Japan has asked the U.S. military in Japan to look into the cause of a shell landing mistakenly outside a training area in Hokkaido during a drill, the government's top spokesman said Wednesday, urging the U.S. side to ensure safety.
"We have asked the United States to investigate the incident and share information with us as soon as possible," Yoshihide Suga told reporters.
A 155-millimeter howitzer shell fired by U.S. Marines stationed in Okinawa Prefecture landed Tuesday in a meadow outside a training site during a live-fire artillery drill in Hokkaido, a local bureau of Japan's Defense Ministry said. The drills have been held since 1997 to reduce the burden of Okinawa, home to the bulk of U.S. bases in Japan.
Suga said it is important for other areas to share such training exercises but added "safety comes first." He noted that the drill has been called off until the cause of the incident is confirmed and appropriate preventive measures are taken.
There have been no reports of casualties, but the incident prompted Hokkaido Deputy Gov. Hiroki Arakawa to urge the Defense Ministry's local bureau on Wednesday to prevent a recurrence of similar incidents.
Takeshi Mizunuma, mayor of Betsukai that hosts a part of the Yausubetsu exercise area said the incident was "very regrettable." "We are relieved to hear there were no casualties but we need to take it seriously as it affects the safety of local people and concerns crisis management."