Mitsuho Kayashima is the new crisis liaison on Okinawa.

Mitsuho Kayashima is the new crisis liaison on Okinawa. (Chiyomi Sumida / S&S)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Japan’s new crisis liaison on Okinawa says he’s committed to enhancing the island’s joint response system.

Mitsuho Kayashima is the second official whom Japan’s national government tapped to coordinate the Okinawa Crisis Management Committee — 39 representatives from the U.S military, Okinawa prefectural government, municipalities and police agencies. He likens his task to being a “communication hub” among the various agencies and the media during emergencies involving the U.S. military on Okinawa.

Japan’s national government created the crisis liaison post in 2004 after a Marine Corps CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter crashed that August on the Okinawa International University campus next to Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

After the accident, local officials and residents of the Ginowan neighborhood surrounding the school and base complained of inadequate communication among island officials, the national government and the U.S. military. Critics of how the crash scene was handled charged there was too much confusion and Marines initially kept local police and firefighters from the area, barring them from on-site investigations.

Six months later, the Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Accident Site Cooperation, created by the U.S.-Japan Joint Committee, set new guidelines for crash-site control. They specify that Japanese authorities would control an outer perimeter and the U.S. military and Japanese agencies jointly would control access and the inner periphery.

“I am fully aware that I wear four hats … which is very challenging,” said Kayashima, who will represent the Cabinet Office, the National Police Agency, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Okinawa Prefectural Police. The liaison officer is appointed by Japan’s chief cabinet secretary.

“My job is to make sure the initial response goes smoothly and effectively. The key … is to ensure close communication” through routine contacts among the U.S. military, Tokyo, Okinawa and local governments.

The U.S. military, Tokyo and Okinawa governments agreed in November to hold joint disaster drills on Okinawa at least yearly. In March, the first paper drill was held on Kadena Air Base. “We are working to expand the drill to other branches of the military and ultimately to conduct an actual drill,” Kayashima said.

Before coming to Okinawa, Kayashima was the National Police Agency’s senior security specialist.

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