A US F-16 fighter jet experienced engine problems over Japan and jettisoned its external fuel tanks before returning to base.
Onodera said the ministry was informed that the F-16 fighter jet caught fire at around 8:40 a.m., shortly after taking off from Misawa Air Base.
The plane was forced to dump its two external fuel tanks in a nearby lake, with the tanks splashing down just 400 meters from where fishing boats were operating, Japanese governmnet and local officials said.
In a statement, the US military confirmed that one of its F-16s had been forced to "jettison two external fuel tanks into an unpopulated area" after an engine fire broke out.
"Ensuring the safety of local residents is the basic premise (in base) operations". "We will conduct a thorough investigation to determine the root cause of this incident". The splashes reached as high as 15 meters, according to Masahiko Yamada, a 52-year-old fisherman who was on the lake from around 7:30 a.m. Imagine being hit by one of those. It will remain in effect until the tanks are removed and fuel is cleared from the water.
There have been a series of recent incidents involving the USA military on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, including parts of aircraft falling on schools. Metal fragments were scattered across the ice.
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It is just the latest military accident involving United States aircraft in recent weeks as tensions continue to rise between the two countries.
The local fisheries association and town officials were assessing the impact of the fuel leaking from the tanks.
As the number of US military aircraft-linked accidents and mishaps continues to rise at a disproportionately high rate, Onodera said he will seek explanations from the USA side as to why this latest incident occurred and demand that measures be taken to prevent the recurrence of such mishaps.
In January alone, helicopters based at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa made one emergency landing and two precautionary landings - as the military refers to them - in the prefecture.
In December, a window from a United States military helicopter fell onto a school ground in Okinawa, and in October a USA military helicopter burst into flames after landing in an empty field on Okinawa.
The latest case "has caused great fear to the people of the local fishery association and should not have taken place. This abnormal situation is unacceptable", Satoru Oshiro, a member of Okinawa's antibase civic group, said.