A Japanese army helicopter is believed to have crashed into the ocean, with its 10 crew members feared dead as debris seems to have been found near where the aircraft disappeared from radar screens.
The helicopter, a UH-60JA Black Hawk, vanished from radars Thursday afternoon local time during a reconnaissance mission north of Miyako Island, which lies south of Japan’s main islands, the Associated Press reported.
Since then, debris thought to be parts of an aircraft have been found in the area, according to the head of Japan’s Ground Self Defense Force, Yasunori Morishita. He said officials now believe the craft crashed in the water, AP reported.
Officials declined to confirm a news report that oil traces possibly related to the helicopter had been found by Japanese coast guard ships, AP reported.
Morishita said the helicopter had been stationed at an important army base in the region, located on the southernmost of Japan’s five main islands, Kyushu, AP reported. One of the missing crew was the division commander, named Yuichi Sakamoto, he said.
The missing helicopter comes after nine U.S. troops were killed in a collision between two Black Hawk helicopters during a training exercise at Kentucky’s Fort Campbell last week.
Miyako Island is about 200 miles east of Taiwan, an island China claims as its own and intends to eventually rule. Japan has been boosting its military capabilities in that region amid China’s increasingly aggressive military posture, AP reported.
Separately in the nearby Taiwan Strait, China has launched a three-day operation during which it says it will board and inspect cargo and construction vessels. China has also deployed an aircraft carrier strike group near the island, USNI News reported.
Both of those developments came as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, the highest-level meeting ever held in the U.S. for a visiting Taiwanese leader.
This was a breaking news story. The details were periodically updated as more information became available.