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U.S. forces quells local anger after chopper window hits school



A helicopter window that fell onto school grounds on the Japanese island of Okinawa has re-ignited bad feeling between U.S. forces and the local population.

The U.S. apologised to the Futenma Daini Elementary School on Monday for letting the metal-framed window measuring nearly one metre across fall off last week, crashing down close to where children were exercising, Kyodo news agency reported.

The Japanese government had not yet received “a sufficient explanation,’’ for the accident, Kyodo cited Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera as saying.

Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga said that the plans to let helicopters of the same model continue flights in the area despite local calls for them to be banned were “truly ridiculous.’’

Local politicians from all major parties lodged a protest after the accident on December 13, newspaper Mainichi Shinbun reported.

The U.S. forces had promised to do their best not to fly aircraft over the school, Kyodo said.

Such accidents as well as historical crimes committed by U.S. personnel have been a regular source of friction between Japanese residents in the city of Ginowan and the U.S. military, whose Futenma airbase is located in the centre of the city.

Okinawa, Japan’s southernmost prefecture, accounts for less than 1 per cent of the country’s total land mass, but hosts about 70 per cent of U.S. military facilities in the country and more than half of the 50,000 U.S. troops stationed there.

Decades of debate and efforts to relocate the Futenma base, established at the end of World War II, have moved slowly, although construction did start this year on an alternative site.

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