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Government chartered civil aircraft to bring GSDF units back from Iraq

The Defense Agency chartered JAL flights to transport Ground Self-Defense Force units back to Japan from Kuwait after completing their mission in Samawah, Iraq.

This was clearly stated in an internal document obtained by Akahata.

On July 24, officials of the Japan Federation of Aviation Workers' Union and the Air Line Pilots' Association of Japan visited the Defense Agency, the Transport Ministry, and the Scheduled Airlines Association of Japan to lodge a protest against the SDF use of JAL chartered flights. They pointed out that it is in violation of the Convention on International Civil Aviation banning military use of civil airlines.

A union official who participated in the protest told Akahata that the Defense Agency kept the transportation plan a secret because they were aware that civil aircraft carrying military personnel could be targets of attack by hostile forces that may regard them as military aircraft. He said, "They are trying to repeat the use of civil flights for military purposes in order to make it an established fact and make it easy to use them in an emergency."

The Defense Agency and JAL withheld information about the contract for the use of chartered flights, the name of contractors involved, and the flight course to Haneda Airport, Tokyo, on the grounds that the safety of GSDF personnel must be ensured.

The document shows that the Defense Agency chartered three JAL flights arranged by Kinki Nippon Tourist, a major travel agency, from Kuwait via Singapore to Haneda. The first flight carrying 172 GSDF men/women left Kuwait on July 19 and reached Haneda on July 20.

The GSDF units had been sent to Iraq on a mission under the "Law Concerning the Special Measures on Humanitarian and Reconstruction Assistance in Iraq."

Government planes were used when the GSDF units were deployed to Iraq.

It is serious that the Defense Agency and JAL violated the Convention on International Civil Aviation in the name of "humanitarian assistance", knowing that the international convention requires a clear distinction between government and civil aircraft.
- Akahata, July 25, 2006

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