A search and rescue operation was underway Wednesday after a Marine Corps pilot ejected from his plane off the coast of southern Japan, U.S. military officials said.
The unnamed Marine was commanding an F/A-18 Hornet jet before it crashed at 6:40 p.m. local time (4:40 a.m. ET) about 120 miles southeast of Iwakuni, where the Marine Corps air station is located.
The aircraft was assigned to the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in Okinawa and the pilot was conducting a regularly scheduled training "at the time of the mishap," the military said in a statement.
The cause of the crash remained under investigation and the fate of the pilot was unknown. He was alone in the aircraft, officials said.
The apparent accident comes as U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter is in Japan to mark Wednesday's 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The Pentagon chief spoke with Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada about a commitment to the two nations' military alliance following the aftermath of the attack and the end of World War II.
Carter also confirmed that the U.S. will return almost 10,000 acres of land in Okinawa to Japan by end of the month, representing the biggest giveback by U.S. forces in Japan since Okinawa put back in Japanese control in 1972.