Japan on Friday expressed concern over the United States continuing flights of Osprey aircraft, like the one pictured here, following a deadly crash. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 1 (UPI) -- Japan on Friday raised concerns that the United States has continued flights of Osprey aircraft after a fatal crash off the coast of the country earlier this week.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said the United States told Japan it had suspended flights of CV-22 Ospreys, like the one involved in the crash on Wednesday but had continued operations of other models following "thorough and careful maintenance and safety inspections."
Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa said he had been told by the U.S. embassy in Tokyo that the United States recognized the formal requests to halt the flights, however, Matsuno said that Japan remained "concerned that Osprey flights have been conducted despite repeated requests from the Japanese government and without sufficient explanation regarding the confirmation of their flight safety."
"We will continue to urge the U.S. side to confirm the safety of the flight before conducting these flights," Matsuno said.
Japanese news agency Kyodo News reported that an Osprey had taken off as recently as 11:30 a.m. local time on Friday while the Japanese Defense Ministry said 20 U.S. MV-22 Ospreys had flown from bases in Okinawa on Thursday.
Defense Department spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said Thursday that the Pentagon's immediate focus is to search for the missing people and to investigate the crash.
"We have a commitment to safety," Singh said. "There is an investigation that is currently determining and looking into what exactly happened with this aircraft. Should that investigation yield results that require the department to change anything about the Osprey or to take additional steps, we will certainly do that."
Singh added she was not aware that Japan had lodged an official request to stop the flights of the hybrid that aircraft takes off, lands and hovers like a helicopter but can fly like a fixed-wing plane.
Matsuno on Friday stressed that Japan had indeed "officially" called for the United States to halt flights of the Osprey except for search and rescue operations and said the crash had caused "great anxiety to people."
The Wednesday crash took place near the island of Yakushima after a witness reported seeing the aircraft's left engine on fire before it crashed and disappeared from the Coast Guard's radar screen.
One person was pulled from the water unconscious and later pronounced dead, while the rest of the crew remained missing.