17:40 GMT09 April 2020
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    Japan's northernmost Hokkaido island's governor Harumi Takahashi called Tuesday on the central government to ensure the safety of the ongoing Japan-US joint drills on the island in the light of the announcement that US Marine Corps' MV-22 Osprey aircraft, which recently crashed in Australia's waters, would be used in the exercise.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) Earlier in the day, the Japanese Defense Ministry said that since Friday, up to six Ospreys would take part in the military exercise, held in Hokkaido from August 10-28.

    "There are concerns and anxiety among Hokkaido's residents, that is why, first and foremost, I would like to ask to ensure safety of drills as the state's responsibility in order to assure safety and security of the local residents," Takahashi told reporters.

    Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera stressed the importance of Osprey's participation in the drills, but also voiced the concerns of the local residents.

    "The United States considers Osprey as very important aircraft for the security of Japan and other Asian countries, and our country believes that Osprey's participation in the drills is especially important… I would like to urge the United States to give maximum consideration to the safety issues, as well as try to minimize the impact on the local residents," he told reporters.

    Onodera added that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also instructed him to ensure the safety of the drills.

    Since 2007, Osprey aircraft have been involved in at least five crashes and a number of accidents. In the most recent accident, on August 5, a US Marine Corps Osprey went down near Australia. The US Department of Defense announced on August 7 that three US Marines had been declared dead following extensive search and rescue efforts after the crash.

    The local residents and governments of Okinawa and Hokkaido prefectures, where a large number of US military bases are located, have been strongly opposing the use of Ospreys at least until the end of the investigation into the Australia incident.

    Related:

    Japan Clears US Osprey Aircraft for Flight After Deadly Crash
    Okinawa Authorities Protest US Air Base’s Osprey Flights After Deadly Crash
    Pentagon Says Three Marines Missing After Osprey Crash ‘Declared Deceased’
    Tags:
    military drills, V-22 Osprey aircraft, United States, Japan
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