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Gov't ordered by court to curb SDF night flights, pay damages over noise at Atsugi base

23 Comments

The Tokyo High Court has upheld a lower court ruling ordering the Japanese government to implement a curfew for night and early morning flights from the Atsugi air base by the Self-Defense Forces.

The court, in its ruling on Thursday, also awarded the SDF to pay ¥9.4 billion in damages for noise to about 6,900 affected residents who had filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government in 2012, Fuji TV reported.

The U.S. Navy and the SDF share the Atsugi base in Kanagawa Prefecture, but the court's ruling does not apply to the U.S. military.

The presiding judge said that the noise damage will continue until the U.S. military is relocated to Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture and ordered the Japanese government to pay damages to local residents that will be caused by future night flights.

The court ordered the base to implement a curfew on flights from 8 p.m. until 8 a.m.

This was the first case among all of the base noise lawsuits nationwide in which a court awarded compensation for future damages.

Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said the verdict is hard to accept and that the ministry will consider filing an appeal.

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How many of them were living there before the base was built?

3 ( +6 / -3 )

so North Korea can bomb it with impunity at nighttime?

2 ( +8 / -6 )

My understanding from the previous case was that all of the Japanese flights are things like cargo and personnel transport (rather than training flights or patrols etc) so there was no legitimate defence reason why these types of regularly scheduled flights should operate at night. The night flights were more of a convenience for the ASDF but they affected the residents disproportionately. But I haven't been following this too closely, does anyone have any more info about what exactly the ASDF does at Atsugi?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

The US Air Force in not in Atsugi Base, get your facts straight.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

It is real rare to hear Japanese planes and jets before 8 am and after 9 pm. The Navy fighter jets are suppose to stop at 9pm and usually do.

The annoying aspect of the US fighter jets is that they take off into the wind and land into it, thus, they fly into the North in the morning and land from the North in the afternoon for touch and go practice as these are carrier based. They could really reduce noise by stopping the traditional fly over and come around before landing.

I was in a class action lawsuit too. All my windows were replaced with double glazed sound proof windows, door, etc. Total bill came to 400 man...my payment ¥0

2 ( +4 / -2 )

The US military ignores all Japanese court rulings. Before long there will be night practice again, the premise to save the US money. From the US "it is only for 14 days and the locals must sacrifice for the American good".

-4 ( +3 / -6 )

@YuriOtani:

The US military ignores all Japanese court rulings.

I am puzzled by this comment as it relates to this particular ruling, given the following in the article:

the court’s ruling does not apply to the U.S. military.

I believe the judge already acknowledged that night flights by the U.S. may continue and that the curfew only applies to flights by the ASDF. However, to the extent that night flights by the U.S. continue, the Japanese must pay damages to the residents affected.

So, my understanding is that there is nothing for the U.S. military to ignore here. They can continue their night flights. I am sure that the Japanese government may have conversations with them about what they do or do not do, but does not fall under the purview of the court.

The experts can correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that the Status of Forces Agreement in place between the U.S. and Japan governing the U.S. military presence in Japan is the governing agreement. Under this agreement, the two countries agree to how the U.S. military will/can operate in Japan. It is my understanding that Japanese courts cannot directly modify any aspect of the agreement. The only thing they can do is to indirectly go after the arrangements by taking action against the Japanese government. As I believe is the case here.

So, again, whilst I understand the idea that the U.S. is not constrained by Japanese court rulings, this is not because the U.S. military "ignores" rulings. It is because of the legal framework that is in place that intentionally removes the U.S. military from being directly constrained by Japanese court rulings, except where and when it is previously agreed that Japanese courts can have oversight. Such as in the cases of U.S. military members who commit grave crimes while in Japan.

I am not opining on whether this is right or good or not. I am just outlining the facts as I understand them.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@Harry_GattoJUL. 31, 2015 - 05:12PM JST How many of them were living there before the base was built?

'''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''

Read article. This year decision Why you think it was decision before base was built?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Atsugi is the home base for the Japan Maritime Self Defense Forces (JMSDF) and not an Air Self Defense Forces base. JMSDF operates patrol aircraft like P-3's and search and rescue aircrafts. It is also the host for the US Naval Air Facility Atsugi.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The P3 aircraft do touch and goes all the time. They are noisy. They also have a four engine rather large jet which practices all the time. The big noise is when the the US jets are in. Crazy noisy.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It is all about money. People are currently paid by the government for being in the noise designated impacted areas. They have to complain to get more money.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

That 4 engine jet in the picture is the only one of that kind flying out of Atsugi.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

augh, the agony of defeat but keeping it where it's real pay me...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@yusi The US military ignores all Japanese court rulings

'''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''

????? Whatcxourt orders? Don'take up lies.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The US Military is outside of Japanese Jurisdiction and do what they please. The American bases might as well be located in America. If the USA wants to fly F-18 fighters into Asugi, Futenma, Yokota, etc at 3 am there is nothing Japan can do but protest. If courts order fines it is the Japanese government that pays them. I remember a American General calling the Governor of Okinawa "a wimp". So there is nothing the government of Japan can do short of canceling the defense treaty.

