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Japan gov't inspected site of anti-fire foam leak on US base in Okinawa: defense minister

White fire-extinguishing foam is seen flowing down a ditch near U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, on April 10, 2020. (Mainichi/Nozomu Takeuchi)
U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is seen from a Mainichi Shimbun aircraft on June 12, 2019. (Mainichi)

Officials from the Japanese Defense, Foreign, and Environment ministries entered U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa April 16 to conduct on-site inspections relating to an incident that took place nearly a week earlier in which possibly toxic fire-extinguishing foam leaked from the base, Defense Minister Taro Kono announced April 17.

This marked the first time that Japanese authorities entered a U.S. military base under the 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 since it went into effect in 2015.

"The officials checked the sites as they received explanations about the hangar where the incident occurred, and the range and path in which the firefighting foam spread," Kono told a press conference. He revealed that an investigative team had been established to determine the cause of the incident, and added, "We will continue to conduct on-site inspections if we find that there still is a need to do so."

Okinawa Vice Gov. Kiichiro Jahana visited Futenma air base on April 17 and lodged a protest, saying, "This is an incident that comes in the wake of another incident in December of last year. It makes Okinawans extremely anxious and is deeply disappointing." The U.S. military apologized for causing anxiety among locals, and is said to have indicated that it would be reporting to the Japanese and Okinawa prefectural governments the cause of the incident and measures to prevent a recurrence.

The firefighting foam contains PFOS, which is suspected to be carcinogenic. On April 10, more than 140,000 liters of the foam leaked out of the base into the local community.

(Japanese original by Yusuke Tanabe, Political News Department, and Nozomu Takeuchi, Naha Bureau)

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