U.S. jets fired radioactive bullets near Okinawa
Japan informed of incident a year later
February 10, 1997
Web posted at: 12:00 p.m. EST (1700 GMT)
TOKYO (CNN) -- U.S. military jets accidentally used
radioactive bullets in training exercises near Okinawa over a
year ago, but military officials did not inform the Japanese
government until last month.
A spokesperson for the Japanese Foreign Ministry confirmed
the January 15 receipt of a report citing exercises held at
the Tori Shima gunnery range, an uninhabited coral island 62
miles from Okinawa, between December 1995 and January 1996.
"It is more regrettable that the U.S. delayed reporting the
incident, rather than the fact they had used radioactive
bullets," Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto told NHK
A U.S.-Japan agreement stipulates that no nuclear weapons may
be stored on Okinawa during peacetime, but the depleted
uranium ammunition is classified as conventional weaponry.
The uranium's density enables such bullets to penetrate
armored vehicles, but spent rounds are harmful only if
U.S. military officials expressed regret for the incident
and assured the Japanese that steps would be taken to prevent
it from happening again.
The bullets were fired at the gunnery range from U.S. Marine
AV-8B Harrier jets carrying 25mm rounds of the
explosive uranium. The jets reportedly fired more than 1,500
Over the past year, Okinawa residents have been increasingly
vocal in their opposition to the U.S. military presence on
their island. Masahide Ota, the island's governor, said such
incidents underscore his constituency's discomfort with the
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