U.S. fighter jet crashes off Okinawa: gov't

A U.S. military fighter jet crashed Tuesday in waters off Okinawa Prefecture, with the pilot rescued uninjured, the Japanese government and local coast guard said.

The crash is likely to have occurred during training, with the cause not immediately known, the government said.

Around 9 a.m., the U.S. military in Okinawa asked the local coast guard in Naha for help, saying that an F-15 crashed into the sea and the pilot was holding onto a raft after an emergency exit.

An Air Self-Defense Force helicopter rescued the pilot at around 10:10 a.m., the coast guard said. The coast guard dispatched patrol vessels, along with a helicopter and airplane to the area, locating an oil slick but not the crashed jet.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference in Tokyo that the jet "was in a training area" and the government is gathering further information.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters that Tokyo will ask the U.S. military to prevent a recurrence.

Local residents voiced concerns as the crash was not the first of its kind in Okinawa, which is home to the bulk of U.S. bases in Japan. In January 2006, an F-15 fighter jet plunged into the Pacific Ocean off Uruma.

"If the jet had fallen to the ground, people in Okinawa would have been directly hit," said 69-year-old Soken Machida, who lives near the U.S. Kadena Air Base and witnessed the 1968 crash of a B-52 jet at the base.

"The U.S. military should give priority to safety," he said.