The U.S. military in Japan will not fly CH-53D helicopters at the request of the Japanese government until it is “appropriate” to do so, the U.S. government said in a statement released Saturday.
The statement, released through the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, said the United States “fully appreciates the concern over the safe operations of these and all other U.S. military aircraft in Japan and will work closely with Japanese officials.”
The move comes after a Marine CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter crashed Aug. 13 at the campus of Okinawa International University adjacent to the Futenma base in Ginowan, Okinawa. Three crew members were injured, but no one on the ground was hurt.
Japan asked the U.S. on Thursday to suspend flights of the CH-53Ds until the U.S. government fully explains what caused the crash in Ginowan.
The United States said Thursday the “proximate cause” of the accident was a missing small retaining device in the tail rotor assembly that led to loss of rotor control.
Saturday’s statement said the U.S. military will complete its overall probe into the crash “within 30 days.”
The U.S. government will explain the cause of the crash to the Japanese government through the fact-finding Subcommittee on Unusual Occurrences of the U.S.-Japan Joint Committee, the statement said.
In line with the bilateral Status of Forces Agreement, U.S. forces sealed off the site of the crash after the accident and barred Japanese police from joining on-site investigations.
The agreement, governing the management and operation of the U.S. military in Japan, requires Japanese authorities to receive permission from U.S. forces for investigations of U.S. military property.
Views on realignment
WASHINGTON (Kyodo) Japan on Friday told the United States it will compile and present its views on the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, a Japanese official said.
The Japanese officials who visited Washington are Kazuki Iihara, director general of the Defense Agency’s Defense Policy Bureau, and Shin Ebihara, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s North American Affairs Bureau.
They held separate talks with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Deputy Defense Undersecretary for Asian and Pacific Affairs Richard Lawless and Michael Green, senior director for Asia at the White House’s National Security Council.
At the talks, Japan told the U.S. it will convey its opinions on the realignment of U.S. troops in Japan, and the U.S. side expressed willingness to wait for Japan’s views, including its responses to U.S. ideas, according to the Japanese official.
The official said Japan did not establish a deadline for presenting its views and declined to comment on the ideas put forward so far by the United States.
The senior Japanese and U.S. officials agreed that the two countries will continue talks on the realignment issue with an eye to the maintenance of the U.S. deterrent and a reduction in the burden shouldered by Japanese communities hosting U.S. bases, he said.
Washington is promoting a global military posture review to transform troops geared for the Cold War era to cope with new threats such as global terrorism.
As part of the review, the U.S. is reportedly floating various ideas on a realignment of troops in Japan, including relocating some marines in Okinawa to other parts of Japan and transferring the headquarters of the U.S. Army’s I Corps from the state of Washington to Camp Zama in Kanagawa Prefecture.
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