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The United States and Japan will hold another round of aviation talks at the vice-ministerial level next month since the two sides failed to reach an agreement Oct. 24 in Washington, Transport Minister Takao Fujii said Oct. 24.”We had thought that we might be able to have a ministerial-level meeting. But we still see a considerable gap,” Fuji said during a news conference. “We are not in the stage that we can have the upper-level meeting.” Earlier in the talks, which aim to forge a four-year interim bilateral accord, negotiators discussed the possibility of asking for a political judgment if the vice-ministerial meeting didn’t work out.Meanwhile, Fujii criticized the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission for sanctions taken against Japanese shipping lines over the harbor-practices dispute. “The way of the FMC is to push demands of its own country with sanctions,” he said. “I believe it is wrong to take such a way in the progress of economic relations between the U.S. and Japan.”The FMC imposed a $100,000 surcharge on each port call to the U.S. by container vessels of three Japanese shipping lines, starting Sept. 4. Although the two governments reached a basic agreement over the dispute, the FMC and the shipping lines have not settled the payments covering September, which amount to $4 million.Under existing law, the Japanese government can take counteractions against such sanctions by foreign governments only after a six-month period. “This event makes me wonder if it is good for Japan not to be equipped with any countermeasures,” he said. “The countermeasure may work as a deterrence…. Although it is a matter to be deliberately considered, we have to keep that in our mind.”

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