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Local residents protest Osprey deployment at US Yokota base

A U.S. Air Force CV-22 Osprey is seen landing at U.S. Yokota Air Base in Tokyo from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter on April 5, 2018. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Local residents outside U.S. Yokota Air Base held protests on April 5 against the deployment of five Air Force CV-22 Ospreys to the facility.

The five Ospreys flew from a dock in Yokohama and arrived at the base at around 11:30 a.m. on the day, according to the Fussa Municipal Government in Tokyo. Around noon, roughly 20 protesters gathered in front of a gate at the base and demonstrated against the deployment, prompting U.S. Yokota Air Base to close the gate. In response, the protesters shouted out, "Listen to the voices of the Japanese people!"

This marks the first time that the U.S. forces in Japan will deploy Ospreys outside of Okinawa Prefecture.

The U.S. forces in Japan said the five Ospreys would conduct training in areas surrounding Yokota base for two or three months before full deployment is expected to be concluded by the summer.

A housewife, who lives near JR Ushihama Station, noticed two Ospreys flying just after leaving home to go shopping and said, "I heard a thudding noise louder than usual and thought the Ospreys must be coming. I'm worried about their flight course."

On the other hand, office worker Takatoki Masuyama, 51, who lives in Fussa, expressed mixed reactions to the arrival of the Ospreys.

"I do not want the base to be moved from this area because thanks to the foreigners, the city of Fussa exists," he said. "However, I might raise my voice against the Osprey deployment if an accident occurs."

The U.S. forces' Ospreys have been involved in several accidents in Japan, including one incident where one belonging to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture crash-landed in the sea just off the coast of the prefectural city of Nago in December 2016. U.S. Marine Corps Ospreys made emergency landings on a U.S. auxiliary airfield on Ie Island and at Shin-Ishigaki airport, both in Okinawa Prefecture, and Amami Airport in Kagoshima Prefecture last year.

Moreover, a part from a U.S. military Osprey was found floating at Odomari Beach on Ikei islet in Uruma, Okinawa Prefecture. The part weighed about 13 kilograms and fell from an Osprey deployed at Futenma base. (Japanese original by Yuki Yamamoto, Tama General Bureau, and Yasushi Kumagai, Tokyo City News Department)

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