Mayor gives de facto consent to F-35B deployment

A mayor in Miyazaki Prefecture, southwestern Japan, has given de facto approval to the Defense Ministry's plan to deploy state-of-the-art stealth fighter jets at a local base.

Mayor Kojima Soshi of Shintomi Town told the municipal assembly on Monday that town authorities want to hold consultations with the ministry on the premise that the town will accept the plan.

The ministry told local authorities in July that the Air Self-Defense Force's Nyutabaru base is the most suitable site to deploy the F-35B jets.

Kojima cited measures against noise pollution as a major reason for his decision.

He indicated that the ministry recently proposed to expand the area where homes are eligible for noise-reduction improvements, but the work may be delayed unless the town accepts the fighter jets.

The town had been calling for the ministry to address noise problems from fighter jets flying to and from the base since before the deployment plan was presented.

The ministry says about 20 F-35Bs will be deployed in stages from fiscal 2024.

Along with persistent concerns about noise, residents are also worried about the possibility of accidents.

But briefings for residents' representatives have not been held because of the coronavirus pandemic.