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TOKYO - Unites States military personnel on Monday removed one of its helicopters from a sandy beach in Okinawa Prefecture where it made an emergency landing on Saturday, in the latest US-military-linked aircraft accident to incense locals.
According to local media reports, US personnel on Monday morning were making preparations to move the bulky frame off the beach on Ikei Island, in Japan"s southernmost prefecture, using heavy ropes attached to the fuselage of the chopper.
Later, the disabled helicopter was taken back to its base for further inspections, local officials said.
The US Marine Corps said on Sunday that one of its helicopters, based at the controversial US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on the main island of Okinawa, made an emergency landing on the small islet due to "indications of the main rotor moving at too high a speed".
The US military"s UH-1 heavy-lift transport helicopter made the landing just 100 meters away from a residential house, renewing concerns and anger among locals in Okinawa about the safety of US military hardware following numerous incidents of mishaps and accidents recently.
The US Marine Corps said at the time of the emergency landing that none of the four crew members aboard the chopper was injured in the incident and an officer was quoted as saying that they were "grateful that no one was hurt and no property was damaged".
The Japanese Defense Ministry"s local bureau chief Koichiro Nakajima told reporters after an inspection was conducted on the helicopter that safety would always be paramount.
"Flight safety is above everything else. We want the US military to work toward that end," Nakajima said, adding that he had heard the vehement protests from the Ikei residents" association over the latest US military-linked mishap.
The association said that if a US military aircraft were to fall on residential property, then the damage would be substantial and lives could be lost.
The association urged the military to change its flight path.
In December, a resolution demanding all US military flights over schools and hospitals be suspended was unanimously adopted by the Okinawa prefectural assembly.
The resolution refers to other military-linked accidents in Okinawa, including a CH-53E helicopter crashing and catching fire near the US military"s Northern Training Area, just 300 meters away from a residential area in Okinawa in October.
Okinawa hosts the bulk off US military bases in Japan yet represents just a tiny fraction of Japan"s total land mass.
Locals and officials in Okinawa want to see their decades-long base-hosting burdens lifted by some of the US bases being relocated outside the prefecture or out of Japan completely.