U.S. military resumes flights to Okinawa

6 years ago by in Japan

The U.S. military resumed transport of MV-22 Osprey aircraft to Okinawa on Monday after a fatal helicopter crash stopped the flights on the island.

Eight Ospreys took off from the Iwakuni base in western Japan in the morning. They are apparently part of the second batch of 12 aircraft to be deployed in Okinawa following the arrival of the first dozen last summer, Kyodo reports.

Japanese and U.S. government officials met Thursday in Tokyo to talk about a strategy to prevent an accident such as the recent fatal crash of an HH-60 helicopter in Okinawa. The event that took place this week forced the U.S. military to suspend flights by other choppers of the same type.

The U.S. delegation was led by Peter Lavoy, acting assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, while Koji Tomita, head of the North American Affairs Bureau in Japan’s Foreign Ministry, and Hideshi Tokuchi, director general of the Defense Ministry’s Policy Bureau, represented the Japanese side.

A U.S. Air Force helicopter crashed in the mountain area of the Okinawa Prefecture last Monday.  The crash took place about 2 kilometers from a residential area outside the base and  three of the four crew members aboard the HH-60 rescue helicopter had been confirmed safe, said Japan’s Defense Ministry quoted by Kyodo. There were no reports of injury to local people due to the accident at the U.S. Marine Corps’ Camp Hansen, according to Okinawa prefectural police.

“This is really regrettable. We are asking the U.S. side for a speedy supply of information”, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters. “We plan to strongly demand for investigation into the cause of the accident and measures to prevent a recurrence”, he added at the time.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to move the U.S. Marines’ Futenma airbase to a less crowded part of the island, but Okinawa residents are opposing the plan, as they generally associate U.S. marine presence with accidents, crime and pollution.