Japan, US struggle to find crashed jet and its ‘secrets’

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A Japanese Coast Guard vessel and US military plane search for a Japanese F-35A stealth fighter jet in the waters off Aomori, northern Japan on April 10, 2019. (Kyodo News via AP)
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Japan is deploying F-35As, each of which costs more than ¥10 billion ($90 million), to replace its aging F-4 fighters. (Jiji Press/AFP)
Updated 16 April 2019
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Japan, US struggle to find crashed jet and its ‘secrets’

  • The Japanese stealth fighter vanished from the radar on April 9 over the Pacific
  • Rivals China and Russia would have ‘a strong interest in collecting even a single screw of the state-of-the-art plane’

TOKYO: One week after an F-35A stealth fighter jet crashed off the northeastern coast of Japan, US and Japanese military vessels are struggling to find the wreckage and protect its valuable “secrets.”
The Japanese jet vanished from the radar on April 9 over the Pacific as it was conducting a training mission with three other aircraft some 135 kilometers (85 miles) east of Misawa, northeastern Japan.
A defense ministry spokesman said that the remains of the jet’s tail had been found but they were still hunting in vain for the rest of the fuselage, as well as the pilot.
“On average two aircraft, including a helicopter, and two patrol vessels are constantly deployed in the around-the-clock search operations,” said the official, who asked to remain anonymous.
Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force has also dispatched an unmanned submersible vessel.
Separately, the US military has dispatched one military aircraft and one vessel to join the mission, said the official, adding that the search has not yet been scaled back.
Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya said the crash would be discussed at a meeting with his US counterpart in Washington on Friday, which will also involve the two allies’ foreign ministers.
“The F-35A is an airplane that contains a significant amount of secrets that need to be protected,” Iwaya told reporters.
“With the help of the United States, we will continue to take the leading role in investigating the cause of the accident,” he said.
Akira Kato, a professor of international politics and regional security at Tokyo’s J.F. Oberlin University, said rivals China and Russia would have “a strong interest in collecting even a single screw of the state-of-the-art plane.”
And Hideshi Takesada, a defense expert and professor at Takushoku University in Tokyo, said it would not be a surprise if Moscow and Beijing were engaged in undercover activities to find some of the debris.
“Even if Japan and the US find it, they may not disclose details, including its exact location, due to concerns that China and Russia might try to collect it,” Takesada said.
Japan’s defense ministry confirmed it had not spotted any suspicious vessels or aircraft from a third country near the site.
Japan’s air force announced a commission last week to study the cause of the accident but it remains unclear exactly what happened to the plane.
US defense contractor Lockheed Martin touts the hi-tech fighter as “virtually undetectable” and says it allows the US and its allies to dominate the skies with its “unmatched capability and unprecedented situational awareness.”
Japan is deploying F-35As, each of which costs more than ¥10 billion ($90 million), to replace its aging F-4 fighters.
The jet was one of 13 F-35As deployed at the Misawa Air Base, according to the defense ministry.
The remaining 12 fighters have been grounded for the time being, the ministry said.
The F35-A jets are a key part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to upgrade the nation’s military capacity to meet changing power dynamics in East Asia, with China rapidly modernizing its military.
Over the next decade, Japan plans to purchase as many as 105 F35-As and 42 units of other high-capacity jets, most likely the F35-B variant.


At least 161 dead in northeast Congo in apparent ethnic clashes

Updated 17 June 2019
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At least 161 dead in northeast Congo in apparent ethnic clashes

  • A series of attacks in Ituri province has mostly targeted Hema herders, who have long been in conflict with Lendu farmers over grazing rights and political representation
  • Open conflict between Hema and Lendu from 1999-2007 resulted in an estimated 50,000 deaths in one of the bloodiest chapters of a civil war in eastern Congo

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo: At least 161 people have been killed in a northeastern province of Democratic Republic of Congo in the past week, local officials said on Monday, in an apparent resurgence of ethnic clashes between farming and herding communities.
A series of attacks in Ituri province has mostly targeted Hema herders, who have long been in conflict with Lendu farmers over grazing rights and political representation, although the exact identity of the assailants remains murky.
Open conflict between Hema and Lendu from 1999-2007 resulted in an estimated 50,000 deaths in one of the bloodiest chapters of a civil war in eastern Congo that left millions dead from conflict, hunger and disease.
Tit-for-tat attacks between the two groups in late 2017 and early 2018 killed hundreds of people and forced tens of thousands more to flee their homes, but a tenuous calm had taken hold until this month.
Pascal Kakoraki Baguma, a national lawmaker from Ituri, said the latest violence was sparked by the killing last Monday of four Lendu businesspeople.
“Members of the Lendu community believed that these assassinations were the work of the Hema,” Kakoraki said. “This is why they launched several attacks on Hema villages.”
“Sources affirm that 161 bodies have been found so far. But the death toll goes beyond the bodies recovered, as there were other massacres of civilians and police officers,” he said.
Jean Bosco Lalo, president of civil society organizations in Ituri, said 200 bodies had been found since last week in predominantly Hema villages, including the 161 mentioned by Kakoraki. Lalo said the toll would rise once his teams gained access to other villages where killings had been reported.
Ituri Governor Jean Bamanisa said provincial authorities were still working to establish the exact death toll and declined to say who was responsible.
He said the assailants’ tactics were to “empty out the villages, burn them and pursue those who had fled to the surrounding areas with bladed weapons.”
Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, who took office in January, is trying to restore stability to the country’s eastern borderlands, a tinderbox of conflict among armed groups over ethnicity, natural resources and political power.
Several rebel leaders have surrendered or been captured during his first months in office, but armed violence has persisted, particularly in North Kivu province, south of Ituri, which is the epicenter of a 10-month Ebola outbreak.