Japan Coast Guard Boat Shells Local Island in a Live Fire Incident
The Japan Coast Guard was left deeply embarrassed and apologizing after one of its patrol boats accidentally fired live shells hitting Irabu island in the Okinawa Prefect located south of Japan’s main island near Taiwan. The patrol boat Shimoji, which is stationed in the Senkaku Islands in the region used to search for illegal fishing by foreign vessels, discharged its 20-millimeter cannon toward the port during a preventive check and inspection while anchored at the Nagayama Port.
Officials searched the island for damage and reported no injuries from the incident. One local media outlet however reports that fragments were found on shore and that the windows in some vehicles parked near the port were shattered. No buildings in the port were believed to have been hit.
“This should never have happened. We will do everything we can to investigate the incident,” an official of the Miyakojima Coast Guard Office said during a briefing later in the day. “We sincerely apologize to residents for the anxiety this has caused.”
An initial investigation said that the vessel was anchored at Nagayama on Tuesday, July 19. During the morning inspection, seven crew members loaded the 20-millimeter cannon which is on the bow of the vessel and placed it on alert. Unaware that they had loaded the gun, the captain ordered a firing system test at which time at least eight shells were fired towards the shore.
Initial reports said that the gun, which is used against larger targets such as the illegal fishing boats they patrol against, was pointed at a wooded area on shore. They later said that the prefecture’s main road was within range about 600 feet from the vessel. The cannon has a range of up to approximately 5,000 feet. In addition, a heavy oil storage tank for vessels was only approximately 800 feet from the vessel.
Speaking at the press conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno called the incident “extremely regrettable.” Thankful that no one was injured, he promised a through investigation into the cause of the accidental discharge of the weapon.