U.S. Military Continuing Osprey Operations in Japan after Crash; Japan Govt Requests Flights be Halted

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Members of the Self-Defense Forces carry out a search operation for missing U.S. Air Force members in Yakushima, Kagoshima Prefecture, on Friday, with a Japan Coast Guard vessel seen in the background.

WASHINGTON — A U.S. Defense Department spokesperson on Thursday indicated there was no plan to immediately suspend Osprey flights, after a U.S. Air Force CV-22 Osprey transport aircraft crashed off Yakushima, Kagoshima Prefecture, on Wednesday.

Sabrina Singh, the department’s deputy press secretary, said at a press conference that for the time being, priority has been placed on the search and rescue operations to find the missing airmen, while waiting for the results of the crash investigation regarding the adoption of possible safety measures. She also said the United States had not received a formal request from Japan to halt its Osprey operations.

Singh added that the U.S. military is continuing to operate its Osprey aircraft in Japan after the crash.

“The cause of this incident is currently under investigation,” she said. “There’s a true commitment to safety when it comes to any of our airmen operating any aircraft. I’m not going to get ahead of the investigation.”

Singh stressed the department’s intention to consider taking additional measures based on the results of the investigation by the U.S. military.

“We are taking what happened … extremely seriously,” she said. “When those results are concluded, if there’s any action or additional action that needs to be taken, we will certainly let you know.”

Prior to Singh’s press conference, Defense Minister Minoru Kihara had met with U.S. Forces Japan Commander Lt. Gen. Ricky Rupp on Thursday and requested that Osprey flights be suspended until their safety is confirmed. Singh said that she was aware of such a statements from the Japanese side, but added that the United States “haven’t received a formal request that I am aware of.”

In response, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a press conference on Friday, “We have formally requested to the U.S. side that [Osprey] flights be conducted after their safety is confirmed.”

“We’re concerned that despite repeated requests, the flights are being conducted without sufficient explanation of safety confirmation,” Matsuno added.

At a separate press conference on Friday morning, Kihara said U.S. military Ospreys had taken off and landed 14 times after a request to halt the aircraft’s operation was made to the commander of U.S. forces in Japan.

“We’ve received an explanation from the U.S. side that the aircraft’s operations took place after thorough and careful maintenance and safety inspections,” Kihara said.

Meanwhile, a senior Foreign Ministry official said, “Japan’s position has been conveyed, so the matter is now up to the United States.”