Saturday, September 02, 2017

Onodera asks new U.S. envoy to pay heed to base concerns

TOKYO -  Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera has asked new U.S. Ambassador to Japan William Hagerty to pay heed to Japanese people's concerns over the hosting of U.S. bases.

"On the (U.S. military's) Osprey aircraft, I believe great care is taken in ensuring their safety, but various concerns are still voiced in Japan," Onodera told Hagerty, who paid a courtesy call a day after he assumed his post.

"I hope you will lend an ear to the voices of local people, including on issues related to the U.S. forces in Japan," the minister also said during the meeting, the start of which was open to the media.

Hagerty, a businessman close to U.S. President Donald Trump, arrived in Japan at a time when the bilateral alliance is becoming more important in the face of repeated ballistic missile launches by North Korea, including one that flew over Japan into the Pacific Ocean earlier this week.

Onodera said that the "best way to resolve" the North Korean missile threat is through a "proper response" from Japan and the United States, which will serve as a deterrent.

Hagerty added that the two countries are "100 percent aligned in our resolute opposition to the North Korean regime and their rogue activities" and that the North's provocations have increased his country's responsibility to defend Japan to "the highest level."

On issues related to U.S. forces in Japan, the ambassador vowed to work to "make certain that we are optimizing our presence here in Japan."

Concern over the safety of the U.S. military's Osprey aircraft has been on the increase in Japan due to a series of accidents and emergency landings in and outside Japan.

An Osprey aircraft crashed off Australia on Aug. 5, killing three U.S. Marines, while another made an emergency landing at a commercial airport in Oita Prefecture, southwestern Japan, on Tuesday. Both planes are based at the U.S. Marine Corps' Air Station Futenma.

The U.S. Marines said Friday the aircraft that made an emergency landing at Oita Airport did so because the pilot identified an engine malfunction that required a swift landing. The Osprey is now being repaired at the airport.

The Ospreys, which take off and land like helicopters but cruise like planes, have caused significant concerns in Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan, due to their noise and record of accidents. U.S. forces have deployed more than 20 of the aircraft at the Futenma base.

Original article can be found here ➤

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