We demand immediate halt to F-16 flights and thorough revision of Japan-U.S. SOFA

December 6, 2021
Tsuyoshi Masuda
Japan Federation of Democratic Medical Institutions

An F-16 fighter jet belonging to the U.S. Misawa Air Base on November 30 made an emergency landing at Aomori Airport. This led to temporary closure of the airport’s runway. Before the landing, the aircraft jettisoned two fuel tanks attached to its wings, and one of them was found near the Fukaura Town building on a national highway passing through an urban area. As the spot was only 20 meters from residential houses, it could have resulted in a life-threatening accident. Despite the seriousness of the accident, the Aomori Prefectural Police have not been able to even inspect the scene due to the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), and investigations into the cause of the accident have been left to the U.S. military. Such a situation should never be accepted in the sovereign nation of Japan.

Since F-16 fighter jets were deployed to the Misawa Base in 1985, they have crashed 13 times, jettisoned fuel tanks 19 times, and dumped mock bombs 12 times, repeatedly threatening the lives and livelihoods of local residents.

Although Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno expressed “regret” to the U.S. side, he only requested the U.S. to “suspend flights of aircraft until their safety is confirmed,” allowing the U.S. military to continue its training drills on the grounds of the need to “maintain deterrence.” However, the 35th Fighter Wing, which operates F-16 fighter jets, has nothing to do with “defense” as it deploys on a global scale and is the first one to attack an enemy base if necessary. The SOFA threatens the lives and properties of Japanese citizens by allowing the U.S. forces to conduct training in Japan for overseas deployment rather than “protecting Japan” and is thus unacceptable.

As an organization opposing any war-related policy that destroys life and health, the Japan Federation of Democratic Medical Institutions demands an immediate halt to flights of the extremely dangerous F-16 fighter jets and a thorough revision of the Japan-U.S. SOFA.