Japan on Tuesday gave the green light for the U.S. military to resume flights of CH-53D helicopters in Okinawa Prefecture, and the U.S. forces said the flights would resume as early as Wednesday.
The choppers were grounded after one crashed on an Okinawa university campus in August.
The U.S. military technically does not need Japan’s approval to resume flights, but Tokyo strongly requested the grounding until Washington provided a thorough explanation of the accident’s cause.
“We concluded that the government has received a sufficient explanation” from the U.S., Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura told a news conference after relevant ministers held discussions in the morning. “We will not oppose a resumption of CH-53D helicopter flights.”
Machimura added that the government will continue to ask the U.S. military to take necessary measures to ensure flight safety.
Michael Michalak, acting U.S. ambassador to Japan, separately told the government that flights of five CH-53D helicopters stationed in Futenma will be resumed as early as Wednesday, according to a statement released by the Foreign Ministry.
The U.S. military “needs to resume the flights at an early date to maintain crew efficiency,” Michalak was quoted as telling Shin Ebihara, director general of the ministry’s North American Affairs bureau. He added that the helicopters will fly to the Iwakuni base in Yamaguchi Prefecture within a few days.
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