We are now fully realizing the overbearing danger of the bases and the hostile lifestyle we live as a result.
On the evening of Jan. 15, an AH-1 Super Cobra attack helicopter belonging to the American Futenma base had been flying in the practice airspace near Tonaki Village in Idesuna Island — Irisuna Island — which is located about 60 kilometers west from the Okinawan mainland. This helicopter dropped a total of 200 kilograms worth of its remaining missile launchers and other equipment into the sea.
On the afternoon of Jan. 16, U.S. Marines reported to the Okinawan Defense Bureau that the fallen contents were composed of missile launchers and other similar containers, empty fuel tanks, and so on. Although there were no confirmed injured people or property damage, the words of Tonaki Village Mayor Norio Uehara are undoubtedly true: “If they had mistaken just one step, they would’ve caused a giant disaster. This is something that should not have happened.”
Last March, an AH-1 helicopter belonging to the Futenma base failed to land on an assault ship stationed on the coast of mainland Okinawa. In the August of the same year, it came to light that it had lost a fuel cap, and then in September, it lost its screws and parts. Despite these many incidents that occurred over the span of a single year, the American military has failed to uncover their causes and continues to train.
The AH-1 helicopter is not the only American aircraft that still flies in spite of incidents. It is unbelievable how the continued practice of military personnel is prioritized over the lives and property of prefectural citizens, to the point where our anger can no longer be controlled.
In response to this incident where a total of 200 kilograms of missile equipment were dropped, Watarou Yori, the editor-in-chief of the public organization “Rimpeace,” pointed out that “this is a serious problem on a different level from previous incidents.”
We can think of this as a result of an abnormality in the electrical system: inadequate mounting, or some other faulty maintenance, but whatever the case, it is as Yori said, “Normally, parts falling off would be unimaginable.” I demand to hear what the American military’s security management systems are. They should bring flights to a complete halt in order to investigate and announce the causes, but they should also understand this is the absolute minimum request for us prefectural citizens to make.
In March 1993, the Japanese and American governments signed an agreement regarding accidents and incidents caused by the U.S. forces. In the event of an aviation accident, including dropping hazardous materials, the Americans are to report this promptly. The Japanese heard about this incident the day after it occurred. Although the Japanese government received the report and relayed it to the Okinawan Defense Bureau and related cities, the truth of the incident came not from an announcement, but from information collected by the press.
Is it not the duty of the country and the prefecture to inform their citizens of what they know as quickly as possible? The government should discuss the current state of their communication system and the large margin of discretion the Americans have in it, and require the prompt publicity of information.