U.S. forces resume training with F-15 fighters in Okinawa

Ignoring protests from local governments and nearby residents, the U.S. Air Force on October 7 resumed training exercises with F-15 fighters deployed to the U.S. Kadena Air Base in Okinawa from the 12th Fighter Squadron home-stationed at Elmendorf, Alaska. That was three days after two F-15 fighters of this squadron clipped each other in midair off the southwestern coast of Okinawa.

Visiting the Okinawa offices of the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Facilities Administration Agency on the same day, representatives of the Japanese Communist Party Okinawa Prefectural Committee and the JCP Prefectural Assembly Members Group protested the resumption of the F-15 flight training exercises.

The MOFA ambassador stated, "The training is necessary under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty in order for the U.S. forces to maintain an effective deterrent."

Kayo Sogi, a JCP member of the prefectural assembly, criticized the ambassador, saying, "It's unacceptable that the government, ignoring the safety of Okinawans, allowed U.S. forces to resume the flight training without determining the cause of the accident."

The two F-15s touched each other while engaging in mid-air refueling. Other F-15 fighters stationed at the Kadena base resumed exercises soon after the accident.

The U.S. Air Force maintains that the training must be resumed to maintain regional security and the pilots' technical level of exercise. It plans to continue to deploy the squadron until next January at the Kadena Air Base.

The Okinawa Prefectural Government and nearby municipal governments, which have called on the U.S. and Japanese governments to halt flight training with F15s and promptly withdraw the Elmendorf-based squadron from Kadena, are protesting the training's resumption.

The Okinawa City Assembly on October 7 passed a unanimous resolution demanding a halt to flights of U.S. F-15 fighters and a withdrawal of all aircraft that flew in from U.S. bases outside of Okinawa. The assembly sent a copy of the resolution to the U.S. and Japanese governments. (end)

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