U.S. Forces defy local government ban on military use of airports

Akahata on April 11 reported that the use by U.S. military aircraft of Japan's civil airports is on the increase.

The report was based on a Land, Infrastructure, and Transport Ministry document, which stated that the number of U.S. military aircraft landing at Japan's civil airports was 832 times in 2000, up 31 times from the previous year. Twenty-four of 88 airports, mostly in Kyushu in southern Japan, were used.

Last year, many U.S. military aircraft landed at those airports, ignoring local government bans on their use by the military. The U.S. Forces take advantage of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which provides that they are allowed to use Japanese airports free of charge.

In Osaka, several local governments near Osaka Airport have repeatedly requested that U.S. military aircraft be banned from the airport, but the number of landings increased in 2000.

The liaison council of eleven cities to deal with the noise out of Osaka Airport last November made representations to the central government, saying that the trust between the local governments and the central government would be undermined.

Last January, Hokkaido's Obihiro City requested the U.S. Forces not to use Obihiro Airport, but the U.S. military aircraft (with many soldiers aboard) ignored the request when they came to the region for Japan-U.S. military exercises. Obihiro City mayor commented that this was deplorable.

Akahata pointed out that the U.S. Forces' forcible use of Japanese civil airports is an initial step towards invoking the Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation Guidelines which state that Japan's civilian airports, ports, and harbors will be used in the event of U.S. war of intervention in the Asia/Pacific region. (end)