A US large transport helicopter has made an emergency landing on grazing land in Japan's southernmost prefecture of Okinawa. It burst into flames.
US military officers say a fire broke out in the helicopter during a flight late Wednesday afternoon. The chopper was based at the Marine Corps Futenma Air Station.
It landed near the US military's Northern Training Area several hundred meters away from a residential area in Higashi Village.
The helicopter at one point was engulfed in flames and spewed smoke. None of the 7 crew members or local residents were injured.
The US military and Japan's Okinawa Defense Bureau are looking into the accident.
Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga expressed outrage over the incident, which he said occurred less than a year after another accident involving a US military aircraft. A US Osprey transport aircraft crash-landed in shallow waters off Nago City, Okinawa, in December of last year.
Okinawa will file a strong protest with the US military and the Japanese government on Thursday, demanding that the cause of the accident be clarified and the US suspend flights of CH-53 helicopters.
Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera late Wednesday told reporters in Tokyo that he urged the US to provide detailed information on the accident and to take full steps to prevent recurrences.
A senior Foreign Ministry official lodged a protest with Deputy Chief of Mission Joseph Young at the US Embassy in Tokyo. Young said the US will make efforts to pinpoint the cause of the accident and take steps to prevent recurrences.
An official of the Okinawa Defense Bureau visited the owner of the site of the emergency landing to deliver an apology.
In 2004, another CH-53 went down on a university campus adjacent to Futenma Air Station. The crash injured 3 crewmembers and damaged university buildings and nearby residences.
In Okinawa Prefecture, another Osprey developed engine trouble and made an emergency landing at New Ishigaki Airport last month.