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Japan protested firefighting foam leak from US base in Okinawa: defense minister

U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is seen from a Mainichi Shimbun aircraft on June 12, 2019. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Japan Foreign Minister Taro Kono revealed that he had lodged a serious protest against the United States over an incident on April 10 in which firefighting foam had leaked out of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, in the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa.

The revelation was made at an April 16 session of the House of Councillors' Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense in response to a question from the Japanese Communist Party lawmaker Satoshi Inoue.

Kono said that based on the 2015 Agreement between Japan and the United States of America on Cooperation in the Field of Environmental Stewardship Relating to the United States Armed Forces in Japan, he sought permission for Japanese authorities to enter the base to conduct an investigation. This marks the first time Japan has sought permission to carry out an on-site investigation on a U.S. military base for an incident affecting the environment since the agreement was reached.

The incident took place on April 10 at the base, located in the center of the city of Ginowan. Fire extinguishing foam that contains PFOS, a chemical agent suspected to be carcinogenic, spilled out. Of the foam that was released, 83,270 liters of it was recovered on base, while 143,830 liters leaked out of the base. Local firefighters and others worked to recover the foam. The U.S. military says that foam was released from the fire suppression system of a hangar.

Kono explained, "I put in a serious protest against the U.S., and strongly sought an exhaustive investigation into the cause and the implementation of preventative measures against a recurrence." He said that the U.S. was deliberating the question of whether to let Japan onto the base to conduct an on-site investigation.

(Japanese original by Yusuke Tanabe, Political News Department)

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