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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 January 31 - February 6  > JCP Akamine demands abolition of law allowing US military to continue with unsafe flight practices
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2018 January 31 - February 6 [POLITICS]

JCP Akamine demands abolition of law allowing US military to continue with unsafe flight practices

January 31, 2018
Japanese Communist Party parliamentarian Akamine Seiken on January 30 at a Diet committee meeting criticized a law that allows the continuation of the U.S. military’s unsafe flight practices in Japan, saying that the abolition of the law is important to eliminate the root cause of accidents involving U.S. military aircraft.

Akamine, who was elected from Okinawa, at a House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting pointed out that in the last three months alone, U.S. military aircraft caused multiple accidents in Okinawa, but the U.S. forces continue carrying out flight drills and Japanese authorities are not allowed to independently investigate into the cause of the accidents.

Akamine explained that U.S. military aircraft are immune from safety regulations set by Japan’s aviation law thanks to special measures drawn up in line with the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement. He added that the exemption gives the military a privileged status. For example, Akamine said, the U.S. military can conduct low-altitude flight drills outside military facilities and carry out nighttime flight exercises using helicopters without lights, and the Japanese government cannot hold the U.S. responsible for causing part-drop accidents.

Akamine noted that the law in question has not been changed since its enactment in 1952 when Japan’s airspace sovereignty was effectively controlled by the U.S. forces. He said that concerning the aviation right, Japan is still “under U.S. occupation”.

Akamine stated that as long as such a servile law is in place, the U.S. military will continue its unsafe flight practices and the Japanese government will remain without rights to conduct investigations and take countermeasures in the event of an accident. He insisted that the law must be abolished.

In response, Transport Minister Ishii Keiichi justified the 1952 law by citing the Convention on International Civil Aviation’s stipulation that a country’s regulations are not applied to a foreign military stationed in that country. Akamine refuted Ishii by saying that given that the U.S. forces in Japan follow air traffic control instructions as stipulated by the aviation law, they should also abide by safety rules incorporated in the law.
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