KYODO: The United States apologised to Japan on Tuesday over a recent series of accidents involving its military equipment that has sparked anger over American operations in the country, a Defence Ministry spokesman in Tokyo said, Japanese local media reported.
US Secretary of Defence James Mattis apologised to Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera after a string of accidents including the emergency landing of an American military helicopter in Okinawa on Monday.
That came just two days after a similar incident in the prefecture, which hosts more than half of the 47,000 American troops stationed in Japan.
“The minister said there was an apology from Secretary Mattis,” a Defence Ministry spokesman said.
“I told him about the issue, raising concrete examples of various accidents that happened in September, October, November, December last year and January this year in Okinawa,” Onodera told reporters after the talks.
Onodera has said he hoped to depart for Hawaii as soon as Tuesday to meet the top US commander in the Pacific, Harry Harris, to discuss the issue.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage after the helicopter landed near a hotel in the village of Yomitan on Monday. However, Okinawa governor Takeshi Onaga showed his frustration on Tuesday, saying “I am lost for words, really.”
“I want them (the US military) to feel ashamed of their inability to be in control of what they are doing,” Onaga said, according to Jiji Press.
Last month, a window from a US military helicopter fell onto a school sports ground near the Futenma Marine air base in Okinawa, but again no one was injured.
In October, a US military helicopter burst into flames after landing in an empty field on the island.
Such incidents have sparked opposition to the US bases on the strategic island, which would serve as a Launchpad for any American military activity in Asia.
A series of crimes including rapes, assaults, and hit-and-run and drunken driving crashes by US personnel have also triggered protests in Okinawa, and are a frequent irritant in relations between close security allies Japan and the US.