey, an aircraft whose safety record has been a point of contention in the debate over their presence on U.S. military bases in Okinawa, crash-landed on the water along the coast of the prefectural city of Nago on the night of Dec. 13, causing an uproar among those protesting U.S. military bases.

The accident occurred at a time when tensions between the central and Okinawa prefectural governments are running high due to the former's insistence on building a replacement military base for the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the Henoko district of Nago, and is expected to affect Japan's U.S. military base policy.

"It was an accident waiting to happen. Okinawa Prefecture has protested the deployment of Osprey aircraft, and the Japanese government bears a heavy responsibility for allowing them here," 69-year-old Nago Municipal Assembly member Zenko Nakamura, who opposes the presence of U.S. military bases, said angrily. "If deployment continues, it's clear that at some point, there will be a crash or some other kind of tragedy in the city center. The Osprey should be removed from Okinawa immediately."

Takuma Higashionna, 55, a Nago Municipal Assembly member who opposes the construction of a new base in Henoko in exchange for Futenma's return to Japan, said, "We've known that the Osprey is a defective aircraft. One may have fallen into the water this time, but who knows when another one will crash on land. We are constantly in fear of our lives, having such aircraft fly so close to where we live."

Osprey aircraft have crashed or made emergency landings multiple times in the past. During a flight on its way to Iraq in October 2007, an equipment malfunction forced an Osprey to make an emergency landing. In April 2010, poor visibility caused an Osprey to crash in Afghanistan, killing four and injuring 16. Another Osprey crashed in Morocco in April 2012, injuring or killing a total of four people. In May 2015, an Osprey crashed while attempting to land on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, killing one and injuring 21.

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