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

1 / 2
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)
2 / 2
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

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.


Seoul endorses aid to North Korea for coronavirus

A nurse takes the temperature of a woman at an entrance of a Pyongyang hospital. (AFP)
Updated 59 min 7 sec ago

Seoul endorses aid to North Korea for coronavirus

  • According to the Unification Ministry, South Korea is committed to spending about $5.7 million on aid to North Korea this year

SEOUL: South Korea has approved assistance to provide anti-viral supplies to its northern neighbor for combating COVID-19, although the regime claims that there is no single confirmed case of the virus overwhelming societies around the globe.
The approval was granted on Tuesday to a nonprofit organization, which will send hand sanitizers worth about $81,000 to the North, the Unification Ministry on North Korean affairs confirmed on Thursday.
“The civic organization met the requirements for North Korean aid,” a ministry spokesman told reporters, declining to share details on the identity of the private organization. “The supplies were funded by the group.”
This marked the first time this year that the South Korean government has allowed a civilian aid group to provide assistance to the poverty-stricken North, while inter-Korean relations reached a low-ebb with the prolonged stalemate over Pyongyang’s nuclear disarmament effort.
International non-governmental organizations, including Doctors Without Borders, reportedly donated medical equipment to the communist regime, using a checkpoint in the border city of Dandong in China.
In March, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that $840,000 was needed to help North Korea during the coronavirus pandemic. UNICEF said that it donated glasses, masks, gloves and thermometers that could be used in North Korea to fight the spread of the virus.
The latest approval of the disinfectant shipment could set the stage for expanding assistance to the North at government level, said Cho Han-bum, a senior researcher at the state-funded Korea Institute for National Unification.
“I see the possibility that the level of assistance to the North would be expanded further,” the researcher said. “As Pyongyang appears to do its utmost to combat the spread of COVID-19, both Koreas would possibly be able to work together on health issues.”

HIGHLIGHT

The approval was granted to a nonprofit organization, which will send hand sanitizers worth about $81,000 to the North.

According to the Unification Ministry, South Korea is committed to spending about $5.7 million on aid to North Korea this year. The funds represent more than 60 percent of total global funding for aid to North Korea this year, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) website.
On March 1, President Moon Jae-in proposed cross-border cooperation in medicine and public health during his address marking the country’s Independence Day from Japanese colonial rule. In return, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un responded on March 4 by stating that he “wholeheartedly wished that the health of our brothers and sisters in the South are protected.”
But the North has conducted tests of short-range rockets and missiles three times since then, pouring cold water on relations with the South.
Experts have warned North Korea is vulnerable to the pandemic due to its weak health care system amid speculation that Pyongyang has covered up an outbreak.
Meanwhile, South Korea’s coronavirus cases topped 10,000 on Friday amid a slowdown in new infections. The country reported 86 new cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of infections to 10,062 and marked the 22nd consecutive day that new infections have hovered around 100 or fewer additional cases, according to health authorities.
The death toll rose by five to 174, with more than half of fatalities being patients aged 80 or over.