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Low-altitude U.S. flight exercises are not permitted in United States - Akahata editorial

U.S. military aircraft have repeatedly flown at low altitudes over residential areas throughout Japan. In the past five years alone, the government has received many phone calls from people living in 24 prefectures, from Hokkaido in the north to Kagoshima in the south, complaining about the noise caused by U.S. aircraft.

Local residents have requested that the Japanese Defense Ministry demand the cancellation of low-altitude U.S. flight exercises. The Hiroshima governor last November and the Gunma governor in February this year also demanded that the government stop U.S. forces from conducting low-altitude flights. In response to the request made by the local governments and their residents, the central government should put an end to such flight exercises and thus protect peoplefs lives and safety.

Extreme fear

U.S. low-altitude flight exercises inflict physical and mental suffering on the people affected. Even in the previous government led by the Liberal Democratic Party and Komei, Ishiba Shigeru, defense minister at that time, admitted in April 2008 that the noise was creating gextreme fear.h Despite being aware of the unbearable noise and associated fear, the government has refused to ask the U.S. forces to stop carrying out low-altitude flight exercises.

The Japanese government and the U.S. forces claim that U.S. aircraft are observing regulations set by Japanfs aviation law which prohibits aircraft from flying at an altitude below 300 meters over densely-populated areas and below 150 meters over other areas. However, these regulations are not designed based on the assumption of fighter aircraft or passenger airliners. gThey are for helicopters flying at a low altitude for the purpose of news coverage or sightseeing flights,h official of the Civil Aviation Bureau of the land and transport ministry Sekiguchi Koichi stated in July last year at a House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee meeting. It is wrong, however, for the government to use this regulation as an excuse to justify low-altitude flight exercises conducted by the U.S. military.

In addition, many people have witnessed that U.S. aircraft were flying below the minimum flight altitude in violation of the aviation law. It does not make any difference if fighters are flying at an altitude of 300 meters as limited by the law, it is a form of extreme noise pollution.

It is beyond comprehension in the first place that the Japanese government is not informed of which flight routes and what altitude U.S. aircraft are going to take. In other words, they can freely fly anywhere over Japan at any altitude. In the United States, U.S. forces can conduct low-altitude flight exercises only within designated areas set by the Defense Department. Flights at low altitudes are strictly prohibited over residential areas and urban areas in the mainland U.S.

When U.S. forces decide on flight routes in the United States, they take into account any adverse impact on wildlife as well. In Japan, they do not consider the possible harmful effects on humans, let alone wildlife!

Partnership on an equal footing?

U.S. President Barack Obama says Japan is an gequal partner.h If he uses this term in the true sense, he should review the present U.S. dominance over Japan and stop conducting low-altitude flight training exercises in Japan which are prohibited in his country. Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio, if he is serious about his call to establish gJapan-U.S. relations on a equal footing,h should immediately demand that the U.S. government comply with Japanese law. If not, he cannot represent the voters who voted for gchange.h

- Akahata, March 5, 2010


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