Japan and its ally, the US, seem to be on a collision course over the F-16 fiasco. Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi described the US decision to resume operations of F-16 fighter jets amid an ongoing investigation as highly regrettable.
Earlier this week, a US F-16 was forced to drop two fuel tanks near residential areas in Aomori Prefecture during an emergency landing. Following this, Japan made a representation to the United States and demanded suspension of flights before the probe is completed.
However, the administration of Misawa city recorded F-16 flights two days after the incident. “This is highly regrettable,” Kishi said at a press conference.
As previously reported by EurAsian Times, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi told reporters that he takes the matter “very seriously” and that he has asked ministry officials to cooperate closely with US officials to obtain and evaluate information so that all required steps can be followed.
Shingo Mimura, the governor of Aomori prefecture, has also registered a strong protest with the US military over the incident, implying that the volatile fuel could result in a catastrophic tragedy in the town. Residents in the area voice safety concerns over repeated occurrences of such incidents.
In 2015, an F-16 fighter jet dumped fuel tanks into the Sea of Japan, and in 2018 another F-16 fighter aircraft ditched fuel tanks into a lake near the Misawa base. In 2017, a school student was hurt in Okinawa when a metal window frame from a US military chopper dropped on the school ground. A part of an American combat chopper had fallen on a school roof a week before, but no one was injured then.
In 2018, the United States apologized to Japan for a series of accidents involving the USAF aircraft. Then US Defense Secretary James Mattis briefed Japan’s defense minister on the details of US aircraft emergency landings and regretted the circumstances in which similar accidents have been occurring one after the other.
In January 2018, a US attack helicopter made an emergency landing on the Hotel’s ground. According to Japanese public broadcaster NHK, the helicopter crew landed the plane because a caution light had gone on. A malfunctioning rotor forced another US military chopper to make an emergency landing on an Okinawan beach.
The United States’ presence in Okinawa, in southern Japan, is an important aspect of the two countries’ postwar security relationship. The bases there house roughly around 20,000 to 26,000 US troops. In 2016, a woman’s murder was traced to an ex-Marine working at one of the bases, prompting a temporary ban on alcohol and a midnight curfew.
Thousands of Japanese protested the US military presence on Okinawa in the aftermath of the event. A series of incidents involving American military aircraft have been reported by Japan in recent years, causing animosity toward US military soldiers stationed in the Asian country.
A metal military container containing fuel and other things fell into the sea off the coast of Irisuna Island in Okinawa, Japan’s southernmost prefecture, earlier this year, prompting pollution fears among residents. These occurrences have enraged Japanese citizens and cast a negative reflection on the US military.