Transport Minister Toshihiro Nikai will attend a bilateral ministerial conference this weekend with South Korea to discuss cooperation on air traffic and tourism toward the countries’ joint hosting of the World Cup in 2002.

The conference will be held on Cheju Island in South Korea today and Sunday, but Nikai denied media reports that the two nations would discuss launching shuttle flights connecting Tokyo with Seoul to transport visitors to and from the FIFA World Cup games.

“The issue of shuttle flights is not included as a theme to be discussed at the ministerial meeting,” Nikai said. “We believe South Korea will not bring that up there.”

One major difficulty in scheduling such flights is the limited capacity of Narita airport in Chiba Prefecture, the key international airport serving the Tokyo area, Nikai said.

“Currently Narita airport does not have the capacity for any increase in flights. In fact, more than 33 airlines are waiting to get slots at the airport,” he said. “We would like to consider (shuttle flights) in the future, but we have never discussed it at a practical level.”

Narita airport has been operating with a single runway since 1978. Completion of a second runway is planned in time for the World Cup.

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