Mr. Onodera added that the government was concerned by a recent spate of safety problems. Last month, two MV-22 Osprey, a hybrid aircraft, were forced to make emergency landings at Ishigaki airport on Okinawa. The Marine Corps also said last month that a crash of an Osprey off the coast of Okinawa last December was caused by pilot error.
The U.S. Marines said that it was investigating the cause of the accident but that “there is limited information at this time.”
Protesters in Takae have complained that the helicopter landing pads would lead to increased noise and possibly accidents.
Speaking to a reporter on NHK, Kumiko Nakamine, district leader of Takae, said she had seen black smoke and flames billowing from the road near a residential area.
“I’m surprised that what we had been concerned about actually happened,” Ms. Nakamine said. “I want the helipads to be removed.”
Masatsugu Isa, a village assemblyman who saw the flames from the crash, said that it appeared as if the helicopter had been conducting a drill.
“It again confirmed Ospreys are not the only danger,” said Mr. Isa, in a telephone interview. “This training site must be removed immediately. U.S. forces are not serious enough. They are not properly maintaining their aircraft.”
The crash occurred on the same day that a Japanese court ordered the central government to pay damages of 610 million yen ($5.4 million) to about 1,000 residents who had sued because of excessive aircraft noise from the United States’ Yokota Air Base, about 28 miles from Tokyo.
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