Japan, U.S. officials to discuss preventive steps after fatal chopper crash

Japanese and U.S. government officials will meet Thursday in Tokyo to discuss ways to prevent a recurrence of the fatal crash of a U.S. military HH-60 helicopter in Okinawa.

U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Peter Lavoy, who is on a visit to Japan, will join the meeting, with the Japanese government set to ask the U.S. side to ensure the safety of local people as the latest accident took place near a residential area, officials said.

The scheduled meeting at the director-general level comes with Tokyo calling on Washington to provide details about why the crash happened and asking for preventive measures to be put in place amid concerns about U.S. military operations in Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of U.S. bases.

Tokyo and Washington had originally planned to hold a regular meeting of the U.S.-Japan Joint Committee, a framework to discuss such issues as U.S. forces in Japan. But they apparently decided to change the plan and include more officials given the gravity of the accident.

Japan's Defense Ministry said the U.S. military told Tokyo that it will question the three surviving crew members aboard the helicopter, which crashed Monday in a mountainous area within the premises of a U.S. military base, about the situation leading to the accident.

The crash has added to local opposition to the deployment of the Osprey tilt-rotor transport aircraft, which is set to replace the aging CH-46 helicopters in Okinawa.