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Japanese gain joint control of future military crash sites

Date Posted: 2005-04-07

Japanese authorities will have a strong voice the next time an American aircraft crashes.

The two governments have agreed to new rules on who does what at a crash scene. The decisions come in the wake of an August 2004 crash of a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter in Ginowan, and the American denial of access to Japanese authorities.

Japanese officials now have limited access to any crash scene, and will be in charge of establishing outer perimeter cordons. In the Ginowan incident, Japanese were not allowed near the crash site. The American military will maintain primary jurisdiction over the sites. The agreement also directs that the two governments will jointly establish inner perimeter cordons, and that both countries will be responsible for controlling the media.
Japanese police will now be in charge of safety near any crash site, and will oversee traffic controls.

Media access to crash sites will be more efficiently controlled under the new agreement, with both sides having representatives available to deal with them. Limited numbers of media will be allowed escorted access into the crash site areas.

A new policy on sharing information was instituted, particularly regarding potentially dangerous cargo aboard a downed aircraft or helicopter. The agreement did not address Japanese demands they be allowed to conduct independent investigations at the crash sites.

Following the Ginowan crash of a CH-53D helicopter last August, American authorities denied Japanese requests to conduct their own investigation until almost a week after the incident. Three crewmen were injured in that crash on the Okinawa International University campus, but nobody was killed either on the ground or aboard the helicopter.

Japanís Foreign Minister agrees with the Americans that it must have jurisdiction and control, particularly when classified information is involved. Nobutaka Machimura says the U.S. will initiate the investigations, then share information with Japanese authorities. Close cooperation between the two sides is the key, the foreign minister emphasized.

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