-2 ( +1 / -2 )

@YuriOtani:

The anti-U.S. military sentiments in Japan, particularly in those communities impacted by the bases/facilities used by the U.S. military is long-standing. As is the complaint that the U.S. military disregards Japanese laws and does what it wants.

I am not unsympathetic to this view. However, to be clear, it is not that the U.S. does what it wants without regards to Japanese law. It does what it is permitted within the context of the SOFA in place. And this agreement is between the Japanese national government as the host country and the U.S.

There is no question that the SOFA gives wide latitude to the U.S. military to conduct operations with discretion. This is most noticeable in Okinawa given the significant presence of U.S. military there but obviously comes into play with respect to night flight operations at Atsugi. Interestingly, one of the biggest impacts to Japanese living in the Kanto area is one they may not even be aware of and that has to do with traffic control over the airspace over the Kanto area. The agreement between the U.S. and Japan designates that U.S. traffic controllers at Yokota control certain airspace over western Tokyo which means that commercial flights have to take detours to avoid this airspace.

That said, the agreement between the U.S. and Japan is just that, an agreement. Every host country to U.S. military forces can push for amendments to the SOFA in place. And, in the decades since World War 2 and particularly since the return of Okinawa to Japanese control, there has been an ongoing effort to reduce the impact of the U.S. military footprint, to consolidate military facilities and return land to Japan, to adjust operations to minimise friction with the host communities, and to recognise that in certain situations, U.S. military personnel should be subject to Japanese jurisdiction if they commit crimes.

Ultimately, though, the Japanese national government could take a more aggressive stance with the U.S. government and demand certain changes to SOFA. Other host countries have done it and, in fact, one need look no further than the Philippines for an extreme example (complete withdrawal due to a refusal by the host country to renew/extend the agreement) or South Korea as a less extreme example (demands for modifications to the SOFA by the host country).

So, it is not that the only thing that Japan can do is protest. It can actually take action and demand changes. And this is a question for the Japanese people to ask their government. Of course, like so many other things involving the national government in Japan, it is hard for those without power to affect what the Japanese national government does.

Below is a link to an interesting article on this topic:

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2013/08/05/issues/sofa-an-unequal-treaty-that-trumps-the-constitution/#.VbxKGHjYmTA

1 ( +1 / -1 )

Well, we'll have to hope that no maritime disaster strikes between the judge's hours.

JapanGal,

The annoying aspect of the US fighter jets is that they take off into the wind and land into it, thus, they fly into the North in the morning and land from the North in the afternoon for touch and go practice as these are carrier based. They could really reduce noise by stopping the traditional fly over and come around before landing.

This practice increases the lift over the wings, and means the planes can land at a slower, and safer speed. If they went with the wind their landings would be faster, and they would need the runway to be extended.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

zone2surf: in fact, one need look no further than the Philippines for an extreme example (complete withdrawal due to a refusal by the host country to renew/extend the agreement)

Yeah, the Philippines, now playing host in their western islands to the People's Republic of China.

Japan's getting a great deal. Any cash they're putting into has got to be worth much less than what they're getting out of the deal.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@turbotsat:

Yeah, the Philippines, now playing host in their western islands to the People's Republic of China.

Indeed. Every host country has to consider the trade-offs when considering how to approach this. There is no question that in the post-Marcos era, there was great antipathy towards the U.S. military in the Philippines which resulted in their decision. Which I believe they have lived to regret in many respects, perhaps no better evidenced than by the expanding Visiting Forces Agreement in place between the U.S. and the Philippines.

Japan's getting a great deal.

In the broad sense, I believe you are right. Japan being under the U.S. security umbrella has afforded it protection over the last 70 years (not to mention a greatly reduced defence spending requirement) and this still continues to be the case, I believe. However, that is from a national security/national policy perspective. It obviously has not come without costs to Japan. And those impacted by the U.S. military presence at a community and/or personal level may see the cost/benefit analysis somewhat differently than a Japanese national government bureaucrat or politician sitting in Tokyo.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@yuri: many people are against US military bases in Japan but you don't have to write lies. Stick to facts.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The US Navy does not fly F-18's in Atsugi. They follow the flight restrictions and does not conduct flight operations at certain hours. The noise must be from JMSDF flight operations.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

pangas That is why court ordered to J Govy?
1 ( +1 / -0 )

pangas, these US Navy squadrons fly F-18E Super Hornets into Atsugi and they are based on the USS George Washington. Strike Fighter Squadron 27 Royal Maces, Strike Fighter Squadron 102 The Diamondbacks, Strike Fighter Squadron 115 Eagles, Strike Fighter Squadron 195 Dambusters. NAS Atsugi is the home of aircraft for the carrier based in Japan. Electronic Attack Squadron 141 Shadowhawks has EA-6B Prowler and EA-18G Growler aircraft. Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 115 Liberty Bells with E-2C Hawkeye 2000 aircraft. So there are a lot of US Navy F-18 Aircraft at NAS Atsugi and these aircraft are LOUD! Fyi there is nothing to prevent night landing practice at Atsugi. The US Navy now has late night and early morning takeoffs and landings. U.S. military planes account for the majority of the noise at the Atsugi base.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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