Japan: governor protests unannounced exercises

Hyogo Prefecture Gov. Toshizo Ido filed protests with defense and fisheries agencies for not having received advance notice of a missile exercise Tuesday afternoon in the Sea of Japan off the Hyogo coast, according to a statement issued by the prefecture.

Defense Agency spokesman Hirokazu Shirota confirmed that an Air Self-Defense Forces aircraft was conducting a missile targeting exercise in the area at the time.

The area is a designated targeting exercise range in which ASDF aircraft regularly operate, without providing advance notice, Air Staff Office spokesman Hiroshi Koitani said.

The F-4 Phantom aircraft also did not launch any missiles, Shirota said. It did, however, drop several lit flares to test the abilities of the missiles it carried to lock onto a target, he said.

The prefecture first learned of the incident from the crew of a fishing boat, the 19-ton Seiryu-maru, according to the prefecture's statement. The Seiryu-maru was operating in waters about 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of the town of Kami, in the exercise range's southwest corner, the statement said.

The crew noticed the low-flying aircraft while it was clearing fishing gear from the water, the statement said, without citing a distance between the boat and the plane.

The crew reported seeing five columns of water rising from the sea surface in the aircraft's wake and, fearing for their safety, quickly fled the area, the statement said.