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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 February 20 - 26  > JCP Kokuta reveals Japan-US secret agreement regarding flights of US military aircraft
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2019 February 20 - 26 [US FORCES]

JCP Kokuta reveals Japan-US secret agreement regarding flights of US military aircraft

February 23, 2019

Japanese Communist Party member of the House of Representatives Kokuta Keiji on February 22 at a House Budget Committee meeting revealed that the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee made a secret agreement on U.S. military aircraft flights in Japan. Grilled by Kokuta, the Abe government admitted to the existence of the secret agreement.

The Japan-U.S. Joint Committee discusses matters related to the stationing of U.S. forces in Japan under the Japan-U.S. alliance. However, minutes of committee meetings are withheld from the public and thus the committee is often described as a “secret-pact making machine”. Given this, it is significant that the Japanese government accepted Kokuta’s revelation and that a small part of the closed-door discussions came to light.

The recent revelation was made based on a memorandum which was compiled at a Japan-U.S. Joint Committee meeting on April 30,1975. In the document, the two governments agree to not release any information regarding U.S. military flight plans and altitude reservation (ALTRV) procedures for setting supposedly “temporary” training airspace for U.S. military aircraft.

Currently, eight U.S. military training areas are set on the Japanese mainland and 20 areas in Okinawa Prefecture. On top of that, based on ALTRV procedures, temporary training airspace has been established across Japan. There are two types of such airspace: a fixed type and a flexible type.

The U.S. military publishes information regarding ALTRV procedures for the fixed type airspace (known as stationary ALTRAV). In contrast, the Japanese government has never disclosed information regarding ALTRV procedures in line with the secret accord of the joint committee which JCP Kokuta made public. The U.S. military temporary training airspace is not indicated on aeronautical charts used by Japanese commercial aircraft. This brings about serious problems for commercial flights as they are unilaterally ordered by the U.S. military to fly around the temporary training spaces.

In the memorandum, the Japanese government effectively agreed to support U.S. military aircraft operations in addition to their flight plans.

Successive governments used the term “a matter of U.S. military operations” to explain that they have no information concerning the routes taken in low-altitude flight training or the participation of U.S. military aircraft in military drills which the U.S. forces solely conduct or jointly hold with the Self-Defense Forces. However, the revelation of the memorandum debunked the government explanation.

Past related articles:
> US military personnel in Japan enjoy ‘SOFA-protected’ driving privileges [December 1, 2018]
> Koike: Humiliating SOFA should be revised [November 8, 2018]
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