• Kyodo News

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All Nippon Airways Co. will begin providing regular flights between Haneda airport in Tokyo and the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture starting in 2012, sources said Wednesday.

Japan’s second-largest airline will operate four round trips daily in line with an agreement between Japan and the United States for joint military and civilian use of the Iwakuni base, bringing commercial flights back to Iwakuni for the first time in nearly half a century.

ANA Senior Vice President Akira Okada was to meet with Yamaguchi Gov. Sekinari Nii later Wednesday before officially announcing the deal.

Local communities had been calling for the resumption of commercial flights at the base in hopes of boosting tourism and revitalizing the economy.

Once regular flights begin, ANA forecasts 300,000 to 400,000 passengers per year will use the route. It anticipates demand from business travelers because companies including Teijin Ltd. and Nippon Paper Group Inc. have key plants in the city of Iwakuni.

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