Amid the occurrence of a spate of problems involving U.S. military aircraft, the unscheduled landing of an attack helicopter, which is deployed to the U.S. Air Station Futenma, on Tonaki Island in Okinawa Prefecture (Tonaki Village) is sending ripples of serious concern through the government and ruling parties.
With regards to the unscheduled helicopter landing that occurred on Jan. 23, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said on Jan. 24 that “[the incident] is truly regrettable and instilling a great deal of fear and concern among the people of Okinawa.” At the same time, he made clear that he has demanded the U.S. forces conduct emergency inspections of same-model helicopters and suspend their flights.
Foreign Minister Taro Kono also called on U.S. Ambassador to Japan William Hagerty to prevent a similar problem from happening again during his teleconference with the top U.S. diplomat.
The secretaries-general and Diet affairs chairmen of the Liberal Democratic Party and the Komeito met on Jan. 24 and agreed to demand the suspension of flights of aircraft of the same model until the cause of the incident is identified. The government and the ruling parties want to minimize the impact on the Nago mayoral election, which will be held on Feb. 4, as the base issue will become a point of contention.
Meanwhile, Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga visited Tokyo on Jan. 24 and requested the government and the ruling parties to prevent a recurrence.