None of the country's 47 prefectural governors support the planned deployment of MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft in Japan and their low-altitude training flights, an Asahi Shimbun survey has found.
Twenty governors expressed concern over the safety of the aircraft, and seven governors said they were actively opposed to the deployment.
Twelve MV-22 Osprey aircraft are scheduled to arrive at the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture on July 23 before their planned deployment to the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, in September.
The Asahi Shimbun conducted the survey in the middle of July, asking the governors whether they supported the deployment of the Osprey in Japan and their low-altitude training flights, and the reasons for their answers. Of the 47 governors, 43 replied to the survey, with the remaining four declining to respond for various reasons, including being too busy.
Seven governors, from Wakayama, Okayama, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Tokushima, Kochi and Okinawa prefectures, expressed their opposition to the planned deployment to the Futenma air station, citing anxieties over the aircraft’s safety.
The remaining 36 governors, meanwhile, did not express a clear stance on the deployment. Seven of those 36 refused to answer individual questions, with some saying that security issues are under the jurisdiction of the central government.
However, 10 of the 36 governors expressed doubts on the safety of the Osprey. Many of the 10, including the governor of Kyoto, said that sufficient explanations have yet to be made regarding the safety and necessity of the Osprey.
Eight governors, from Yamagata, Nagano, Wakayama, Okayama, Yamaguchi, Ehime, Tokushima and Kochi prefectures, indicated their opposition to the planned low-altitude training flights, citing concerns over the safety of the Osprey and residents’ anxieties.
For the question regarding the low-altitude training flights, the Okinawa governor chose "Other answer," rather than "opposed," saying, "We are opposed to the deployment itself."
Five of the eight prefectures opposed to the training flights are located in the Chugoku and Shikoku regions in western Japan, where there have already been many complaints from residents about U.S. military aircraft flying at low altitudes.
Of the 43 governors who responded, 12 said the central government’s explanations on the deployment plan are insufficient, and seven said the deployment plan is rushed and sloppy.
Additionally, 12 governors demanded that the central government put more importance on the opinions of prefectures where the Osprey will be deployed or where their low-altitude flight training will be conducted.
Hiroshi Honma, professor emeritus of international law at Hosei University, who is well versed in the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), said: “The central government is saying that it cannot reject deployment of the Osprey. Such a stance is out of step with the citizens’ thinking.”
According to Honma, after the end of the Cold War, it has been a common understanding in the United States and Europe that even military forces cannot inflict burdens or hardships on residents. Therefore, it is a matter of course for prefectural governors to express their opposition on behalf of residents, he said.
“Under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, it is almost impossible for the Japanese central government to interfere with the U.S. forces’ operation of their bases. The government has left the problems of the treaty as they are, and those problems are now coming to a head with the Osprey issue,” he said.
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