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Tokyo officials disturbed that flights are resuming

Date Posted: 2004-08-27

Even as the U.S. military announced Sunday that a tail rotor problem caused one of its helicopters to crash earlier this month, it resumed flights by similar aircraft from an air base in Okinawa Prefecture.

The move was labeled as careless and ”extremely regrettable” by government officials in Tokyo, who have lodged a protest. prompting Tokyo to lodge a protest citing continued safety concerns. The government says the U.S. has not done enough to assure citizens their safety is guaranteed.

U.S. Forces Japan issued a statement calling the accident an isolated incident, saying an investigation revealed a component in the helicopter's tail rotor assembly was missing, leading to a loss of control. It said the problem was specific to that particular helicopter, and said other helicopters of the same model do not pose a threat.

Shin Ebihara, director general of the Foreign Ministry's North American Affairs Bureau, telephoned acting U.S. Ambassador Michael Mihalak to lodge the protest. "It is extremely regrettable that the United States has resumed flights of the CH-53D without regard for the objections of the Japanese government," Ebihara was quoted by the ministry as saying. "We strongly protest . . . given that neither an adequate explanation of the accident's cause nor of safety prevention measures have yet been made," he said.

Mihalak told Ebihara that all remaining CH-53D helicopters had been thoroughly checked and were considered safe for flying.

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