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The transport ministry proposed Thursday that Tokyo’s Haneda airport be used for regular short-distance international flights by 2009, when it completes construction of a new 2,500-meter runway.

The ministry said Haneda should be used for international flights between Tokyo and cities located within around 2,000 km.

The proposal was made at the third meeting of a panel discussing Haneda’s expansion. Panel members consists of transport minister Chikage Ogi, Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara and leaders from seven other neighboring local governments.

“If we use Haneda for regular international flights and allow airlines to fly to cities within a distance of say 1,000 km, Pusan would be included as a destination,” Ogi told a news conference after the meeting.

The ministry estimated that the expansion project would boost Haneda’s capacity from the current 275,000 arrivals and departures per year to 407,000 by fiscal 2012 — about the same as the current capacity at Narita airport.

Out of the 407,000 arrivals and departures, about 30,000 would be allocated for international flights, the ministry said.

Ogi said that if the distance limit for international flights is set at about 1,947 km — the distance between Haneda and Ishigaki Island in Okinawa — it would cover Seoul, Shanghai and other major cities in China.

The ministry also plans to give the local government leaders route proposals for flights to and from Haneda airport as early as mid-July.

The leaders of the localities basically support the ministry’s plan to turn Haneda into an international airport.

However, Chiba Gov. Akiko Domoto expressed strong concern over possible increase of noise pollution in her prefecture due to Haneda’s expansion, saying that many flights from Haneda airport are expected to fly over Chiba.

The expansion project, approved last June by the Cabinet on condition that financial resources are secured, aims to allow regular international flights to operate by 2009.

It would mark a significant shift in Japan’s aviation policy, which has strictly limited Narita airport to international flights and Haneda to domestic flights, with some exceptions for chartered flights.

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