Man in Okinawa arrested for allegedly shining laser ray at US chopper

TOKYO, Japan – Japanese police on Monday, December 7, arrested a man for allegedly pointing a laser ray at a helicopter operating from a US base on Okinawa. 

The alleged pointing of the green light at a Marine helicopter from the Futenma air base took place in July, according to the police in Okinawa, where opposition to the American military presence is high. 

Katsuro Hiraoka, 56, a resident of Ginowan city where the base is located, was arrested on charges of "forcible obstruction of business," a police spokesman said, adding that the US military had reported the incident.

Hiraoka has posted anti-US messages on his blog, Fuji Television reported in its evening news program. The broadcaster also showed the flag of the former Soviet Union flying in the yard of his home.

The base is situated in the middle of a crowded urban area on the southern island and is widely seen as posing a potential danger to residents there were an aircraft to malfunction or crash.

The arrest comes amid a spate of such incidents at airports elsewhere involving laser pointers, which are seen as potentially having the ability to interfere with the eyesight of crew members.

The British Airline Pilots Association said last month that a "military strength" laser caused significant damage to the eye of a British Airways co-pilot when it was shone into his cockpit earlier this year as the plane was landing at London's Heathrow Airport, burning his retina in one eye. –