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2013年6月12日 (水)

オスプレイ訓練 沖縄の負担を軽減する一石に

The Yomiuri Shimbun June 12, 2013
Osprey proposal a chance to get ball rolling on easing Okinawa's burden
オスプレイ訓練 沖縄の負担を軽減する一石に(6月11日付・読売社説)

It is important that the unfair burden Okinawa Prefecture shoulders by hosting U.S. bases be reduced and shared by the entire nation. However, the latest proposal designed to make this a reality seems doomed.

In talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) coleader and Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto and Ishin no Kai secretary general and Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui proposed that some training flights of the MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft stationed in Okinawa Prefecture be held at Yao Airport in Osaka Prefecture.

Abe instructed Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera to study whether holding Osprey training flights at the small airport is feasible.

Twelve Ospreys were deployed at the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture last autumn. An additional 12 are scheduled to arrive at Futenma this summer.

Opposition to these deployments remains strong in Okinawa, apparently due to misunderstandings or prejudice that the aircraft is highly accident-prone.

Osaka plan had holes

The aircraft has conducted five training exercises over the main islands of Japan, with the marine corps’ Iwakuni Air Base in Yamaguchi Prefecture as the main base. The Osprey has a long flight range, so it may be possible to transfer more training flights outside Okinawa.

We applaud Hashimoto and Matsui for their awareness of Okinawa’s excessive burden and their willingness, as leaders of local governments on the mainland, to actively alleviate the load on Okinawa.

Despite this, their proposal was obviously not the product of a thorough study on its feasibility and rationality from a military perspective.

The Iwakuni base has an offshore runway. By contrast, Yao Airport sits in an inland residential area. Yao residents are concerned about noise and safety problems, and Mayor Seita Tanaka opposes the proposal.

The training flights would require hangars and refueling facilities to be upgraded, so the proposal would not be very cost-effective.

Existing U.S. bases such as Camp Fuji in Shizuoka Prefecture and Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture are far more realistic options than Yao.

Hashimoto’s recent controversial remarks on so-called comfort women has triggered a plunge in the popularity of Ishin no Kai in the proportional representation bloc of the upcoming House of Councillors election. Some pundits speculate that the Osprey proposal was merely political opportunism by Hashimoto to recover some lost ground.

When Hashimoto was Osaka governor, he said Kansai Airport in Osaka Prefecture could be used to accommodate some functions of the Futenma air base. But there also were doubts about whether that proposal made sense from a military perspective.

U.S. bases play vital role

According to political observers, Abe accepted Hashimoto’s proposal primarily because his party, the Liberal Democratic Party, is considering cooperating with Ishin no Kai after the upper house election.

For all that, Hashimoto’s proposal should not be allowed to end up as a fleeting idea. The central and local governments must deal properly with the issue of reducing the burdens of Okinawa.

Given North Korea’s nuclear and missile development programs and China’s rapid military buildup, stably maintaining the stationing of U.S. bases to ensure the peace and security of Japan has become even more necessary.

Live drills by U.S. marines stationed in Okinawa Prefecture and training flights of F-15 fighter jets deployed at Kadena Air Base in the same prefecture have been transferred out of Okinawa. We hope moves to shift Osprey training flights will make steady progress.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 11, 2013)
(2013年6月11日01時18分  読売新聞)


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