Asahi and Yomiuri reported that Okinawa Vice Governor Tomikawa met with Brig. Gen. Paul Rock, Commanding General of Marine Corps Installations Pacific, at Camp Foster on Tuesday and lodged a protest over the two precautionary landings made by Futenma-based helicopters in Okinawa over the three-day weekend. The U.S. commander reportedly voiced regret over the incidents. In response to the Okinawa official’s request for the suspension of all military flights, the Marine general reportedly promised to conduct thorough inspections to ensure flight safety for the entire U.S. military. Sankei and Mainichi wrote that Foreign Minister Kono spoke by phone with Ambassador Hagerty yesterday and conveyed serious concern about the two mishaps.
In a related story, Nikkei attributed the numerous incidents and mishaps involving U.S. military aircraft in Okinawa to insufficient maintenance as a result of defense budget sequestration under the Obama administration and stepped-up operations by the Okinawa-based U.S. military in response to the escalation of tension on the Korean Peninsula. The paper explained that several naval mishaps involving U.S. warships occurred in East Asia last year perhaps on account of increased operations associated with the Korean Peninsula situation. The daily added that a surge in noise pollution around U.S. bases recorded by the prefectural government is evidence of increased operations by Okinawa-based U.S. military aircraft.