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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 April 10 - 16  > JCP Akamine urges gov’t to decrease US military flight training zones to ensure aviation safety
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2019 April 10 - 16 [POLITICS]

JCP Akamine urges gov’t to decrease US military flight training zones to ensure aviation safety

April 10, 2019
Japanese Communist Party Dietmember Akamine Seiken on April 9 at a House of Representatives Security Committee meeting said that U.S. forces-set military flight training areas over Okinawa endangers the safety of civil aviation, stressing that the Defense Ministry should take measures to correct this situation.

Currently, under the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, the U.S. military is allowed to use 20 areas in the airspace over and near Okinawa for its flight drills, which severely restricts allowable airspace for civilian aircraft. Apart from the 20 provided areas, the U.S. military conducts flight training exercises over a wide area near Okinawa by misusing its right to set up Altitude Reservation (ALTRV) zones. ALTRVs are supposed to be for “temporary” use, but the U.S military uses these particular zones for an “indefinite” period of time. However, the Defense Ministry turns a blind eye to the U.S. military’s misapplication of ALTRV zones and refuses to fulfill its responsibility to counter this situation by insisting that it has no access to information concerning ALTRV designations.

Akamine at the meeting pointed out that the Self-Defense Forces and the Defense Ministry are in a position to obtain information regarding ALTRVs by citing passages from a handbook for users of flight training zones near Okinawa, including the U.S. Forces in Japan and the Japanese Self-Defense Forces. According to the handbook, which Akamine downloaded from the website of the U.S. Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, the Air SDF dispatches liaison officers to the Joint Okinawa Scheduling Cell (JOSC), which is the U.S. representative for management and scheduling of most flight training zones near Okinawa. SDF liaison officers are tasked to submit JASDF’s requests for airspace/range to the JOSC and notify JASDF of approval/denial of its requests.

Defense Minister Iwaya Takeshi admitted that SDF liaison officers coordinate the use of airspace with the JOSC. Still, he asserted that with regard to the ALTRV designation, the U.S. military sends notification to the Land Ministry, again denying the Defense Ministry’s responsibility.

Akamine stressed that the Japanese government should work to limit the airspace for U.S. military flight training and should not give seemingly automatic approval to the designation of ALTRVs.

Past related article:
> JCP Kokuta reveals Japan-US secret agreement regarding flights of US military aircraft [February 23, 2019]
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