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US grants Japan permission to open Tokyo airspace

The US controls swathes of airspace above Japan
The US controls swathes of airspace above Japan

The Japanese government has had to ask the USA’s permission to open a series of new commercial air routes from Haneda International Airport – even though they pass through the skies above Tokyo.

This is because the US still controls vast swathes of airspace over the Japanese capital, as part of agreements made at the end of World War II.

But Kyodo News reports that the US will now permit more commercial flights to operate through its airspace ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. This could potentially lead to the US returning more, if not all of the airspace, in future, the Japanese news agency reported government sources as saying.

The so-called Yokota Rapcon airspace – named after a US military base in Japan – covers parts of Tokyo and eight other Japanese prefectures, and current restrictions on flights operating through this airspace are leading to air traffic congestion.

Under the new plans, the Japanese government wants to increase the number of annual arrival and departure slots at Haneda by up to 39,000 in time for the 2020 Olympics. It has also drawn up four new routes, three of which go through the US-controlled airspace. Kyodo reported its sources as confirming that these three routes have already been approved by the US.

The new routes will boost the airport’s departure and landing capacity as they would allow two aircraft to land simultaneously on two runways, the sources added.

The Yokota Rapcon airspace has been under US military control since August 1945, when American forces took over Japan’s flight control operations at the end of the war. Parts of the airspace were returned in 1992 and 2008.