National

Yet another U.S. aircraft has emergency in Okinawa

Kyodo, Reuters

A U.S. military helicopter with a crew of two made an emergency landing Monday in Yomitan, Okinawa Prefecture, police said.

The aircraft is believed to be a U.S. Marine Corps AH-1 attack chopper from the Futenma air station in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture.

No one was believed injured after the helicopter landed at a waste disposal site near a hotel in Yomitan.

“There will be more incidents unless we remove U.S. military bases” from Okinawa, said Kazumi Nakasone, a 67-year-old local resident living near the scene, said.

The police corrected the number of crew members aboard helicopter to two from the initially announced four.

The incident followed a similar emergency landing Saturday by a U.S. Marine UH-1 helicopter, belonging to the same base, on a beach at Ikei Island, a small islet in Okinawa.

On Ikei Island last year, an AH-1 helicopter out of Futenma made an emergency landing at a farm, while last month a window from a U.S. chopper fell onto a school in Ginowan.

Later Monday, senior officials in the Okinawa Prefectural Government said they will request the central government and the U.S. military to suspend AH-1 and UH-1 helicopters from operating until the cause of the incidents becomes clear and a thorough inspection is made of Okinawa-based U.S. aircraft.

Accidents and crimes linked to U.S. service personnel have fueled opposition to bases in the prefecture for decades.

“We’ve seen too many incidents. It’s natural that people in Okinawa are worried about safety,” Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said, adding the government will urge the U.S. military to prevent such accidents.

Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, commander of U.S. military forces in Okinawa, offered an apology for the recent incidents to Okinawa Deputy Gov. Moritake Tomikawa by telephone, a prefectural official said.

Okinawa, which was under U.S. occupation until 1972, hosts about 30,000 military personnel on bases that cover a fifth of the main island.