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Japan and the United States agreed Tuesday that the U.S. Navy will improve measures for giving prior notification to the Japanese government of port calls by U.S. submarines.

In a joint press statement, the two sides confirmed for the first time in writing that the U.S. will inform Japan at least 24 hours in advance of where and when its submarines plan to stop in Japanese ports.

“The U.S. Navy reaffirmed that it will normally inform the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan at least 24 hours in advance as to the estimated arrival and intended location of mooring or anchoring of its nuclear-powered submarines,” the statement said.

The U.S. Navy has almost always given Japan 24 hours’ advance notice as part of a unilateral U.S. statement issued in 1964 that was designed to let local governments prepare to measure radioactivity before and after a sub’s visit.

However, the bilateral agreement entered the spotlight recently after the USS Chicago docked unexpectedly at Sasebo port in Nagasaki Prefecture on April 2, due to an administrative error on the part of the U.S. Navy.

It was the first time a U.S. submarine has made an unannounced port call in Japan since the visits began in November 1964.

The incident led Sasebo Mayor Akira Mitsutake to say he would not allow port calls by U.S. nuclear subs. But he has since retracted the statement, saying he finds the Japan-U.S. joint statement acceptable to some extent.

The U.S. Navy explained the incident by saying that it misread the planned docking location of the Chicago, which it interpreted as being outside the harbor, and gave the wrong information to the Foreign Ministry, which in turn relayed the inaccurate data to the Sasebo Municipal Government.

The navy also gave Japan a list of assurances of how it would improve its notification abilities.

As one of the areas to be improved, the U.S. Navy based in Japan will conduct more aggressive information gathering from its submarines in nearby waters so that it will have ample time to notify Japan in case one of them suddenly schedules a visit to a Japanese port.

In addition, the navy will make doubly sure that correct data is conveyed by sending the same information it conveys to Japan back to the submarine, as well as to the local navy office where the sub is planning to dock, the officials said.

The navy will also inform the ministry by e-mail, in addition to the telephone and fax notices used previously, so as to ensure the Japanese side is adequately informed about sub visits on occasions when the notice is made on holidays or outside office hours.

To handle the e-mail notifications, the ministry has acquired a mobile telephone capable of receiving electronic messages and has entrusted it to the staff in charge, the officials said.

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