Rescue operations were underway Thursday for five U.S. marines missing after two American military aircraft crashed during a refuelling operation off the coast of Japan, the Japanese defence minister said.
The U.S. Marine Corps said that the 2am crash involved an F/A-18 fighter jet and a KC-130 refueling aircraft during regular training after the planes took off from their base in Iwakuni, near Hiroshima in western Japan.
The Marine Corps said the rescued crew was taken to a hospital at its base in Iwakuni and was being treated, but did not provide any other details.
Japan's Defense Ministry said the two aircraft carrying seven crew members altogether had collided midair and crashed into the sea about 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of the Muroto cape on the Shikoku main island.
A spokesman for Japan's Self-Defense Forces said that one of the airmen had been rescued but the immediate fate of the remaining crew members was unclear.
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The C-130 was thought to be carrying five servicemen and the F-18 two, said the Japanese official, who added that Japan had scrambled four aircraft and three ships in the search.
A Japanese search and rescue aircraft immediately responded to help in recovery efforts, the Marines said, adding the circumstances of the accident were under investigation. Jerry Martinez, the commander of the US Forces Japan, to find out the reasons behind the crash and share the information on the accident with the Japanese authorities as soon as possible. It is unknown which aircraft the second boarded.
Those incidents have stoked tensions between close military allies Washington and Tokyo and led to protests against the deployment of Ospreys by residents living near United States bases.
"I will urge the government and the USA military to take thorough measures in finding out the cause of the accident and preventing a repeat", said Fukuda.