Joint guidelines in works on handling U.S. military accidents

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Senior officials of Japan and the United States agreed Friday to draft guidelines on ways for the two countries to cooperate when accidents occur that involve U.S. forces in Japan, a Japanese official said.

The two sides are expected to recommend the guidelines to the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee, but officials did not give a specific time frame on when it may be drafted.

Friday’s preparatory meeting for the Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Accident Site Cooperation was held after the U.S. military declined a request by Japanese police to conduct an on-site investigation into last month’s crash of the CH-53D helicopter, prompting public criticism.

Brig. Gen. Bradley Baker, vice commander of U.S. Air Force, Japan, said Washington will “actively tackle” the issue so that authorities of the two countries can closely cooperate, the official said.

“There were various voices of criticism on bilateral cooperation at the scene when the helicopter crashed” Aug. 13 on a university campus in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, Kazuyoshi Umemoto, deputy chief of the Foreign Ministry’s North American Affairs Bureau, was quoted as saying by the official.

The two sides will hold the subcommittee meeting about twice a month. The first meeting is expected to be held in mid-September.