U.S. vows to probe Okinawa crash

Kyodo, JIJI

The U.S. government has promised to get to the bottom of the crash of a U.S. Air Force helicopter in Okinawa on Monday, responding to a strong protest by Japan during high-level talks, a senior Japanese official said.

“We lodged a strong protest” over the accident, Shinsuke Sugiyama, deputy foreign minister, told reporters after meeting Tuesday with Wendy Sherman, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs.

Sugiyama said he asked Sherman during their meeting at the State Department to make sure such accidents do not happen again. The U.S. side said it will do its utmost to probe the cause of the crash and provide relevant information to Japan, according to Sugiyama.

“The U.S. side said it was an accident that should never have happened,” he said.

The U.S. Air Force HH-60 helicopter crashed in a mountainous area in Camp Hansen, about 2 km from the nearest residential area. Earlier reports said there were four crew members aboard the chopper, including three who survived with injuries, and a corpse was found in or near the wreckage. The U.S. Navy has tentatively said the body was that of the fourth crew member.

The accident came amid opposition in Okinawa to the U.S. military’s deployment of Osprey transport aircraft due to past accidents overseas, including a fatal one.

On Wednesday, assembly members in the village of Ginoza submitted a petition to the Defense Ministry’s Okinawa bureau urging the government to push the U.S. to find out what caused the crash and take measures to prevent a recurrence. They later visited officials at the Kadena base to submit a similar petition.

  • John McShea

    I seriously hope the Abe administration will think long-term about Japan’s defense needs and create more alliances with other countries other than the U.S. which never seems to treat Japan with the respect it very much deserves. If I were the Japanese people, I would protest even more strongly as these helicopters have been problematic since day 1.

    • jwtn

      do u know that the Okinawans are different and they are complaining of oppression. I think its time for the us military to cut the crap and stop acting like every thing belongs to it.

      • Ken Foye

        Jwtn, the U.S. military doesn’t set policy here, so you’re off-base in accusing the military of “acting like everything belongs to it.” The U.S. and Japanese governments set the policy, not the U.S. military. The U.S. military simply goes wherever the politicians tell them to go, and the U.S. military is in Japan because the Japanese government permits them to be. Also because the U.S. and Japan have a defense treaty. Why is the military constantly blames for things that the military does not CHOOSE to do, but is ORDERED to do?

    • ff

      Considering the Japan is our closest ally in Asia, we rebuilt them from the ashes of war to an economic superpower, I think we treat them with very much respect. This is the first time one of these helicopters has crashed in a while. I love how you are so quick to criticize the USA, I guess the lives of the soldiers in those helicopters don’t matter. So you are saying that just because one helicopter crash, Japan should rethink it’s entire defense policy? You obviously don’t understand geopolitics. and you are so quick to blame the USA that you don’t even try to think about all sides here. Toyota, Honda, Mitsubishi, PlayStation etc. All those Japanese brands are HUGE around the world. Do you think people would by those products and invest if there was a chance Japan could be blown off the map by North Korea or China? It is the same with US forces in South Korea. Our security acts as an assurance to those buyers and investors. Also, a poll done by the government of Japan shows over 70% percent of Japanese appreciate the US military in Japan. Just because you are butt hurt, doesn’t mean all of Japan is.

  • Yoshio Shimoji

    Every time such an accident/incident occurs, the U.S. side pledges to conduct a thorough investigation of the cause of the crash, saying accidents such as this should never occur. And yet accidents recur. There have been 43 crashes involving U.S. military aircraft for the past 41 years since 1972 when Okinawa’s reversion to Japan took place.

    On May 28 this year, a Kadena-based F15 fighter jet crashed on the sea east of Okinawa Island. Of course, the air force must have conducted a necessary investigation, but since the crashed airplane lies deep on the sea bed, according to an air force spokesman, the cause of the crash is still unknown. Even so, they started to fly F-15s in Okinawa’s skies as if nothing had happened. Okinawa is indeed a U.S. military-trampled colony.

    The same thing would repeat itself this time also despite their vow to probe the cause thoroughly because the helicopter has burned down completely, possibly leaving no clues for the cause of the crash.