Japan and the United States will probably not reach an agreement by the end of September — a self-imposed deadline — in the ongoing bilateral civil aviation talks, Transport Ministry officials said Sept. 25.

However, they said the two governments expect to continue the talks and possibly hold the next session in October. “It is difficult to reach an agreement by the end of September,” a ministry official said.

Earlier in the day, Masahiko Kurono, vice transport minister, told a news conference it is impossible to reach an agreement during the remaining itinerary of the current round of talks. The comments came one day before the end of a five-day vice ministerial-level meeting that began Sept. 22 in Tokyo to negotiate ways to expand the aviation market in the Asia-Pacific region.

The officials indicated the talks were stalled because demands from the U.S. side were unacceptable to Japan. Among the U.S. demands are the increase in the flight quotas for the so-called nonincumbent carriers that are given fewer quotas than the incumbent carriers, including United Airlines and Northwest Airlines. The U.S. also seeks an expansion of services under “beyond rights,” which allow carriers to fly into third nations via Japan or the U.S. The U.S. side is demanding that the flight quotas for nonincumbents be increased by more than 100, whereas Japan is proposing the quotas be raised by 70 per week.

Although the negotiators are discussing conditions in a proposed interim agreement that would cover the next four years, they are also apart over the nature of a bilateral agreement to be finalized in the future. The U.S. wants to start discussing another accord that will replace the interim agreement before the four-year period expires and pave the way for its proposed “open skies” full liberalization of the Asia-Pacific aviation market. Japan is opposed to the open skies concept, saying the more-competitive U.S. carriers would dominate the market.

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