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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 June 5 - 11  > Closure of Futenma base is only way to eliminate accidents involving US military aircraft: JCP Akamine
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2019 June 5 - 11 [POLITICS]

Closure of Futenma base is only way to eliminate accidents involving US military aircraft: JCP Akamine

June 8, 2019

Japanese Communist Party lawmaker Akamine Seiken on June 6 at a House of Representatives committee meeting said that the operation of the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Okinawa should be stopped in order to prevent U.S. military aircraft from causing a serious accident that might kill Okinawans.

Akamine made this remark in regard to the latest dropping of a rubber part from a U.S. military helicopter assigned to the Futenma base onto the schoolyard of a junior high school in Urasoe City which borders Ginowan City hosting the Futenma base.

In the House Security Committee meeting, Akamine referred to a previous part-drop accident in 2017 in which a U.S. military chopper stationed at the Futenma base dropped a metal window frame onto the playground of an elementary school next to the base. The JCP lawmaker said, “At that time, the U.S. military claimed to have implemented measures to prevent a recurrence, including providing special instructions to maintenance crews. However, we’ve seen a drop accident yet again. Obviously, the U.S. military is unable to introduce effective preventive measures.”

Akamine stressed that the location of the junior high school in question is directly under the route of U.S. military aircraft taking off and landing at the Futenma base. He pointed out, “The government should move toward putting a stop to the operation of the Futenma base before Okinawans get killed in a major accident involving U.S. military aircraft.”

In reply, Defense Minister Iwaya Takeshi said, “Regarding the latest drop accident, the ministry urged the U.S. forces to take preventive measures. The only way to realize an early return of the Futenma base is to construct a new base in Henoko.”

***

Meanwhile, in Okinawa, Vice Governor Jahana Kiichiro on June 7 lodged a protest against the drop accident in Urasoe City with the U.S. forces and relevant Japanese and U.S. authorities and demanded suspension of the Futenma base operations without delay.

The Okinawa vice governor summoned Foreign Ministry Ambassador in charge of Okinawa affairs Kawamura Hiroshi and Defense Ministry local bureau head Tanaka Toshinori to the prefectural government office to hand over the written protest to them. In the protest document, Okinawa requests that Tokyo work to have the U.S. forces drastically improve maintenance and safety control systems for military aircraft. Adding to this request, the vice governor stressed that the central government should push the U.S. military to change flight routes so they do not fly directly over schools.

Jahana later in the day visited the U.S. Consul General to Okinawa at the U.S. Consulate General in Naha and the commander of the USMC Installations Pacific at U.S. Camp Zukeran (Camp Foster).

In response to the Okinawa vice governor’s request not to allow flights over schools, the USMC commander reportedly said that he will do his best to remedy the situation.

Past related articles:
> US military aircraft should not fly over childcare center: Okinawa parents to Abe gov’t [February 14, 2018]
> US military in Okinawa continues drills despite several recent copter accidents [January 11, 2018]
> Okinawa Prefecture demands halt to flights of all US military aircraft in protest against frequent accidents [January 10, 2018]
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