MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Japan and the United States have agreed to suspend flights by all US Super Stallion CH-53 helicopters in Okinawa after a fire forced one of them to perform an emergency landing.
“The United States will suspend flights [of that model of helicopters] until they conduct a preliminary investigation and confirm their safety and the cause of the accident,” Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters following a meeting.
The minister said that the terms of the flight suspension were unclear.
“The investigation is pending, and we do not know for how long the flights will be suspended. We will dispatch experts from the Japan Self-Defense Forces to share information with the United States,” Onodera said.
The broadcaster NHK reported, citing Lt. Gen. Lawrence D. Nicholson, the commanding general for the III Marine Expeditionary Force and Okinawa Area Coordinator, that the United States had suspended flights by all CH-53 helicopters deployed in Okinawa prefecture for 96 hours.
Earlier in the day, Onodera held a meeting with Deputy Commander of US Forces in Japan Maj. Gen. Charles Chiarotti.
The island of Okinawa is the main site of the US military presence in Japan within the framework of the US-Japan security treaty signed in 1951. The large concentration of US troops on the island of Okinawa has been repeatedly criticized by Okinawa's residents due to the high number of crimes committed by US military personnel, as well as US aircraft crashes around its airbases.
According to Stars and Stripes, "Seikyu Iju, chief of Higashi Village where the Super Stallion went down, said his village has lodged a protest with the Okinawa Defense Bureau."
"Helicopter crashes should never happen,” he said.