Record damages awarded over US military base aircraft noise in Japan

Government to pay $266million to about 22,000 residents


Afp February 23, 2017
PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO, JAPAN: A Japanese court on Thursday awarded record compensation for thousands of residents near the United States'(US) military base over aircraft noise.

Furthermore, the court rejected the residents demand to suspend flights at odd hours.

An Okinawa court ordered the Japanese government to pay $266million in damages to about 22,000 residents near Kadena Air Base -- more than three times the highest previous award over the military noise.

Presiding Judge Tetsuya Fujikura rapped the government, saying the noise burden on residents had continued despite a separate 2009 ruling calling for improvement.

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The damage has "caused mental pain, disturbance to sleep and an increase in the risk of negative health effects from developing high blood pressure," he said.

Residents near US military bases in Japan have long complained about noise levels, particularly take-offs and landings at night and early morning.

The 2009 ruling, which covered a different set of Okinawa plaintiffs, said: "the government has a political responsibility to improve the noise situation" even if it has no control over the US military, Jiji said.

"The government's argument was not accepted fully by the court," top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said while referring to the compensation award.

He did not say if the government would appeal the ruling.

The previous record damage award was 8.2 billion yen and covered the Atsugi Air Base, south of Tokyo, that is jointly operated by the US and Japan.

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In a victory for the government, however, the Okinawa court refused to order a suspension of early morning and late night flights, following previous rulings on US military noise complaints that have cited the government's inability to control American military activities.

The US has several military bases in Japan and stations about 47,000 troops in the country as part of a joint security treaty.

Anti-base sentiment runs high on Okinawa, which accounts for less than one per cent of Japan's total land area.

But the southern island in the East China Sea hosts about 71 per cent of land allotted for US bases in Japan and more than half the troop total.

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