NHK reported this morning that Defense Minister Onodera and Defense Secretary Mattis spoke by phone this morning, during which Onodera asked for drastic measures to be taken in relation to the series of incidents and problems involving U.S. military helicopters in Okinawa. According to the network, Onodera said: “In view of the worries and concerns of the local people, we once again ask for drastic measures to prevent a recurrence and ensure thorough inspections and maintenance.” In response, the Secretary reportedly “apologized” and said he plans to take up the matter as a major issue. All commercial networks carried similar reports.
NHK said the two defense chiefs also talked about the ministerial meeting between North and South Korea scheduled for today and agreed that it should not be dialogue for the sake of dialogue and that the U.S., Japan, and South Korea should continue to work closely and maximize pressure on the North to change its policy. The network also quoted Onodera as telling reporters after the teleconference: “I talked about the series of incidents occurring last September, October, and December in Okinawa, citing concrete examples. The U.S. and Japan share the perception that flights should be conducted after safety has been ensured.”