Asia Minute: U.S. Military Trouble in Okinawa

Jan 25, 2018

Credit Sgt. Reece Lodder / U.S. Marine Corps

A controversy involving U.S. military forces in Japan has reached a new level this week. The latest dispute involves safety, local residents and American military helicopters. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

For the third time this month, an American military helicopter has been forced to make an emergency landing in Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture.

On Wednesday, Okinawa’s governor said the U.S. military is “out of control.”

Tuesday night, an attack helicopter from the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station made what the military called a “precautionary landing” at a small civilian airport. Earlier this month, another helicopter landed at a waste disposal site – two days after a third one landed on a beach. In every case, the U.S. military told Japanese authorities the landings were made to avoid accidents.

Last month, a window fell out of a large transport helicopter, and landed on the grounds of an elementary school just outside the Marine Corps airbase.

Japan’s Defense Secretary told reporters in Tokyo he has seen “too many” mishaps involving U.S. military aircraft in Okinawa. But local officials are complaining the central government is not doing anything to help.

Okinawa’s governor said the Japanese government “has no ability to act as a party in charge.”

Kyodo News reports Japan’s Foreign Minister has told the American ambassador the incidents are “extremely regrettable” and has requested actions to insure they’re not repeated.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told parliament that ensuring the safety of local people in Okinawa “will be a top priority issue which Japan and the United States will work on.”