The Defense Ministry said Friday it will allow the U.S. military to fly Ospreys in Japan, accepting U.S. assurances that the tilt-rotor aircraft is safe despite a fatal crash off the coast of Australia last week.
The decision came a day after the U.S. said in a statement that it had determined that Ospreys are “safe to fly,” resuming operations after a 48-hour pause.
An MV-22 Osprey crashed off the eastern coast of Australia on Saturday, leaving three U.S. Marines dead. The crashed plane was one of the Ospreys deployed at the Futenma air base in Japan’s southernmost island prefecture of Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of U.S. forces in the country.
The crash rekindled concern about the safety of Ospreys in Japan, with Tokyo asking Washington to refrain from flying them in the country.
A Defense Ministry source said Thursday the U.S. will likely fly Ospreys in ongoing joint drills with the Ground Self-Defense Force in Hokkaido, northern Japan.
Municipal governments in Hokkaido hosting the military drills, which are being held at two locations, have demanded that Ospreys be totally excluded from the exercises.
In the northern prefecture of Aomori near Hokkaido, about 50 people staged a protest against the use of the aircraft near the U.S. military base in Misawa, where Ospreys are scheduled to be based during the drills.