USA fighter jet dumps fuel tanks in Lake Ogawara; Japan seeks explanation

US fighter dumps fuel tanks into lake in Japan

An engine of a US F-16 fighter jet from the US Misawa air base in northern Japan caught fire, with pilot dumping the aircraft's fuel tanks into the lake, local media reported Tuesday, citing Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera.

While no injuries were reported, the external fuel tanks measuring 4 to 5 meters in length landed some 400 meters from a fishing boat on Lake Ogawara, according to government officials and local fishermen. It safely returned to base.

The incident, which caused no injuries, is the latest in a string of accidents involving the USA military that have prompted concern from Japanese officials and renewed criticism of the US military presence in the country.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera disclosed the mishap to reporters based on a report from the U.S. military. The country has already raised concerns over increased United States military presence in Japan.

In a statement, the USAF confirmed two external fuel tanks had been dropped "into an unpopulated area".

The case follows a string of accidents involving U.S. military aircraft, for which U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis apologized to Onodera last month. He said the water surface was smeared with oil. Addressing the Japanese concerns the 35th Fighting Wing commander, Colonel R. Scott Jobe said that the safety of Japanese people was their priority and a thorough investigation would be conducted to get to the root of the problem.

The southern island of Okinawa also recently witnessed series of incidents involving US forces stationed there.



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