April 16, 2024

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Safety Concerns Surrounding US Osprey Aircraft: Japan Urges Grounding

Japan voices apprehension as the US military continues to operate V-22 Osprey aircraft despite Japan’s official request for a suspension following a recent fatal crash. Tokyo, a crucial ally of the United States, had urged the halting of non-emergency Osprey flights after an incident in western Japan led to one confirmed death and seven individuals still missing at sea. The Pentagon maintains that Ospreys are still in operation, asserting that no formal request for grounding has been received, raising unease in Japan.

Hirokazu Matsuno, Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan, emphasises the official nature of Tokyo’s request to ground Ospreys, expressing concern over the aircraft’s safety. The Japan Self-Defence Forces (SDF) have already taken the step of temporarily suspending Osprey flights pending further investigation into the crash’s cause.

Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa directly contacted US Ambassador Rahm Emanuel, seeking assurance on Osprey safety before authorising any future flights. The US Embassy in Japan refrains from making immediate comments on the matter.

The deployment of Osprey aircraft in Japan has been a contentious issue, facing criticism for potential safety hazards. Japan plays host to a significant US military presence, including a carrier strike group, an airlift hub, fighter squadrons, and a Marine Corps expeditionary force.

Robert Dujarric, a scholar at Tokyo’s Temple University, highlights Japan’s sensitivity to public concerns regarding military operations, rooted in historical contexts dating back to World War II. The nation underscores the importance of thorough investigations to maintain public confidence, particularly considering the impact on local communities. Despite tensions, Dujarric anticipates that the situation is unlikely to escalate into a major diplomatic dispute. He points to the growing collaboration between the US and Japan amid regional security challenges, notably China’s assertive military posture, suggesting a sustained focus on cooperative efforts rather than discord.