US to return Okinawa air control to Japan on March 31
Tokyo: The US has officially agreed with Japan to return on March 31 air traffic control rights around the main Okinawa island that have long been controlled by American forces in Japan, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
The move means that Japan will basically regain air traffic control rights over Okinawa for the first time since the southern island returned to Japan from US occupation in
The two countries initially agreed in 2004 to finish the transfer of the Kadena radar approach control, known as "Kadena RAPCON," within three years. But they rearranged in 2008 to set the deadline at March this year.
Air traffic over Okinawa has been controlled by the Kadena RAPCON system at the US Kadena Air Base in Okinawa. The system covers airspace up to an altitude of about 6 kilometres within a radius of about 90 km of the base, as well as airspace over Kume Island, a small island situated west of the main Okinawa island.
The system has controlled not only US military airplanes but civilian flights using Naha Airport and the airport on Kume Island.
Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada welcomed the agreement in a statement issued the same day and stressed the importance of finding solutions to bilateral issues through cooperation.
"Although there are various tasks related to US forces in Japan...I would like to overcome each issue so that the Japan-US security arrangements will be operated more smoothly and effectively," he said.
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