Japan lodges protest over U.S. military helicopter flying over school again after chopper's window-falling incident

Source: Xinhua| 2018-01-18 19:50:19|Editor: pengying
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TOKYO, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- The Japanese government lodged a protest with the U.S. military Thursday over U.S. military helicopters flying above an elementary school in Okinawa again, after a U.S. CH-53E chopper dropped a window on the school about a month ago.

At a press briefing on the matter, Japan's top government spokesperson described the flying-over incident in Japan's southernmost prefecture as deplorable and said the government would take action.

"It's extremely deplorable this kind of incident happened even though we're strongly demanding that the U.S. side not fly above the school," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

The U.S. military, amid rising fears and indignation among the people of Okinawa owing to the increasing frequency of military-linked accidents and mishaps, had said that it would try to avoid flying its helicopters above the school.

On Dec. 13 last year, a window fell from a U.S. CH-53E transport helicopter and landed on the playground of the Futenma No. 2 Elementary School just meters away from where around 50 pupils were taking a physical education class.

The incident renewed concerns about the U.S. military's safety protocols and anti-U.S. sentiment was further stoked on the island following a string of other helicopter-related mishaps in the days and weeks after the window incident.

On Thursday, the Futenma No. 2 Elementary School conducted an evacuation drill to prepare students for similar incidents regarding objects falling from U.S. military helicopters.

The school, which is located on the north side of the controversial Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, has installed security cameras and uses monitors to watch for aircraft flying overhead after the incident.

It has been unable to fully use its facilities since the Dec. 13 mishap.

"This is outrageous. We can't make students take ordinary classes and even if we resume the use of the playground they always have to worry about what's flying above during physical education classes," Mitsugu Kano, an official of the city education board, was quoted as telling local media.

The school has yet to decide whether it will allow its students to resume use of the playground.

In addition to physical education classes, the playground has been off-limits during the students' break times and a defense staff member has been placed indefinitely at the school.

Okinawa hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan, yet accounts for just a fraction of Japan's total land mass.

Amid rising anti-U.S. sentiment, calls have become ever more vociferous from officials and locals on the sub-tropical island to have their decades-long base-hosting burdens lifted.