On the coast of Ikeijima, an island that is part of Urumashi City in Okinawa Prefecture, a U.S. army helicopter broke down in the middle of Special Forces training and crashed onto the deck of an American warship. Though there were no casualties, seven out of 17 crew members were injured, including two crew members who were training for the Ground Self-Defense Force.
This time the accident occurred above the sea, but American forces frequently fly above ground within the prefecture. If the helicopter had crashed into a city, it would have affected a large number of citizens.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga visited Okinawa to attend a conference regarding the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from its location in the city of Ginowan to Henoko district in the city of Nago. At the conference he stated, “We have made strong requests that the Americans provide information promptly, investigate causes, and take measures to prevent these incidents from happening again.”
However, we cannot predict how honestly the American forces will meet these requests. U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno has stated, “Well, I'm not going to overreact to one incident. … sometimes, unfortunately, we have accidents.” We cannot deny the possibility that he’s ignoring the accident, and unwilling to provide more information by saying they’re military secrets or something similar [SEE HERE].
If an accident occurs over coastal waters, Japan itself should also look into the matter and its cause, but it looks like once again, it’s hit the wall called the “Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement.”
Criticism against American forces has been growing stronger due to the Henoko problem and the planned deployment of an Osprey squadron* to Yokota Air Base, which is located in Fussa, a city within the Tokyo Metropolis.
Above all, it’s unfair that over 70 percent of the American bases in Japan are concentrated in Okinawa. For years, the agreement has caused a great deal of suffering. In 2004, a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter crashed at the Okinawa International University in Ginowan, but Japanese police forces were completely barred from entering the scene. There have also been times when American soldiers commit terrible acts outside of the base but are not handed over, and the list goes on.
The American military needs to face up to these ridiculous conditions that we’re in and communicate with us, recognizing that these accidents aren’t just a problem limited to the bases in Okinawa but are capable of influencing the Japan-U.S. alliance.
It’s also a problem if the Japanese government stays passive and only waits to receive information from the American military.
When it was discovered that the National Security Agency had extended its activities in Europe and wiretapped phone lines of the Japanese government, amongst others, Prime Minister Abe’s reaction was criticized as lax compared to that of the leaders in Germany and France, who made huge protests. Since it seems like we won’t be able to thoroughly investigate this incident, as citizens let’s all worry more about the very likely possibility we’ll get dragged into a war as America’s yes-man thanks to the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.
The government needs to seriously put an end to these American military aircraft accidents and take a firm stance towards the U.S. If we’re to call the Japan-U.S. relationship “equal,” then we should first review how unfair the Status of Forces Agreement is and proceed from there.
*Editor’s Note: A special operations squadron of tilt rotator aircraft. On May 12, 2015, the Japan Times published accident rate statistics from the Defense Ministry, which showed these aircrafts have a higher accident rate than other types of U.S. aircrafts in the area.