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13:14 24.09.2016(updated 16:53 24.09.2016)
Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada demanded on Saturday a ban on the United States flying McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II ground-attack jets out of its Kadena Air Base in Japan’s Okinawa prefecture until the recent jet crash near the region’s coast is properly investigated.
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TOKYO (Sputnik) – On Thursday, a US Air Force jet based in the Kadena Air Base crashed in the waters east of Okinawa, the pilot safely ejected. Local authorities later filed a protest to Japan’s foreign and defense ministries over the security problems caused by US military presence in the prefecture, calling on the national government to temporarily prohibit AV-8B Harrier II flights in the area until the crash was investigated.
The defense minister insisted on a comprehensive investigation into the causes of the crash as well as on the provision of complete information regarding the incident and on effective measures to be taken in order to prevent something similar from recurring, the Kyodo news agency reported.
Speaking during a meeting with US Forces Japan Deputy Commander Charles Chiarotti, Inada stressed that the crash could have been a disaster had it occurred in a residential area of Okinawa.
Chiarotti responded by stating that the current temporary pause in AV-8 flights was being used for preventive action in order to exclude similar incidents in the future. He added that the Japanese government’s questions would be answered as quickly as possible.
On Friday, the US III Marine Expeditionary Force in Japan announced a halt on all Harrier jet flights in response to the incident, adding that all of the jets would be inspected to make sure they meet operational readiness standards.
Okinawa occupies less than 1 percent of Japan’s territory but hosts some 74 percent of the country’s total US military presence.
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