NAHA, OKINAWA PREF. – The U.S. military’s AV-8 Harrier fighter jets resumed flights in Okinawa on Friday following inspections to confirm the safety of the aircraft after one crashed into the sea off Okinawa Island on Sept. 22.
Three jets took off from the U.S. Kadena Air Base in Okinawa at around 8:40 a.m., but Okinawa Deputy Gov. Mitsuo Ageda expressed his disappointment at the resumption of the flights given that the cause of the crash has not yet been determined.
“We are confronted with the reality that the U.S. military goes ahead with what it has decided to do even if people in the prefecture are not satisfied,” he told reporters. “It is disappointing.”
In Tokyo, Defense Minister Tomomi Inada expressed approval of the measures the United States had taken prior to the resumption of the flights.
“The Defense Ministry received from the U.S. side a list of all the steps taken to confirm safety. Our assessment is that they are appropriate to some extent,” she told reporters.
But she said the central government will continue to urge the U.S. to get to the bottom of the incident and to implement thorough safety measures.
The resumption of flight operations by the Harriers in Okinawa was announced by Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, head of U.S. forces in Okinawa, on Wednesday.
Noting that the aircraft have been “thoroughly” inspected and an initial review of the crash has been completed, Nicholson said, “It has been determined that all squadron aircraft have been found to be safe to continue flight operations this Friday.”
All Harrier jets in Okinawa were temporarily grounded after one that took off from Kadena Air Base crashed about 150 km (about 90 km) east of Cape Hedo at the northern end of Okinawa Island on Sept. 22. The pilot ejected safely, suffering only minor injuries.
The crash of the U.S. Marines’ AV-8 Harrier was the latest in a series of accidents involving U.S. military aircraft in Okinawa.
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