By MIKA KUNIYOSHI/ Staff Writer
June 13, 2021 at 15:55 JST
A U.S. military aircraft flying at a low altitude over Cape Hedo, Okinawa Prefecture’s northernmost point, after 1 p.m. on Feb. 4. (Provided by Muneyuki Kayo)
NAHA--Prefectural authorities in Okinawa are soliciting information from the public on low-flying exercises by the U.S. military as calls grow among islanders for a halt to the activity due to concerns about crashes in residential areas.
The prefectural government’s goal is to bolster the case for a sharp reduction in flights at low altitude when Japanese and U.S. government officials next meet to discuss the issue.
Local officials have documented at least 20 such exercises since late last year. Some took place over the Kerama islands, a group of islets to the west of the prefecture’s main island and part of the Keramashoto National Park, and Cape Hedo, a scenic spot on the northernmost point of the main island.
Those exercises included flights that occurred outside the designated training area.
The drills prompted the prefectural assembly to adopt a unanimous resolution in February to demand that the U.S. military immediately suspend low altitude flying exercises.
“Okinawans’ anxieties and concerns have further heightened about low-flying drills by U.S. military aircraft as they disturb their quiet life,” the assembly said.
Prefectural officials said they decided to enlist the cooperation of residents to get a fuller picture of the exercises due to insufficient data on when they were conducted.
The information they are seeking concerns when, where, a fighter jet or a helicopter, how many aircraft, direction of flight and flying altitude, such as whether the flight was lower than a specific building.
Officials are also requesting images and video footage to back their sightings.
Information can be sent to the prefectural government's military base affairs division through a dedicated site or by phone.
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