An elementary school playing field, a place which should be safe, turned out to be dangerous situated next to a U.S. military base; there was an incident in which a window dropped from a U.S. military helicopter. The government needs to deal with the United States with a firm hand.
The Second Futenma Elementary School in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, is located adjacent to the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. On the opposite side of the fence, a different kind of space from the educational facility immediately stretches out. While about 60 children were in physical education class on the playing field, an acrylic window and metal frame both dropped from a large-scale transport helicopter, the CH-53, belonging to the air station. It was a square of about 90 centimeters (approximately 3 feet) squared and weighed 7.7 kilograms (approximately 17 pounds). Although no injuries were reported, it is only by chance that there were no casualties.
In July as well, a part that looked like it had fallen off a CH-53 was found on the roof of a nursery school near the same airspace. In October of this year, fire billowed from an emergency landing of a CH-53 in Higashi, Okinawa. In 2004, the same aircraft crashed into the campus of Okinawa International University, near the Futenma Air Station, injuring three U.S. military personnel.
One year ago, a vertical takeoff and landing craft, the MV-22 Osprey, which was deployed from the Futenma Air Station, made an emergency landing off the coast of Nago, causing serious damage. The noise from U.S. military exercises is terrible, and the servicemen incidents and accidents are unending.
This is the reality of the overburdened situation facing the people of Okinawa, where about 70 percent of U.S. forces in Japan are located. Yesterday, Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga asked Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga to protest this accident, to call for a complete inspection of all aircraft and suspend flights over places such as schools and hospitals in the interim. In addition, he also requested that the U.S. be asked to relocate the aircrafts now at Futenma outside the prefecture on a long-term basis.
Considering Okinawa’s current condition, these are reasonable demands. The government should take the governor’s request seriously and make a resolute appeal to the United States.
We must refrain from making this window-dropping incident a reason for rushing the construction of the new base at Henoko in Nago.
Even if there is a transfer of the U.S. military base within the same prefecture, the present condition, where war machines fly around like helicopters in the sky over Okinawa’s citizens, will not change. A transfer would not drastically reduce the burden. Both the U.S. and Japanese governments should abandon the relocation of the base within the prefecture and seek to relocate the base outside the country or prefecture.
When the U.S. military incident occurred, the government asked the U.S. to exercise self-restraint with respect to aviation, but the U.S. unilaterally resumed flights. It is hardly the government of a sovereign nation. Will the same thing happen again? Remember: the whole nation is watching.