Okinawa's governor protested to the defense and foreign ministries on Thursday after a metal-framed window fell from a USA military helicopter onto the playground of an elementary school the previous day. There was no damage to school buildings. Safety concerns were recently reignited by a series of accidents involving U.S. Marines Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and another CH-53E helicopter belonging to the Futenma base.
The Marines said the window was an emergency exit on the aircraft.
The US military said it was taking the "regrettable" incident "extremely seriously" and was opening an investigation. The US military also apologized " for any anxiety it has caused the community" and said an investigation into the "regrettable incident" is now ongoing.
'This kind of incident causes worries among not only people at the school but all the people in Okinawa and should never happen, ' said chief Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga. The incident had sparked huge anti-U.S. military demonstrations, with Okinawa residents reminded of a similar incident in 1995, when three U.S. Marines rented a van, kidnapped and raped a 12-year-old girl. " the demonstrators chanted, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported".
State Minister of Defense Tomohiro Yamamoto met Wednesday with U.S. Forces Japan commander Lt. Gen. "The children are the ones that we have to protect the most". The aircraft immediately returned to MCAS Futenma and reported the incident.
Japanese and US authorities have been planning for the past two decades to move the air base to a less densely populated part of the island, and the U.S.is now planning to relocate 4,000 marines from the bases in Okinawa to the USA territory of Guam by 2024.
The latest accident, which again threatened the safety of local residents, has undermined the credibility of the announcement made two months ago by the USA military when it resumed operations of the aircraft.
But the relocation would only move the danger to areas around Henoko and do nothing to ease the burden imposed on people in Okinawa.
The incident is the latest in a string of mishaps involving USA military aircraft on the southern island prefecture.
The latest incident is nearly sure to embolden Okinawa's small but potent protest movement, which is backed by popular support and Onaga, and lead to renewed protests of both US military aircraft and plans to relocate Marine air operations within the prefecture, from Futenma to Schwab in Okinawa's remote north.
Many Japanese have protested the presence of Marines on Okinawa.
Local residents are frustrated by noise, crime and accidents linked to USA bases.