Japan and the United States agreed Wednesday to dispatch Japanese flight controllers to the U.S. Kadena Air Base in Okinawa Prefecture for a month of training after the Group of Eight summit in July, Japanese officials said.
The agreement made at the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee on the Status-of-Forces Agreement was in line with the earlier U.S. decision to return control of the radar system at Kadena base to Japan, they said.
The radar system at Kadena, which controls all civilian and U.S. military flights within an 80-km radius of the central Okinawa base, was designated to be operated by the U.S. military for a provisional period in the Japan-U.S. agreement, signed on the return of Okinawa to Japan in 1972.
Japan has been calling on the U.S. to return control of the radar since last November’s trouble with the system, which caused some disruption of commercial flights to and from Naha airport.
U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen told Foreign Minister Yohei Kono in March that the U.S. would return control of the radar system at the Kadena base to Japan if requirements of the U.S. military are met.
According to officials at the transport and foreign ministries, the training will take place at “an appropriate time after the summit,” which is slated for July 21-23 in Nago. The purpose of the dispatch is “to promote understanding for the flight-controlling operations of the U.S. military.”
The officials did not reveal the number of Japanese flight controllers to be dispatched to the base or whether they would participate in operations there.
On Nov. 12 last year, a construction worker accidentally cut a cable in the Kadena system, which affected more than 150 civilian flights before the system was repaired 27 hours later.
Fifteen flights connecting Naha with Osaka, Fukuoka and some other locations were canceled and more than 150 flights were delayed for up to four hours and 40 minutes, Naha airport officials said.