U.S. Sends Ospreys to Okinawa, Despite Fierce Opposition
The United States military sent the first batch of a sophisticated but accident-plagued new aircraft to an air base on Okinawa on Monday, going forward with its planned deployment despite unexpectedly fierce opposition by islanders and warnings that any crash could threaten the huge American military presence on the island.
The first six of the MV-22 Osprey aircraft arrived at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, the Japanese Defense Ministry said. It said another six of the ungainly-looking aircraft were due to arrive this week at the base, in the center of the crowded city of Ginowan. The United States is counting on the deployment to serve as part of the Obama administration’s plan to increase the American military presence in the region and offset the growing strength of China and a nuclear-armed North Korea.
The Osprey — whose tilting rotors allow it to take off like a helicopter but fly like a fixed-wing aircraft — flies four times as far as the Vietnam-era helicopters it is replacing, putting the more than 15,000 Marines on Okinawa within reach of potential hot spots like Taiwan and a group of disputed islands in the East China Sea known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.
The Japanese government has backed the deployment, apparently at least partly out of hopes that it will help deter China’s recently assertive claims to those islands, which Japan controls. The United States Defense Department says it has displayed sensitivity to local feelings by delaying the Osprey deployment as long as possible.