Res­i­dents in Ja­pan worry about safety af­ter se­ries of he­li­copter mishaps

Global Times - - Viewpoint - The ar­ti­cle is from the Xinhua News Agency. opin­ion@glob­al­times.com.cn Page Ed­i­tor: sunx­i­aobo@glob­al­times.com.cn

Ja­panese De­fense Min­is­ter It­sunori On­odera on Sun­day de­clined to com­ment on whether a fa­tal crash of a mil­i­tary he­li­copter in Saga Pre­fec­ture would af­fect the planned de­ploy­ment of the Osprey tilt-ro­tor air­craft.

The at­ti­tude has done lit­tle to al­lay ris­ing lo­cal and na­tional con­cerns about the ac­ci­dent-prone plane. On­odera vis­ited the lo­cal gov­ern­ment of­fice in Saga, in Ja­pan’s south­west Sun­day to apol­o­gize for the he­li­copter crash, which killed both its crew mem­bers and led to a pri­vate house be­ing burnt to the ground.

The in­ci­dent sent rip­ples of fear, con­cern and panic across the na­tion amid ris­ing in­stances of ac­ci­dents and mishaps linked to both Ja­panese and US mil­i­tary air­craft here re­cently.

How­ever fac­ing the pub­lic, On­odera sidestepped the is­sue of the planned de­ploy­ment of the ac­ci­dent-prone Osprey to the pre­fec­ture. “Un­der the cur­rent cir­cum­stances, I can­not com­ment on the mat­ter,” On­odera was quoted as telling a press brief­ing on the mat­ter.

The de­fense min­is­ter’s re­marks came af­ter he held talks with Saga Gover­nor Yoshi­nori Ya­m­aguchi, dur­ing which he re­port­edly promised to en­sure that com­pre­hen­sive mea­sures would be taken to en­sure the safety of SDF air­craft.

On­odera said that through on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions of the lat­est mil­i­tarylinked air­craft mishap, ex­perts were try­ing to de­ter­mine the cause of the fa­tal crash in Saga’s Kan­zaki City.

On­odera added that pend­ing the con­clu­sion of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the ac­ci­dent and new pro­to­cols to en­sure fu­ture mishaps are avoided, he would restart talks with lo­cal of­fi­cials and cit­i­zens about the Osprey’s de­ploy­ment there.

At the out­set of their meet­ing, Ya­m­aguchi said that the “SDF need to make ab­so­lutely sure that they do not cause trou­ble for civil­ians.”

Lo­cal peo­ple and of­fi­cials in Saga, in light of the most re­cent ac­ci­dent, have voiced their con­cerns about the de­ploy­ment of the con­tro­ver­sial Ospreys to the Saga air­port, which is jointly used by mil­i­tary and civil­ian air­craft.

La­bor union mem­bers in Saga have al­ready sub­mit­ted a re­quest to the de­fense min­istry calling for the planned de­ploy­ment of the Ospreys to be scrapped.

Ja­pan’s Ground Self-De­fense Force is plan­ning to ac­quire 17 Ospreys to be de­ployed at Saga air­port in south­west­ern Ja­pan and al­lo­ca­tions have been made in the lat­est de­fense bud­get for more of the con­tro­ver­sial planes.

The US mil­i­tary, mean­while, has more than 20 of the MV-22 Ospreys de­ployed at the US Marine Corps Air Sta­tion Futenma in Ok­i­nawa, it­self a source of rapidly ris­ing ir­ri­ta­tion to lo­cal res­i­dents and of­fi­cials.

Ok­i­nawan res­i­dents have long been en­dur­ing such mishaps like the one that took place in Saga. Pre­fec­tural of­fi­cials and cit­i­zens have been out­raged by a re­cent spate of ac­ci­dents and mishaps in­volv­ing US mil­i­tary he­li­copters.

In De­cem­ber 2017, a win­dow fall­ing from a US Marine CH-53E trans­port he­li­copter and crash­ing onto the ground of an el­e­men­tary school, just me­ters from where chil­dren were tak­ing an ex­er­cise class, ig­nited anger and fear among lo­cal peo­ple. The ac­ci­dent did not stop he­li­copters, based at Futenma, from fly­ing over the school fol­low­ing the in­ci­dent, de­spite ar­dent protests from the lo­cal gov­ern­ment.

In Jan­uary alone, three he­li­copters, also from the con­tro­ver­sial Futenma base, were forced to make emer­gency, off-base land­ings in Ok­i­nawa, lead­ing to staunch con­dem­na­tion from lo­cal res­i­dents and a pal­pa­ble rise in anti-US sen­ti­ment on the tiny sub-trop­i­cal is­land.

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