The United States administration announced on Monday that it is planning to deploy a squadron of tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey aircraft at Japan’s Yokota air base nearby Tokyo, according to a Pentagon statement.
The statement said the first three Air Force variants of the V-22 Osprey aircraft will have arrived at the Yokota air base which is used by the US army in the second half of 2017. The remained seven variants will also be sent about by 2021, the Pentagon added.
The V-22 Osprey, which takes off like a helicopter and then rotates its propellers to fly like a plane, has been used since the 1980s with some technical difficulties, but it was said to have largely overcome the problems it faced in the course of time.
However, the Osprey’s two crashes during training exercise flies in Florida and Morocco in 2012 further triggered Japan’s concerns about the aircraft's safety measures.
Since then, some Japanese security authorities oppose to use the plane in the US air bases in Japan.
The issue came to fore as the US Marine Corps moved to replace its Sea Knight helicopters with the Osprey in 2012 at Futenma air base on the island of Okinawa that had led to a public outcry in the mainland Japan which also holds US air bases.
But the Japanese Government had decided last year to purchase its own V-22 Osprey aircrafts between 20-40 despite the safety concerns in the public eye.
The US is recently concerned with security problems arisen in the wider Asia-Pacific region where Chinese military presence worried both the US and Japan as Beijing offensively reviewed its territorial claims in the recent years.
The Pentagon believes that the Osprey in Yokota air base will enhance American and Japanese abilities to quickly encounter regional threats in the greater Asia-Pacific region where the US has been trying to rebalance its military power against China-North Korea bloc.
During the meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Washington last month, the US President Barack Obama pledged to increase Japan’s security measures against a possible Chinese offensive in the region.
Japan and China have been confronting on some uninhabited islets nationalised by Tokyo in 2012 to which Japan calls Senkaku, and China calls Diaoyu in the East China Sea.
The US president has publicly reiterated American-military support given to Japan if needed against China, but stated that Beijing should not consider US-Japan alliance as a provocation in the region.
Abe, who was re-elected with an overwhelming majority in a snap election at the end of last year, has been trying to review Japan’s pacifist constitution in order to build up re-assertive Japanese security vision to which some of Japanese public essentially objected.
Abe’s incumbent ruling party on Monday signed off a bill in the parliament that would expand Tokyo’s role in US-Japanese alliance regarding the security issues in and around greater Asia-Pacific region.
Japan’s move towards redefining its new military role which enables Tokyo to fight abroad signals a huge policy change from its conventional isolation for the first time since the Second World War.