Japan-U.S. aviation talks set to start

Japan and the United States will hold a three-day preparatory meeting on bilateral aviation issues starting April 9 in Honolulu, Transport Ministry officials said Mar. 21.

Japan and the U.S. are expected to make specific proposals at the next meeting and if they reach a certain agreement, they will resume formal negotiations that have been pending since last June, according to the officials. The U.S. has been calling on Japan to accept their “open skies” policy, which calls for full liberalization of the international aviation market. While Japan refuses to accept the U.S. idea of open skies, it urges the U.S. to provide more rights for All Nippon Airways.

Under the bilateral civil aviation agreement signed in 1952, United Airlines, Northwest Airlines, Federal Express Corp. and Japan Airlines have wider rights than other carriers. At the last talks held earlier this month, Japan has expressed its readiness to flexibly negotiate over “beyond rights” for planes flying on to third countries via Japan. In the upcoming talks, Japan plans to explain in detail its stance on the issue, they said.

Referring to an increase in minor accidents involving major U.S. carriers in Japan, the Japanese officials also plan to argue that rapid deregulation such as the U.S. open skies policy will intensify competition among carriers and may in turn increase the possibility of accidents. According to statistics for 1996, Northwest had minor trouble, such as engine malfunction, once almost every 800 flights, and United Airlines had accidents once almost every 1,800 flights. Japan Airlines, meanwhile, had trouble once in about every 4,900 flights.