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TOKYO – U.S. military Osprey aircraft has crash-landed off Japan's southern island of Okinawa, but its five crewmembers were safely rescued.
The U.S. Marine Corps. said Wednesday that an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft landed in shallow water off Okinawa's east coast late Tuesday. They said in a statement that the crewmembers were airlifted to a Navy hospital at the Kadena Air Base for treatment. Japanese defense officials said two of them sustained injuries that were not life-threatening.
It also comes one week after a Marine Corps pilot died after his F/A-18 fighter jet crashed off western Japan.
The crash just off Nago City triggered protests on Okinawa, where anti-U.S. military sentiment is already strong. Many Okinawans were opposed to deploying the Osprey on the island due to safety concerns following a string of crashes outside Japan, including one in Hawaii last year.
"This is what we have feared might happen someday," Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine, told Japan's NHK public TV from near the crash scene. "We can never live safely here."
TV footage on TV showed pieces of a mangled aircraft on the coast.
The Ospreys was based at the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. The base in a crowded residential area in central Okinawa is to be relocated to another site on the east coast of the island called Henoko, in Nago, where residents oppose the plan, and Wednesday's crash added to their anger.
Japan's Defense Minister Tomomi Inada has asked the U.S. military to suspend Osprey flights until the cause of the accident is known.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters the crash was extremely regrettable, and said that safety must be guaranteed.
More than half of the 50,000 American troops in Japan are stationed on Okinawa — less than 1 percent of Japanese land mass — under the Japan-U.S. security treaty. Many on the island complain about noise, pollution and crime linked to the U.S. military and has demanded their burden reduced.