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Ospreys fly to U.S. base on Okinawa despite protests

By Malcolm Foster

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 12:38 p.m. HST, Oct 01, 2012

TOKYO » Six Osprey hybrid aircraft were transferred to a U.S. base on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa today — and were greeted by hundreds of protesters outside the fence showing their concern about the plane's safety.

The aircraft — which takes off like a helicopter and flies like an airplane — flew safely from Iwakuni, on the Japanese main island, to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, according to Capt. Justin Jacobs with the Third Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa.

All told, 12 of the MV-22 Osprey aircraft will be stationed at Futenma, which is surrounded by residential areas. It isn't clear when the remaining six will be moved.

Many Okinawa residents oppose their deployment after crashes in Morocco and Florida earlier this year, saying they are not safe to fly in Okinawa's crowded environment. An incident in North Carolina last month that officials called a "precautionary landing" further aggravated the sentiment.

Japan's central government gave the green light for operations to begin after a visit last month by U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who said Washington is confident in the safety of the aircraft.

Photographs and TV footage today showed hundreds of protesters gathered near Futenma chanting and holding up banners opposing the Osprey.

"Who can say, "We understand" about something like this that could fall on our heads? It's extremely disappointing and regrettable," Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima told reporters.

The Osprey deployment plan has reignited longstanding anger over the heavy presence of American troops on Okinawa and has become a headache for officials in Tokyo and Washington hoping to calm anti-base sentiment. More than half of the roughly 50,000 U.S. troops stationed throughout Japan are based on Okinawa.

Futenma also arouses local frustration because the two countries decided to close it more than a decade ago, but it has remained in operation because a replacement site hasn't been readied.

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Mythman wrote:
Nothing new here. Leftists on Okinawa have been protesting US bases for fifty plus years.
on October 1,2012 | 07:51AM
The_Dude_Abides wrote:
Here's some interesting information: it's their country, "Mythman".
on October 1,2012 | 10:43AM
localguy wrote:
Having been to Okinawa many times over the last 18 years, it is easy to see how the US Military bases basically split part of the island in half, lengthways. We have given some land back, in return, Japanese government has built high rise housing for military. More space would allow for wider roads, less traffic, more room for Okinawans to live and grow. Futenma Air Station will be given back, question is when. No, moving everything to Kadena AFB will not work, not enough room.
on October 1,2012 | 09:44AM
Dragonman wrote:
Lets forget Okinawa and hurry up and move. If they don't want us there we should not be there. Let them take care of themselves the next time a typhoon comes through.
on October 1,2012 | 09:49AM
sailfish1 wrote:
After 65 years there, the U.S. should leave and let the Okinawan people live in peace. Why must the militaristic U.S. impose themselves on all the innocent and peaceful civilian people all over the world. The U.S. has plenty of other more desolate places to put their war machines - Wake Island, Saipan, other islands with hardly any people living on them.
on October 1,2012 | 10:27AM
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