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Further ease base-hosting burden after aircraft transfer to Iwakuni

Posted By: MSgt H
Date: Sunday - August 6,2017 09:13

Further ease base-hosting burden after aircraft transfer to Iwakuni
7:49 pm, August 05, 2017

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The sustainability of U.S. military bases in Japan must be enhanced and their strategic deterrence maintained. To that end, constant efforts to reduce burdens on local residents and broaden public understanding are essential.

The relocation of a U.S. Navy carrier-borne aircraft unit from U.S. Atsugi Air Base to Iwakuni Air Station is set to begin soon. It will involve the transfer of 61 aircraft, such as F/A-18 strike fighters and EA-18G electronic warfare jets, and about 3,800 people, including military personnel and their family members. The process is scheduled to be completed by around May next year.

The relocation is based on a Japan-U.S. agreement made in 2006. People living near the Atsugi base, in a densely populated part of the Tokyo metropolitan area, have been plagued by serious noise pollution for decades. Courts have continuously handed down rulings against the central government, ordering it to pay out massive amounts in compensation.

The relocation of the unit is expected to cut noise in the area significantly. It is hoped the relocation will be carried out in a smooth manner.

The Iwakuni base began using a new runway in 2010 in preparation for the unitís transfer. It was constructed further offshore than the original runway, so despite the unitís relocation, overall noise is expected to be reduced compared with pre-2009 levels.

In 2014, an aerial refueling unit at the U.S. militaryís Futenma Air Station was also transferred to the Iwakuni base, contributing to alleviating the burdens of hosting U.S. bases on Okinawa Prefecture.

Rectify imbalance

Reducing the overall impact on local communities that host bases by correcting the burden imbalance and sharing this burden with other communities is reasonable and extremely significant.

After the relocation, carrier-borne aircraft will continue takeoff and landing training on Iwoto island for the time being. Recently, the U.S. government informed the Japanese side of its plan to fly aircraft to Iwoto island from the Iwakuni base without transiting in Atsugi. This is apparently intended to cut noise in the vicinity of the Atsugi base. The U.S. side is urged to make good on the plan.

Yamaguchi Prefecture and Iwakuni city ó home to the Iwakuni base ó finally approved the relocation in late June. Such a positive decision to share the burdens of hosting U.S. bases, which are vital to Japanís security, is laudable.

After the air unit is relocated, the Iwakuni base will become one of the U.S. militaryís largest air bases in the Far East, with about 120 aircraft. The Japanese and U.S. governments must make a thorough effort to respond to noise issues, incidents and accidents as well as operate U.S. military aircraft properly.

It is appropriate for the Japanese government to take various steps to facilitate the coexistence of the Iwakuni base and local residents.

A proposal to use the runway for several commercial flights daily as a benefit for local residents received the green light and a state-administered airport was opened in 2012. The prefectureís loss-making land development project was also backed by a housing project for the U.S. military.

The central government is likely to substantially boost its subsidies to the Yamaguchi prefectural government, which are currently about •2 billion a year.

There is concern that a new site to replace Iwoto island for the aircraftís takeoff and landing training after the relocation remains undecided.

The government is currently negotiating with the owner of Mageshima island to purchase the land, but no deal is in sight. Speeding up the selection of a new location is vital.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 5, 2017)Speech


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