U.S. forces accident study panel mulled

The Japan-U.S. Joint Committee on the Status Forces Agreement formally agreed Tuesday to set up a joint study group on bilateral cooperation in handling accidents involving U.S. military aircraft, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiryouki Hosoda said.

The Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Accident Site Cooperation will hold its first session by the end of the week, the top government spokesman said. A preparatory session to launch the group was held Sept. 3.

The subcommittee will examine how the two countries can cooperate in investigating aircraft accident sites in Japan outside U.S. military bases, Hosoda said.

The two countries reached the agreement in the wake of an Aug. 13 crash of a U.S. Marine Corps CH-53D helicopter, which struck a building on the campus of Okinawa International University in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture.

The U.S. military denied local police access to the accident site until they removed the crash debris, drawing the anger of Okinawans and prompting the government to hold talks with the U.S.