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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 May 9 - 15  > Gov’t must impose Japan’s aviation rules on US military aircraft: JCP Toguchi
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2018 May 9 - 15 [US FORCES]

Gov’t must impose Japan’s aviation rules on US military aircraft: JCP Toguchi

May 9, 2018

In the wake of frequent accidents involving U.S. military aircraft, the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly in February unanimously adopted a resolution demanding that special provisions of the aviation law favoring the U.S. military in Japan be removed. This is the first resolution of this kind to be introduced. Japanese Communist Party member of the prefectural assembly Toguchi Osamu in an Akahata interview explained the background of the resolution.

Japan’s aviation law contains provisions to maintain aviation safety. Among them is the provision banning aircraft from flying at an altitude below 300 meters over buildings in residential areas and below 150 meters in unpopulated areas. However, special provisions in the law enable U.S. military aircraft to fly at an altitude lower than the legally-set minimum altitude.

Toguchi criticized the Japanese government for neglecting its responsibility to have the U.S. military abide by aviation law in order to protect lives and properties. He cited Diet deliberations between Transport Minister Ishii Keichi and JCP lawmaker Akamine Seiken. In the deliberations, Ishii justified the exceptional provisions in the Aviation Act by referring to the Convention on International Civil Aviation recognizing that under international law, a host nation’s laws are inapplicable to a foreign military stationed in the nation.

Toguchi said, “The U.S. military has been conducting low-altitude flight drills not only in Okinawa but also in other prefectures in Japan, causing accidents frequently. The most urgent task is to revise the current aviation law advantageous to U.S. military aircraft and impose domestic aviation regulations on the U.S. forces in Japan.”

JCP Okinawa assemblyperson said that Germany and Italy also host U.S. bases, but they apply their national laws to the U.S. military presence and have some control over U.S. military activities. As a reference, Toguchi introduced a report which was released in January by the prefectural government study team that visited Germany and Italy to engage in a research on the operations of the U.S. military in the two nations under their status of forces agreements.

According to the report, in Germany, as the U.S. military is required to abide by the nation’s aviation law, noise pollution law, military restriction rules, and other domestic laws, strict restrictions are imposed on military activities such as night-time flight exercises. In addition, local German authorities can enter into U.S. military facilities when circumstances warrant it. In Italy, the U.S. forces are stationed under conditions controlled by the Italian military and they need to obtain Italian permission prior to holding military exercises.

Toguchi said that a struggle to abolish exceptional clauses and force the U.S. military to follow Japan’s aviation law is tantamount to a struggle to take back national airspace sovereignty.

Past related articles:
> 2 US military copters make emergency landing at public airport [April 19, 2018]
> A dropped US Osprey part drifts to Okinawa's Ikei-jima beach [February 10, 2018]
> Okinawa governor protests against flights of US military helicopters over elementary school [January 19 and 20, 2018]
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