TOKYO (AFP) - Japan on Friday (Aug 11) said it would allow Osprey tilt-rotor aircrafts to continue to operate in the country, accepting US assurances that the flights are safe following a fatal crash off Australia.
The US Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey aircraft, which was based at an airbase in Japan, crashed on Saturday while on exercises off the Australian coast, leaving three service members missing and presumed dead.
Mr Itsunori Onodera, Japan's new defence minister, had asked the US to temporarily stop flying the aircraft in his country following the accident, the latest deadly incident involving Ospreys.
But on Friday, Japan's defence ministry issued a statement saying that the US military "is taking reasonable measures" and "the US force's explanation that it can conduct safe flights of MV-22 Ospreys is understandable".
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"It is appropriate (for Japan) to demand flights with maximum consideration to safety," it said.
The comment came a day after the US Marine Corps said in a statement it concluded "the Osprey is safe to fly" and "resumed operations" after initial investigation into Saturday's incident.
According to a US official, the Osprey crashed after clipping the back of the USS Green Bay while trying to land on the amphibious transport ship.
An Australian naval ship has found the wreckage and divers were preparing to try to locate the three missing Marines, the country's defence ministry said on Monday in Canberra.
The MV-22 - a hybrid helicopter-turboprop - has two engines positioned on fixed wingtips that allow it to land and take off vertically. It can travel much faster than a helicopter.
The aircraft has been involved in a series of fatal incidents, mostly in the United States. In April 2000, 19 Marines were killed in an MV-22 crash in Arizona.
Marines say the problems that plagued the aircraft while it was being developed have been fixed, and it is now actually one of the safest in the air fleet.
The Okinawa-based aircraft that crashed was in Australia as part of a joint military exercise called Talisman Sabre, which has just ended in Queensland state.
Locals on Okinawa have protested at the deployment of Ospreys to Futenma, which sits in the middle of a crowded city.
In December, a "controlled landing" of an Osprey just off the Okinawan coast during a training flight sparked local anger. The aircraft broke into pieces but no one was killed.