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US fighter jet crashes off Japan coast

US fighter jet F-15. Photograph: (AFP)

AFP USA Jun 11, 2018, 08.20 AM (IST)

A US F15 fighter jet crashed off the southern coast of Japan on Monday but the pilot ejected and was rescued by Japanese forces, Tokyo's defence minister said.

The Japanese military "received information that a crew member of the F15 jet, which belongs to the Kadena Air Base, ejected above the sea some 50 miles (80 kilometres) south of" Naha, the regional capital of Japan's southern Okinawa island, Itsunori Onodera told reporters.

About an hour after receiving the initial information, Japanese military officials spotted and rescued the pilot who sustained "non-life-threatening" injuries, Onodera said.

Japan's public broadcaster NHK said the rescued pilot had a broken leg.

US military spokespersons confirmed the crash of an F-15C Eagle off the Okinawa coast during a routine training mission, adding that there was only one person in the aircraft that successfully ejected and had been safely recovered.

The US military maintains a substantial presence in Japan, with US Forces Japan (USFJ) consisting of approximately 50,000 military personnel. A large number of US bases are hosted by Okinawa, but there have been some tensions between the prefecture's local residents and the US military, in part, over aircraft incidents and accidents related to troops' behavior.

Many locals associate the US military bases not only with incidents but with crime and pollution as well and want them moved off the island. Moreover, Japanese authorities are reportedly moving ahead with a plan to relocate the US Marine Futenma airbase from an urban area in central Okinawa to the less populated districts in island's north.

Kadena is the largest US military base in Japan, and hosts around 47,000 American troops under a decades-long security alliance.

They have included emergency landings by US military helicopters, a piece of a helicopter falling on a Japanese school ground, and a deadly crash last year of an MV-22 Osprey that forced a massive rescue operation.

The US military is investigating the cause of the latest accident "but I've requested they share information with us and that they take firm safety measures to prevent a repeat," Onodera said.

There was no immediate report of other damage caused by the incident, the minister added.

Residents of Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of American troops in Japan, have protested against the deployment of Ospreys because of repeated accidents.

A series of crimes including rapes, assaults and hit-and-run and drink-driving accidents by US personnel have also triggered protests on Okinawa, and are a frequent irritant in relations between close security allies Japan and the United States.

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