Japan’s SDF dispatch to U.S. Okinawa base hits rock bottom

Japan’s plan to send SDF forces to a U.S.M.C. base in Okinawa after a U.S. helicopter accident earlier this year was inconvenienced due to U.S. reluctance.


The move to send SDF forces to U.S.M.C. Air Station Futenma was intended to allay safety concerns instigated by a torrent of emergency landings involving U.S. military helicopters since January.


photo credit to: https://japantoday.com


A senior Defense Ministry official said they have not heard from the side of the U.S. Military since receiving a postponement request of the plan, indicating that talks to proceed are proving difficult.


An AH-1 attack helicopter assigned to Futenma made a forced landing on Jan. 8 in the village of Yomitan. Another AH-1 made a forced landing in Tonaki village 2 weeks later, on Jan. 23. Both incidents happend in Okinawa.


Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said on Jan. 30 in response to the incidents that SDF members will be present as part of the Japan’s measures to ensure safety during U.S. military operations.


SDF members with technical expertise in aircraft maintenance were dispatched on Feb. 1.


The U.S. initially agreed to the plan, then cancelled on the day of the dispatch because they needed more time for preparation. Since then, both sides have continued trying to arrange a deployment.


But the U.S. military sees the deployment as an inspection. The Japanese media reported them as accidents and the U.S. is opposed to a probe of this nature as the helicopters only made precautionary landings to prevent accidents.


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has urged the U.S. to ensure the safety of local residents is the basic premise in base operations and urged the U.S. further to see that safety for everyone is ensured.


The cause of the incidents has been investigated and measures are taken to avoid the same thing happening again.



Reference: Japan’s plan to send SDF team to ensure helicopter safety at U.S. base in Okinawa bogs down.


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