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Japan complains after US helicopter crash

06 August 2013, 12:34

Tokyo - Japan asked the US military not to fly its Japan-based HH-60 helicopters until it determines why one crashed at a US base on the southern island of Okinawa, as the US Air Force said it had ended the search for a missing crew member after finding remains.

Three of the helicopter's four crew members ejected from the aircraft and were in stable condition, the US Air Force said in a statement. It said the remains found near the crash site were not yet identified. Japan's defence minister had said on Monday that information then available indicated all survived.

Japan formally complained to the US over the crash, which occurred at a time of intense local opposition to the US Marine Corps' additional deployment of 12 MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft on Okinawa, where anti-US military sentiment is a longstanding issue.

"We have asked the US not to fly the same aircraft until they find out the cause of the accident and take preventive steps," Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters Tuesday.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Japan had also asked Washington to postpone a planned additional deployment of a dozen Ospreys to Okinawa until the latest problem is resolved.

About half of the 50 000 US troops in Japan are based on the island under a Japan-US security pact, and many residents have complained about base-related crime, noise and accidents.

The HH-60 rescue helicopter, which belongs to Okinawa's Kadena Air Base, was on an unspecified training mission when it crashed at Camp Hansen.

Local media said the crash revived memories of an accident in 2004, when a CH-53 helicopter from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma crashed into a university building, triggering a huge anti-base uproar although there were no civilian injuries and the crew survived.

"We knew it was going to happen sooner or later," said Kadena Mayor Hiroshi Toyama, referring to Monday's crash.

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- AP

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