TOKYO — Tens of thousands of people rallied Sunday against U.S. plans to deploy Osprey hybrid aircraft on a southern Japanese island amid renewed safety concerns.
The protesters — as many as 100,000, according to organizers — gathered at a seaside park on Okinawa to demand that the plan to deploy 12 MV-22 Osprey aircraft on the island be scrapped, saying they are unsafe.
The U.S. plans to deploy the Osprey, which takes off like a helicopter and flies like an airplane, to replace older CH-46 helicopters that are already there.
Safety concerns boiled over after Osprey crashes in Morocco and Florida earlier this year. An incident in North Carolina last week that officials called a “precautionary landing” further aggravated the sentiment.
The tilt-rotor planes have been used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The U.S. says they have a solid record, and can fly faster and carry bigger loads than the CH-46, which is being replaced worldwide.
Government opens talks with separatist rebels
ADDIS ABABA — The Ethiopian government and separatist rebels said they have started negotiations.
Ethiopian officials and representatives of the Ogaden National Liberation Front met in Kenya for peace talks last week, the rebels said in a statement Saturday.
Although the rebels said the peace process has been months in the making, it was not clear if negotiations gained momentum after the death of former leader Meles Zenawi, whose government considered the group a terrorist organization.
Bereket Simon, Ethiopia’s communications minister, confirmed that peace talks are going on.
The rebels want to create an independent state in Ethiopia’s Ogaden region, which is inhabited by mostly ethnic Somalis. The liberation front is blamed for an attack in 2007 on a Chinese-run oil field in which scores were killed in Ogaden.