Please view the main text area of the page by skipping the main menu.

Okinawa gov't requests US Marine Corps to cancel training using Ospreys

The Naha Port Facility is seen from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter in the city of Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, on Nov. 20, 2021. (Mainichi)

NAHA -- The U.S. Marine Corps stationed in Japan's southernmost prefecture of Okinawa announced on Feb. 7 that it will conduct training using Osprey and other military aircraft from Feb. 8-13, and the prefectural government responded on the same day by requesting that the Marines, the Okinawa Defense Bureau and other authorities cancel the unprecedented large-scale training at the Naha Port Facility located in an urban area.

    Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki criticized the move at a Feb. 7 press conference, saying, "The Naha Port Facility is right next to the city area, and also near Naha Airport where many civilian aircraft arrive and depart. It will amplify the anxiety among Okinawans and impose further base burdens. It is totally unacceptable."

    The U.S. Marine Corps announced to the media that it would conduct the training, but the prefectural government did not receive contact from the U.S. military or the Minister of Defense's Okinawa Defense Bureau.

    According to the announcement, about 250 members of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, which has its headquarters at the U.S. Marine Corps Camp Hansen in central Okinawa, will participate in the training to hone their skills in humanitarian assistance and evacuation of noncombatants. In addition to the Ospreys, helicopters such as the CH53E and UH1 as well as U.S. Navy ships will also participate in the training. The Marine Corps explained some weapons and military vehicles may be visible from outside of the base during the training.

    The Japan-U.S. Joint Committee Agreement, known as the "5.15 memo," which set the conditions for the use of U.S. military bases when Okinawa was returned to mainland Japan in 1972, described the main purpose of the Naha Port Facility as port facilities and oil storage. According to the prefectural government, Okinawa Defense Bureau Director General Isao Ono told Okinawa Vice Gov. Kiichiro Jahana, who requested that the training be canceled by phone, "Aircraft training is not excluded in the 5.15 memo, and it is difficult to ask the U.S. side to cancel it."

    In November 2021, an Osprey transported in and out by ship took off and landed at the Naha Port Facility, and the Okinawa Prefectural Government and the Naha Municipal Government protested the move as "unintended use" of the facility.

    (Japanese original by Takayasu Endo and Nozomu Takeuchi, Naha Bureau)

    Also in The Mainichi

    The Mainichi on social media