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Defense minister irked by US forces' failure to report that plane part fell over Okinawa

The U.S. military's Kadena Air Base is pictured in Kadena, Okinawa Prefecture, in this file photo taken from a Mainichi aircraft on July 23, 2017. (Mainichi)

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera has expressed his displeasure at the U.S. forces' failure to directly notify his ministry of an accident in which an antenna fell off a U.S. fighter jet stationed in Okinawa Prefecture late last month.

Under the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, any incidents or accidents involving U.S. forces based in Japan are to be reported to both the Japanese foreign and defense ministries.

"There've been several recent cases in which (the U.S. forces) were late in notifying us of accidents or even failed to inform us," Onodera told reporters at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward on March 7.

The antenna that apparently fell off an F-15 fighter belonging to the U.S. forces' Kadena Air Base in Okinawa Prefecture on Feb. 27 is 38 centimeters long and 15 centimeters wide and weighs 1.36 kilograms, according to Japan's foreign and defense ministries.

In a post-flight inspection of the aircraft later that day, U.S. forces confirmed that an antenna was missing.

On March 5, six days after the accident, the United States reported the case to the Foreign Ministry, which in turn notified the Defense Ministry.

It remains unclear where the antenna fell off the aircraft and the object has not been found yet.

"The U.S. usually notifies us of any accidents via a local defense bureau. I'd like to ask the U.S. to make sure it contacts the Defense Ministry," Onodera told reporters.

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