Iwakuni: A ship carrying a fleet of US Osprey military aircraft arrived on Monday at the US Marine Corps' Iwakuni Air Station in western Japan amid mounting local opposition against the planes due to concerns about their safety, which have been heightened by two recent crashes abroad.
The arrival of the US commercial cargo ship Green Ridge carrying the 12 US Osprey military aircraft marks a step forward in a U S plan to eventually deploy the MV-22 transport aircraft at the Marines' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture.
Iwakuni Mayor Yoshihiko Fukuda told reporters after the ship's arrival that he will lodge a protest with the central government.
"We have been urging that it not be allowed into the port until safety is confirmed," he said.
"We feel distrust and indignation that (our message) did not reach the state."
The mayor said he is planning to visit Tokyo shortly with Yamaguchi Gov.
Sekinari Nii to lodge a protest with Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto and others at the central government.
"We have cooperated with the central government in its defense policy until now, but (the arrival of the Ospreys) was forced through," said Fukuda, who saw the ship's docking at the port early today morning.
"The relationship of trust between the central and the local government could be jeopardized."
The ship docked at the Iwakuni base early today morning, after which unloading of the fleet began.
Civic group members and local residents staged rallies around the Iwakuni station, with more than 100 people gathering near the base and about 20 of them getting on boats to demonstrate.
According to the Defense Ministry, it is the first time the MV-22 has been brought into Japan since the US military began full-scale operation of the aircraft in the late 2000s.
The tilt-rotor aircraft will be in Iwakuni for test flights, with flight operations expected to go into full swing in October. (Kyodo)
First Published: Monday, July 23, 2012, 12:32