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Restarting of Osprey flights triggers protest from residents in Okinawa

Local residents protest against the restarting of Osprey flights outside U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the city of Ginowan in Okinawa Prefecture on Dec. 19, 2016. (Mainichi)

GINOWAN, Okinawa -- The U.S. military controversially resumed flights of its transport aircraft Osprey on Dec. 19 -- just six days after an Osprey crash-landed just off the coast of Okinawa on Dec. 13. The move has been met with anger from local residents, who have demanded that the causes of the Osprey crash be determined before Osprey aircraft are allowed to fly again.

Angry comments such as, "We can't trust the government," and "The restarting of Osprey flights has been handled in an arrogant manner," were heard among Okinawa residents -- some of whom protested outside U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which is where Osprey aircraft are based, in the city of Ginowan on Dec. 19.

The director-general of the Okinawa Defense Bureau, Koichiro Nakajima, visited the director-general of the Okinawa Prefectural Government Executive Office of the Governor, Kiichiro Jahana, on the morning of Dec. 19 to report that Osprey flights would resume later that day. After the meeting, Nakajima quickly left the office, providing curt, insufficient answers such as, "I have explained the situation to the prefectural government," to the awaiting media corps.

The decision to resume Osprey flights triggered an angry protest from local residents outside the Futenma air base at 7 a.m. on Dec. 19. One of the protesters, a 62-year-old chef, asked, "Why so early?" when commenting on the U.S. military's move to restart flights just six days after the Osprey crash on Dec. 13. He continued, "For the government to allow the restarting of Osprey flights, without confirming the cause of the recent crash or implementing any safety measures, makes me distrust the government."

A 38-year-old local official, Masumi Toyama, who works approximately 800 meters away from the site of the Osprey crash, stated, "Wreckage from the recent Osprey crash is still being collected and I have not yet received a report on the causes of the crash. Of course I cannot condone the resumption of flights for the aircraft."

Shortly past 10 a.m. on Dec. 19, two officials from the Ministry of Defense visited the mayor of the city of Nago, Susumu Inamine, to inform that the central government has approved the restarting of Osprey flights. The officials explained that, "the cause of the crash is not thought to be related to the aircraft's structure."

However, the officials' failed to explain events leading up to the crash in response to Inamine's request, and the mayor angrily stated, "U.S. military training is happening right above our heads, and the Ministry of Defense does not seem to care about the safety of Okinawan residents. It is impossible for us to just agree to the resumption of Osprey flights."

Protesters outside the main gate of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, demonstrate against the resumption of MV-22 Osprey flights on Dec. 19, 2016, six days after one of the U.S. military aircraft crash-landed. (Mainichi)

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