Ginowan, Okinawa Pref., Aug. 13 (Jiji Press) — A gathering on Tuesday to mark 15 years since a U.S. military helicopter crashed into the premises of a university in Okinawa Prefecture called for the closure of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma air base in the southernmost Japan prefecture
Speaking to some 150 people, including university staff and students, in front of a charred tree that was burned in the crash of the helicopter from the Futenma base in the city of Ginowan, Eiken Maetsu, president of Okinawa International University, located in the base’s neighborhood, called on the Japanese and U.S. government to take action.
Referring to a 2017 incident involving a component of a U.S. helicopter from the Futenma base falling on the grounds of an elementary school in the city, Maetsu said, “It was a serious accident that could have been life-threatening with just one step in the wrong direction.”
“I strongly demand that the Japanese and U.S. governments immediately remove and shut down Futenma air base,” he added.
On Aug. 13, 2004, a CH-53 transport helicopter of the Marine Corps crashed into a building of the university and burst into flames. No civilian was injured in the accident, while three U.S. Marines suffered wounds.
Maetsu also spoke about the prefecturewide referendum held this February, in which a majority of votes showed opposition to the base’s relocation to the Henoko coastal area in Nago, also in Okinawa.
“Residents’ distrust toward the government will only grow as long as it tries to continue building the new base despite strong opposition from the residents,” he said.
“I feel firsthand the dangers I face just from living, every time I learn about an incident involving U.S. troops,” Ayumi Miyagi, 22, a fourth-year economics student at the university, said. “I pray that a safe and peaceful sky will return to the area around the university and the base.”