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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 December 13 - 19  > Okinawa Gov. Onaga lodges with central government protest against window dropped from US military copter
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2017 December 13 - 19 TOP3 [US FORCES]

Okinawa Gov. Onaga lodges with central government protest against window dropped from US military copter

December 14-16, 2017
Okinawa Governor Onaga Takeshi on December 15 met with Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide in the Prime Minister’s Office, protesting against the dropping of a window from a U.S. military helicopter onto a schoolyard.

The incident occurred on the morning of December 13. A CH-53E Sea Stallion transport helicopter stationed at the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma base dropped the metal-framed window measuring about one square meter onto the playing field of an elementary school located next to the Futenma base in Okinawa’s Ginowan City. The window crashed just ten meters from pupils who were receiving PE classes outdoors.

In the meeting with the Cabinet spokesman, Governor Onaga urged the Abe government to request the U.S. forces to suspend flights of Futenma-based military aircraft, including CH-53Es, and give them a complete maintenance inspection. The governor also demanded that: the cause of the accident be determined without delay; U.S. military aircraft be strictly banned from flying over schools, hospitals, and other public facilities; and the use of the Futenma base be ended within five years.

CCS Suga in reply said that the government will ask for the U.S. military’s serious response to the governor’s demand for a probe into the accident, measures to prevent a recurrence, and the suspension of U.S. military flights over schools and other public facilities.

On the previous day, soon after arriving in Tokyo, the governor made representations concerning the copter window drop accident to the Foreign and Defense Ministries and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

At the Defense Ministry, Governor Onaga said to State Minister of Defense Yamamoto Tomohiro, “Every time a U.S. military-related accident occurs, the ministry promises to lodge a protest with the U.S. military. It, however, leads to nothing.” In addition to the above-mentioned demands, Onaga urged the ministry to work for a fundamental revision of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). Yamamoto only said that he feels sorry about the accident.

*****

The Assembly of Okinawa’s Ginowan City which hosts the U.S. Futenma base on December 15 unanimously adopted a resolution and a statement in protest against the drop of the U.S. military copter window.

In the two documents, the 25-member city assembly pointed out that the accident endangered children’s safety and brought about a serious psychological impact among the society. They requested the U.S. military to make apologies to children, their guardians, and people concerned, ground all military aircraft at the Futenma base until the cause of the accident is determined, and close the Futenma base within five years.

The 25 assembly members led by the assembly head later on the same day visited U.S. Camp Zukeran (also known as Camp Foster) and handed over the written protest to a high-ranking USMC officer. They also filed a protest with the Defense and Foreign Ministries’ local offices and the U.S. Consulate General Naha.

*****

Japanese Communist Party lawmakers also raised a protest against the latest accident involving a U.S. military aircraft.

On December 14, following the accident, Okinawa-elected JCP member of the House of Representatives Akamine Seiken made representations to the Foreign Ministry’s ambassador in charge of Okinawa affairs Kawada Tsukasa.

In the representations, Akamine referred to another accident in which a part of a U.S. military helicopter was found on the premises of a Ginowan childcare center last week. He handed over to Kawada a written request demanding the suspension of flights of all military aircraft deployed at the Futenma base, disclosure of the cause of the accident, shut-down of the Futenma base, withdrawal of the U.S. Marine Corps from Okinawa, and a drastic revision of the SOFA. Akamine also submitted these demands to the Okinawa Defense Bureau.

JCP Lower House member Hatano Kimie on December 15 lodged a similar complaint with the Defense and Foreign ministries.

Past related articles:
> US military airplane drops cylindrical part on childcare facility near Futenma base [December 8, 2017]
> US CH-53E chopper crashes near Takae community in Okinawa [ October 12 & 14, 2017]
> Osprey emits unreported smoke the day before its emergency landing [ August 31 & September 1, 2017]
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