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Onodera urges U.S. military to improve safety

By Kenta Kamimura / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterHONOLULU — Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera urged the U.S. military to safely operate its helicopters in Japan during his meeting with Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, at the command headquarters in Hawaii on Tuesday morning.

They discussed a recent series of problems and accidents caused by helicopters belonging to the U.S. forces stationed in Japan.

Harris emphasized that the number of accidents involving military aircraft has been on the decline and that U.S. forces operate them with a priority on safety.

Regarding the emergency landings of U.S. military helicopters in Okinawa Prefecture on Saturday and Monday, Harris said that he was satisfied with the outcome, in which pilots landed their aircraft in safe places rather than returning to base despite there being abnormalities.

The commander expressed his view that the helicopter crews’ actions were appropriate.

But Onodera told him, “I want such flights to be operated more safely,” requesting thorough measures to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents, and checks and maintenance of the helicopters.

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