Court orders Japan government to pay over US base noise

The airbase feud is adding to Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan`s headaches.

Tokyo: A local court ordered the Japanese government on Thursday to compensate residents living near a US airbase on the southern Okinawa island for noise pollution, as prospects of moving the controversial facility remain unclear.

The airbase feud is adding to Prime Minister Naoto Kan`s headaches after an upper house election loss this month, and has distracted allies Tokyo and Washington as they try to cope with an unpredictable North Korea and an increasingly influential China.

The Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court told the state to pay JPY 369 million (USD 4.2 million) to some 400 people living near the base. But it dismissed their demand that the government order planes to stop flying in and out of the base at night and early mornings, a court official said.

"Due to the noise of the aircraft, the plaintiffs` ... rights to basic benefits from their daily lives are being violated and they are incurring damages such as mental suffering," presiding Judge Yoshinori Kawabe was quoted as saying by the court official.

The High Court`s decision comes after both the residents and the government appealed a 2008 lower court ruling that ordered the state to pay JPY 146 million while dismissing a similar demand to halt flights.

The Futenma base, which has been on the southern island of Okinawa since the end of World War II, is unpopular among local residents, who associate the facility with crime and pollution.

Residents of Okinawa, host to about half the US troops in the country, are also concerned about aircraft safety, following the August 2004 crash of a Marine transport helicopter.

Bureau Report

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