Assembly Special Committee finds Defense Minister approval of low-altitude flights “deplorable”

Assembly Special Committee finds Defense Minister approval of low-altitude flights “deplorable”

Okinawa Prefectural Assembly building

January 15, 2021 Ryukyu Shimpo

On January 14, a meeting of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly’s Special Committee on U.S. Military Base Affairs (chaired by Moriyuki Teruya) opened and unanimously adopted the chairman’s declaration objecting to the low altitude flying of U.S. military aircraft in the vicinity of the Kerama Islands. The declaration mentioned that Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi’s statement, in which he gave his approval for these flights, was “truly deplorable”; requested a drastic revision of the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement; and asked for training in the sky over residential districts to stop. The Okinawa Prefectural Government (OPG) is attempting to coordinate with the US military as well as relevant agencies of the U.S. and Japanese governments, and calling personnel from these agencies to visit the Okinawa Prefectural Office next week or thereafter.

The declaration contained the following criticism: “Although not seen before this point, [U.S. military aircraft] are circling repeatedly at extremely low altitudes and the like, causing fear among local residents. If, by some chance, a crash occurs, it will easily lead to a great disaster, and this is absolutely unacceptable.” The declaration also pointed out that the agreement announced by the U.S. and Japanese governments in 1999 makes light of such issues. Director-General Masaru Kinjo of the Executive Office of the Governor (Okinawa), who attended the Special Committee meeting as an expositor, expressed, to relevant agencies, his and the OPG’s objecting opinion, saying: “The repeated low-altitude flying outside of provided facilities and zones is clearly considered to fall below the minimum altitude standard under civil aeronautics law and the like, and has caused uneasiness in residents. It is truly deplorable.” Although the Special Committee was originally looking to adopt a protest resolution at a plenary session, the move became a declaration by the chairman due to efforts to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)

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