NAHA, OKINAWA PREF. – The Okinawa Prefecture Assembly on Thursday unanimously adopted a resolution demanding the suspension of flights and drills by U.S. military aircraft over schools and hospitals, after a window fell from an American helicopter onto school grounds last week.
The resolution issued to protest against the incident said, “No more threat to the lives of people in Okinawa should be tolerated,” after a window fell from a CH-53E transport helicopter onto the playground of an elementary school adjacent to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the city of Ginowan.
A slew of similar resolutions have been adopted by individual municipal assemblies in the southern island prefecture, protesting the accident that saw the roughly 90-square-centimeter metal-framed window weighing 7.7 kilograms drop into the playground of Futenma No. 2 elementary school, where 54 pupils were participating in physical education activities.
In the assembly’s resolution and a statement sent to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. Ambassador to Japan William Hagerty, the body pointed out that accidents have frequently occurred in the prefecture — including a crash-landing in October by a CH-53E chopper that caught fire on privately owned land in the village of Higashi, located near a U.S. military training area.
The assembly noted that “A feeling of distrust is mounting among Okinawa people as these incidents vividly illustrate that the U.S. military’s measures to prevent similar accidents are not functioning.”
The local council also demanded that the Japanese government keep a promise made between Abe and former Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima to stop operations at the Futenma air base by February 2019.
Since the window incident the U.S. military resumed flights of CH-53E helicopters, on Tuesday afternoon, saying it was caused by human error and not mechanical problems. The Japanese government gave the green light to the decision.
Contributing to bad feeling in the area, a number of phone calls have made to the elementary school reportedly saying that such an incident can’t be helped because the school is located near the U.S. military base.
Even though the U.S. military has admitted the window had fell from its helicopter, some of the telephone calls have reportedly accused the school of staging the incident.
Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga expressed his discontent on Thursday.
“Even though we’ve explained it over and over again, discrimination and hate speech haven’t improved one bit,” he said.