Japan expects U.S. to halt CH-53 helicopters for "indefinite period"

Cornelia Mascio
Ottobre 13, 2017

But Onodera emphasized that he had agreed with the deputy commander of U.S. Forces Japan during their talks in Tokyo on Thursday that no timeline was set for the operational pause.

On Wednesday, a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter made an emergency landing after bursting in flames in midair over Okinawa.

Meanwhile, Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga, a staunch proponent of lessening the USA base hosting burdens of the residents of Okinawa, described the incident in the village of Higashi in Okinawa as "horrible". Local media reported the aircraft had landed less than two miles from a school. "This incident adds to concerns of the people in the prefecture who live side by side with USA bases", Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga said in a statement addressed to Onodera.

According to informed sources here, the U.S. Naval Safety Center has rated the accident as the most serious "Class A".

Receiving the document from a senior Okinawa government official, Parliamentary Vice Defense Minister Tatsuo Fukuda said he is aware of the frequency of incidents involving USA military aircraft and acknowledged the importance of reassuring the Okinawa people over the safety of US forces' activities.

The helicopter that crash-landed Wednesday also belongs to the Futenma base.

"The United States will suspend flights [of that model of helicopters] until they conduct a preliminary investigation and confirm their safety and the cause of the accident", Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters following a meeting. Officials of the USA military told him that it plans to recover the CH-53 helicopter after carrying out an environmental impact assessment, according to the mayor.

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