After string of Japan Self-Defense Forces mishaps, minister orders preventive measures

JIJI, Kyodo

Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya on Thursday ordered senior ministry officials to draw up measures to prevent accidents following a string of incidents involving Self-Defense Forces personnel.

“I instruct you to promptly make an accurate report, provide information to local people, identify the causes and draw up preventive measures” in response to the recent incidents, Iwaya told an emergency meeting.

On Wednesday, a mortar shell fired by a Ground Self-Defense Force unit during an exercise flew outside the GSDF’s Aibano training area in Takashima, Shiga Prefecture. The shell landed on a road, damaging a car belonging to a private citizen that was parked nearby.

A 71-year-old Takashima resident who was in the vehicle at the time was not injured but one of the car’s windows was shattered, according to police.

The 81 mm mortar round, about 40 cm in length and weighing 4 kg, landed roughly 40 meters from the car and around a kilometer off target.

Iwaya also said the use of 81 mm mortars will be suspended nationwide until the cause of the incident becomes clear.

The accident follows two others from earlier this month.

On Nov. 2, two F-2 fighter jets of the Air Self-Defense Force’s Tsuiki base in Fukuoka Prefecture came into contact with each other during flight training. Five days later an ASDF vehicle crashed into a house in Aomori Prefecture.

The accidents not only threatened civilians but also put SDF members at risk, Iwaya said.

“We must take them very seriously,” he added.

At a news conference Thursday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga echoed Iwaya’s calls for preventive measures.

Parliamentary Vice Minister of Defense Hiroshi Yamada visited Takashima Mayor Masaaki Fukui at the municipal government’s office Thursday to apologize and promised to take full preventive measures.

Fukui demanded a halt to all live-fire exercises in the training area. He lodged a protest over the ministry’s failure to quickly report the accident to the city and requested the ministry provide information promptly.

Yamada also met with Shiga Vice Gov. Eiji Nishijima, who also sought a halt to live-fire training in the area.