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2014年5月24日 (土)

厚木騒音訴訟 飛行差し止めの影響が心配だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun 7:26 pm, May 23, 2014
Adverse impacts feared over court ruling to suspend flights at Atsugi base
厚木騒音訴訟 飛行差し止めの影響が心配だ

For the first time, a court judgment has been handed down to suspend some flights of Self-Defense Forces aircraft that are of a highly public nature. It is feared that the ruling may have a negative impact on SDF activities.

In the fourth lawsuit involving noise pollution from planes at Atsugi Air Base in Kanagawa Prefecture, which is jointly used by the Maritime Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Navy, the Yokohama District Court on Wednesday ruled that late-night and early-morning flights of SDF aircraft be halted.

The court ruling bans flights from 10 p.m. through 6 a.m. the following day, with the proviso of “except for cases in which the defense minister deems [a flight] absolutely necessary.”

An explanation provided with the ruling stated, “Suspending the flights will create no major impediment to their public nature or the welfare of the public.” Opinions regarding this explanation, however, may differ depending on the person.

At the Atsugi base, which is located in a densely populated area, the SDF has maintained internal regulations to the effect that there should be no exercises involving its planes from late at night to early morning. In practice, however, there have been more than a few cases in which SDF missions involving the base have lasted until the early hours of the morning.

During fiscal 2013, about 80 such takeoffs and landings were conducted at Atsugi during the period from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said in a statement that his ministry “cannot accept part of the ruling,” presumably due to concerns that the court judgment will have an adverse impact on the duties of the SDF.

Warning, surveillance affected

The MSDF has deployed about 40 aircraft at the Atsugi base, including P3C patrol planes designed to detect such vessels as submarines, as well as search and rescue amphibious aircraft responsible for the transportation of emergency patients from remote islands. The U.S. Navy, for its part, has stationed at the base such aircraft as the F/A-18, a carrier-based fighter and attack plane, and the E2C airborne early warning aircraft.

As China has been expanding the activities of its military and other vessels in the seas off the Pacific coast of Japan, the importance of the Atsugi base has been heightened. Is there a chance the recent ruling will hinder the SDF’s moves in the event of an emergency?

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, who live in the vicinity of the Atsugi base, sought the suspension of flights through administrative litigation. In reaching the conclusion to suspend the flights, the ruling acknowledges that SDF aircraft flights at the base constitute the “exercise of administrative authority,” which can be subject to an administrative suit.

This ruling could affect ongoing aircraft noise pollution court battles involving five bases across the country: Kadena and Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture; Komatsu in Ishikawa Prefecture; Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture; and Yokota in Tokyo. There even are fears that the operation of the bases is at risk of being hampered depending on the results of the lawsuits.

The court judgment said “the noise pollution problem is largely due to U.S. military aircraft,” but stopped short of ordering that the flights of U.S. aircraft be suspended.

It is reasonable that the court has ruled the plaintiffs’ demand for the halting of U.S. flights “is tantamount to seeking suspension of acts by a third party that is not subject to this country’s administrative authority.”

The state has been ordered since a ruling finalized in 1996—in the first of the series of Atsugi-related lawsuits—to pay compensation for the noise pollution from aircraft. The amount of damages ordered under the latest ruling has climbed to about ¥7 billion, the largest in the Atsugi base suits.

To mitigate the noise problem, the government must call for the cooperation of U.S. forces in Japan. Soundproofing measures in the neighborhoods near bases should also be enhanced.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 23, 2014)


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