A Japan-US panel of foreign and defense officials will meet on Thursday in response to public concerns over the safety of the Osprey transport aircraft. Announcing this to reporters on Tuesday, Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said the panel will discuss how to dispel safety concerns over the deployment of the US tilt-rotor aircraft, according to Japan's (NHK World) website. He said it is important to ensure safety while also maintaining national security. On Monday, a fleet of 12 MV-22 Ospreys arrived in the US Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture, western Japan, despite objections from local communities. The Marines are to conduct test flights near the base next month and begin full operations of the aircraft at Futenma air station in Okinawa Prefecture in early October. Gemba said the Osprey's deployment in Okinawa is important to strengthen Japan's deterrence and ensure security over the nation's southern islands. He said the mainstay CH-46 transport helicopter is very old, after half a century of use by the US military. A series of Osprey accidents, including two crashes this year, has alarmed residents across the aircraft's flight path. Officials of 14 prefectures with US bases have asked the Foreign Ministry on details about plans to conduct training flights over Japan.