Saturday’s Yomiuri, Asahi, and Nikkei wrote that in response to the incident on Tuesday in which a Misawa-based F-16 jettisoned two fuel tanks during flight training, Minister of Defense Kishi expressed regret and called for safe operations of U.S. military aircraft during a phone conversation with Secretary of Defense Austin on Friday. Yomiuri and Asahi wrote that Kishi told reporters that Lt. Gen. Ricky Rupp, commander of U.S. Forces Japan, told him on Friday that the U.S. military suspended operations of all F-16 fighters belonging to the Misawa Air Base and inspected them on Wednesday and Thursday morning before resuming their flights later in the day.
Asahi and Mainichi wrote that Aomori Governor Mimura asked Defense Minister Kishi on Friday to urge the U.S. military to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future. Asahi wrote that although the U.S. military gave prior notification of its resumption of F-16 flights to the Misawa city government, it did not inform the GOJ or the prefectural government. The governor told the defense minister that the U.S. military’s failure to provide prior notification to the prefectural government could undermine their relationship of trust.
Monday’s Asahi and Mainichi wrote that the Aomori prefectural government announced on Sunday that the F-16, which had been at Aomori Airport after making an emergency landing, left the airport to return to the Misawa Air Base at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday after completing repairs. According to Asahi, the Defense Ministry told relevant local governments that it had been informed by the U.S. side that the aircraft would leave the airport on Sunday afternoon.
Saturday’s Mainichi ran an editorial on the incident saying that it is the GOJ’s responsibility to call on the U.S. military to investigate the cause of the incident and prevent a recurrence. The paper wrote that it is problematic that the U.S. military was slow to inform the Japanese side of the incident and resumed operations of F-16s without providing a sufficient explanation of how it confirmed the safety of the aircraft. The paper also said these attitudes could be interpreted as making light of the lives and livelihoods of residents. Claiming that the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement is responsible for these attitudes, the paper said the residents’ concerns will not be allayed until the agreement is reviewed.