Hashimoto apologizes to Ota for bullet disclosure delay

Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto apologized Feb. 17 to Okinawa Gov. Masahide Ota over the government’s delay in disclosing an incident in which the U.S. military fired uranium-depleted bullets during training near the southernmost prefecture.

Hashimoto promised to quickly inform Okinawa Prefecture about the results of a U.S. environmental impact probe to be done by the end of March, Ota told a news conference after his meeting with Hashimoto. Hashimoto also invited the prefectural government to participate in Tokyo’s probe into the matter, according to Ota.

Earlier in the day, the national government promised Okinawa officials to have a system to improve the notification procedure wrapped up by the end of next month. The promise was made during a meeting of a forum of central and local government officials aimed at addressing issues involved U.S. bases in the island prefecture.

At the meeting at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence, the national government iterated its apology over the government’s failure to promptly report the bullet incident to Okinawa. A total of 1,520 bullets containing depleted uranium were fired at the Tori Shima gunnery range on the uninhabited island some 100 km west of the main island between December 1995 and January 1996.