August 14, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo U.S. military disposes of 2017 helicopter fire incident soil without notifying Japanese authorities

August 14, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo
In regard to a 2017 incident in which a U.S. military helicopter made an emergency landing and burst into flames in Takae, Higashi Village, the U.S. military removed and hauled a portion of soil from the incident site to Camp Kinser in Urasoe City, and on August 13 this year it came to light that this soil has already been disposed of outside of Okinawa.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Forces, Japan (USFJ) told the Ryukyu Shimpo in an interview that the soil has been disposed of at a suitable facility in mainland Japan. Still, the process, time period, and quanity of the soil disposal were not disclosed.
From the outset of the incident, the U.S. military did not allow Japanese authorities to approach the aircraft wreckage and unilaterally removed the soil.
Furthermore, the U.S. military did not inform the Japanese government of the disposal of the soil, and lost the materials essential to verify the actual circumstances surrounding the incident.
Note that the two cubic meters of removed soil had been left on Camp Kinser, and the U.S. military had planned to transport it to the United States for disposal at a later date.
Director Masami Kawamura of the Informed Public Project made a freedom of information request in regard to the status of the removed soil, but the documents submitted by the Okinawa Defense Bureau were mostly blacked out.
Hearing of this, the Ryukyu Shimpo interviewed the USFJ. When asked about the reason for the rejection of the request by the OPG and other agencies to enter the compound of Camp Kinser, to ascertain the status of the removed soil, the U.S. military spokesperson said that the procedure of appealing for an investigation through the Environmental Subcommittee of the U.S.-Japan Joint Committee is currently being determined but that there has been no demand for such until now.
(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)

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