On February 1 I wrote a piece on this blog about the growing controversy over the U.S Marine base in the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa. That piece detailed the history of the base and the poor behavior and criminal acts of U.S Marines and staff stationed at the base over the years, as well as the recent accidents involving U.S aircraft that puts the residents of the prefecture in danger. I mentioned that the Japanese people want the base to be closed and that the base should be closed based on the grounds of Japanese sovereignty. However; it is unlikely that the base will be shut down due to the Trump Administration’s tough stance on North Korea. Recently there have been talks between the U.S and Japanese governments to relocate the base but in the midst of these talks, more aircraft accidents have taken place.
On February 9 a large piece of a U.S Osprey (photo of this craft is the featured image of this article) was found drifting near the prefecture by local police and the Japanese Defense Ministry bureau. Not long after its discovery, the U.S Marine Corps confirmed that it was, in fact, part of an engine inlet which fell off of the tilt-rotor aircraft as it was in flight. The piece weighs just over 28 pounds or 13 kg. Once again, the prefectural government has asked the U.S to keep the MV-22 Osprey aircraft grounded. This particular craft belonged to U.S Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on Okinawa’s main island.
Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told Japanese media that he believes the U.S military may have known about the situation prior to the inlet being discovered by Japanese officials as the Osprey in question made an emergency landing on the island that day. Later in the day, the U.S military had admitted that the landed Osprey had lost the piece in question. Masanori Tamaki, 61, the head of the Ikei residents’ association, told the Japanese Times, “The same thing will happen again and again as long as our airspace is controlled by the U.S. military. Is Japan really an independent state?” This, of course, is not the only incident involving an Osprey as of late. The aircraft is also very noisy which is a nuisance to the prefecture’s residents.
NHK World reported that it is occurrences such as this that led to the Okinawa prefectural assembly to unanimously pass a resolution that calls for the U.S military to cease all flights over private property. The resolution also calls for any accidents to be publicized and that the U.S military should be removed completely from the country. The prefectural assembly will be sending the resolution to the US embassy, the US military in Japan, and the commanders at the Futenma base.
On February 4 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters that he plans on going ahead with the controversial move to relocate the U.S Marine base from Futenma to nearby Nago which has a population of 60,000. The call from Abe to move ahead with this plan comes after the election of Nago Mayor Taketoyo Toguchi who was backed by Abe’s ruling party and has supported the plan. Toguchi took office on February 4 defeating his opponent, incumbent Susumu Inamine who opposed the relocation of the base and called for its closure. The Nikkei Asian Review reported that exit polls showed that 30 percent of Nago voters were against the base being moved to their city, but may have voted for Toguchi due to the fact that they are exhausted and tired of fighting a losing battle to oppose it.
Calling for a nation’s sovereignty and the removal of a foreign military is difficult when the country’s own government is in favor, for whatever reasons of that military remaining and when the country’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of the base’s relocation in 2016. The Japanese and American governments are not listening to the wishes of the people who call the island home and whether or not Japan is a sovereign nation due to the decade’s old American occupation still remains a question.
image retrieved from http://www.boeing.com/defense/v-22-osprey/