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2012年10月11日 (木)

オスプレイ配備 より強固な日米同盟の象徴に

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 11, 2012)
Osprey should be symbol of stronger Japan-U.S. alliance
オスプレイ配備 より強固な日米同盟の象徴に(10月10日付・読売社説)

The U.S. military's new MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft have been deployed to Okinawa Prefecture.

The government must unbendingly continue its efforts to explain the purpose of the aircraft's deployment and its safety to local people concerned.

During a meeting with Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda sought support for basing the Ospreys at the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station. "The major premises of the deployment are that it can be done safely and give utmost consideration to the daily lives of local residents," Noda said.

Nakaima pressed for the deployment to be reviewed, saying, "The Futenma base is located in a populous area, and it can't be said [the deployment] is safe in some aspects." The governor also handed Noda a written request that demanded the Japan-U.S. agreement on ensuring the safety of Osprey operations be followed to the letter.

To ensure the Ospreys operate safely, the government made various efforts such as conducting examinations of the aircraft, holding consultations in the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee and reaching an agreement on safety measures in the committee.


Safety risks overblown

Some residents in Okinawa Prefecture have reported witnessing Ospreys fly in the helicopter mode used for vertical takeoffs and landings while in the skies above populated areas. They pointed out that this would be a violation of the Japan-U.S. agreement.

Nevertheless, the safest way to operate aircraft changes depending on such factors as weather conditions. It is out of the question that the U.S. forces would choose dangerous flight operations. We consider it unreasonable to immediately judge, based on the flight mode alone, that the agreement has been violated.

The accident rate for the MV-22 Osprey is lower than the overall average for aircraft operated by the U.S. Marine Corps. In particular, the accident rate for the Osprey's first 100,000 flight hours is the lowest among the marines' aircraft. Based on this data, we think it is wrong to claim the Osprey is an extremely dangerous aircraft.

More importantly, the deployment of Ospreys strengthens the Japan-U.S. alliance and contributes to stability in Asia.

China is stepping up its naval and air force activities in the East China Sea, which includes waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. Given the hefty increases in China's defense spending, it can be assumed that Beijing intends to continue beefing up and modernizing its vessels and aircraft over the mid- and long-term.


Wide array of operations

Compared with CH-46 transport helicopters--the U.S. forces' current transport workhorse--Ospreys are far superior in terms of cruising speed and flight range. The new aircraft will help the marines improve their rapid response capabilities and strengthen the deterrent of U.S. military forces in Japan as a whole, not only as part of a strategy toward China.

Furthermore, the Ospreys will do more than just jump into action in the event of a contingency on the Korean Peninsula and when defending remote islands. The aircraft will play significant roles in times of peace, such as disaster response operations and providing humanitarian aid.

Noda should factor these points into his argument as he tries to win over Nakaima and other local government officials concerned.

To make maximum use of the Osprey's capabilities, it is essential that U.S. forces conduct joint exercises with the Self-Defense Forces, in addition to drills on their own.

In mid-October, the Ospreys are expected to begin full-scale operations in Okinawa Prefecture. Exercises using SDF bases elsewhere in the nation are likely to take place sometime in the future.

These exercises should be steadily conducted to help reduce the excessive burden Okinawa Prefecture shoulders in hosting U.S. bases, by sharing the load around the nation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 10, 2012)
(2012年10月10日01時09分  読売新聞)


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