Saturday’s Sankei reported on remarks made by Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga at a news conference on Friday concerning the alleged flight last week by U.S. military helicopters over an elementary school near MCAS Futenma where a window fell onto the playground from a U.S. military helicopter last month. The paper quoted Suga as reportedly saying that he has been told that the Ministry of Defense has confirmed through video footage and reports from observers that the helicopters flew over the school. Pointing out that the Futenma base’s relocation to Henoko, Nago, will likely be a major campaign issue in the Nago mayoral election to be held on Feb. 4, the paper speculated that the GOJ and the ruling coalition are hoping that the alleged helicopter flight will not have a negative impact on the election.
Saturday’s Nikkei conjectured that although the GOJ will have no choice but to respond firmly to the U.S. ahead of the Nago election, Tokyo is actually hoping to avoid any quarrel with the United States amid tensions with North Korea. Mainichi quoted a senior SDF officer who used to be a pilot as commenting that the helicopters appeared to be turning by saying that it is possible that they were trying to avoid flying over the school. Quoting several senior Defense Ministry officials as saying that the views from the air and ground were perhaps different because the helicopters were probably flying at an altitude of several hundred meters, the paper conjectured that the GOJ is making every effort to quell the dispute. Asahi wrote that some in the GOJ believe that simply seeing the underside of the helicopters is not proof that they flew over the school and that the U.S. military’s flight tracking data, if accurate, would lend credibility to its claim.
NHK’s “News Watch 9” on Friday quoted Ambassador Hagerty as saying in an interview: “They used radar analysis to determine that the helicopters did not fly over the school…. I’m very optimistic that we will be able to improve the situation and that our friendship with the Okinawan people can continue to strengthen.” NHK also reported on the Ambassador’s comments in its 7 p.m. news on Friday