Up to100,000 Japanese activists rallied against US plans to deploy Osprey hybrid aircraft at their base on Okinawa today.
The protesters gathered at a seaside park on the southern island to demand the scrapping of plans to deploy 12 MV-22 Osprey aircraft, insisting that they are unsafe.
The US plans to deploy the Osprey, which takes off like a helicopter and flies like a plane, to replace the older CH-46 helicopters currently there.
Long-standing safety concerns increased after Osprey crashes in Morocco and Florida earlier this year and an incident in North Carolina last week - euphemistically called a "precautionary landing" by officials - further aggravated the sentiment.
"We refuse to accept a deployment of Osprey that have already proven so dangerous," said Atsushi Sakima, mayor of Ginowan City where the US intends to base the Ospreys.
"Who is going to take responsibility if they crash onto a populated neighbourhood?"
Activists cheered in support, waving red banners and placards with a message saying "Osprey No!"
The tilt-rotor aircraft have been used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan and the US insists that they have a solid record.
But Okinawa governor Hirokazu Nakaima has asked Japan's central government to seek a full US investigation into the Osprey crashes and suspend their deployment until the aircraft's safety is verified.
The Osprey deployment plan has also reignited long-running anger over the heavy presence of US troops on Okinawa and has become a headache for officials in Tokyo and Washington hoping to calm anti-base sentiment.
Okinawans are particularly angry because the Ospreys will be deployed to Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which the two countries agreed would be shut down more than a decade ago.
The base has remained in operation because a replacement site hasn't been found.
Earlier in the year, the US it would delay flights of Osprey in Japan until it won the country's confidence, but the US military appears to have run out of patience in the face of continuing protests.
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