The U.S. Marine Corps’ Iwakuni Air Station in Yamaguchi Prefecture will resume serving civilian flights around fiscal 2012 as part of a Japanese-U.S. deal on the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said Monday.
“We’ve received requests from Yamaguchi Prefecture and Iwakuni city for the early resumption of civil aviation,” Kawamura told a news conference. “The government intends to take steady steps toward resuming civil aviation at the Iwakuni base.”Four daily round-trip flights linking the base and Tokyo’s Haneda airport are being eyed in accordance with the bilateral agreement, with All Nippon Airways rumored to be taking an interest in operating the flights.
If the plan is realized, it would be the second case in which a U.S. military base in Japan has been in both military and civilian use following the Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture.
The government will “give as much consideration as possible” to local requests that the Iwakuni base resume hosting civil aviation from the fiscal year beginning in April 2012, Kawamura said.
Under the government plan, the transport ministry would build civilian facilities at the base, while the Defense Ministry would make arrangements with U.S. forces on the joint use of facilities and areas there.
The Iwakuni base, which is also being used by Japan’s Maritime Self- Defense Force, had served scheduled commercial flights between 1952 and 1964, according to the Defense Ministry.
Japan and the United States agreed on the military-civilian use of the base at the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee in 2005. Tokyo approved the plan at a Cabinet meeting the following year.