Japan to Tell US to Ground F-16 Fighter Jets as Fuel Dump Irks Tokyo

Japan unhappy with tank dumping case, asks US to ground F-16 fighter jets

Although Japan and the US share cordial ties, Tokyo has asked the US Forces to ground F-16 fighter jets in the Asia-Pacific country. Japan made the request a day after an American fighter jet dumped two fuel tanks in northeastern part of the country while making an emergency landing.

Defense Minister of Japan Nobuo Kishi has confirmed the news, stating that his ministry asked the US Forces to suspend operations of F-16 fighter jets for the time being. According to the minister, the US Forces should start operating fighter jets only after taking adequate safety measures. He made it clear that the incident, happened in Aomori Prefecture, should not be repeated. It may be noted that a tank apparently landed in a residential area on November 30. However, no one was injured. Later, the Japanese Defense Ministry also asked the US Forces to investigate the incident.

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A group of disputed islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. Reuters

According to Defense Minister Kishi, it is a very serious issue, and his ministry officials have been asked "to work closely with the US to collect and analyze information to ensure that all possible measures are taken". Meanwhile, the 35th Fighter Wing of the Misawa Air Base has issued a statement, saying that the F-16 fighter jet faced a problem during a flight and the pilot jettisoned the fuel tanks in an unpopulated area near Mount Iwaki in Aomori Prefecture. Finally, the jet landed at Aomori Airport at around 6:10pm (local time). The Police rushed to the spot, and found some metals and liquid, lying about 20-30 meters from a residential area in Fukaura Town. Incidentally, it was not first such incident in that area. In recent times, the region experienced many such incidents, as the US fighter jets land in the northeastern prefecture. An 80-year-old lady told reporters: "I heard a large sound and thought it was thunder. I was surprised that a US jet had dropped it. I'm scared that it could have hit somebody."

Meanwhile, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said the Government of Japan made it clear to the US Forces that the dumping was regrettable. Later, Vice Commander of the 35th Fighter Wing of the Misawa Air Base Colonel Timothy Murphy apologized to Fukaura Mayor Mitsuru Yoshita for the incident, saying: "We regret very much that the fuel tank came into the town. We are very thankful that it didn't injure anyone." He also said: "What I can tell you, we have a very thorough investigation that we have started on the incident."

Two U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers fly from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for a mission, with an escort of a pair of Japan Self-Defense Forces F-15 fighter jets and U.S. Marines' F-35B fighter jets in the vicinity of Kyushu Reuters

For his part, Aomori Governor Shingo Mimura has said that the Prefectural Government would discuss the issue with the US Forces and the Defense Ministry. He made the comment after senior Vice Defense Minister Makoto Oniki's visit to Aomori. According to the Governor, flight operations at Aomori Airport became normal on December 1 morning. The emergency landing prompted the Airport Authorities to close the lone runway of the airport, affecting domestic flight services for few hours.