U.S. urged to let Japan use Yokota Air Base

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The United States should open its air base in Tokyo to civilian uses to improve relations with Japan and develop opportunities to expand operational readiness and support throughout the country, says a report from the Center for a New American Security think tank.

The report (.pdf) suggests the United States and Japan consider making the Yokota Air Base in Tokyo available for civilian aviation uses and refine its military operations to preserve operational readiness. It also hopes that such a shift would improve the image of the military in the eyes of the Japanese public.

Dual use would help solve some of the airport shortages that Japan currently faces and may open the door to more U.S. military use of civilian airports in Japan, suggests the report. A dispersed approach to military operations would better align itself with the current Pacific campaign refocus.

Up to 5.6 million passengers could fly into and out of Yokota by 2022, and adding a third major airport to Tokyo could also help its bid for the 2022 Olympics.

The authors hope the availability of civilian access to Yokota "would also set a valuable precedent for other bases in the Asia-Pacific region." 

The report says that the time is right for a dual-use base as "the present domestic climate [in Japan] favors a strong alliance" thanks to U.S. involvement in response to the 2011 tsunami and Chinese-caused tensions in the East China Sea.

By closely monitoring the infrastructure development and integration between military and civil activities, the report says Yokota can avoid undermining military control while it adds both more military and civil capacity. It suggests following a dual use guide and use operations at the Misawa Air Base, also in Japan, as an example. Part of this includes slowly introducing civilian trials and limited business aviation, and attempts to combine efforts with agreements that tie civil aviation at Yokota with military access to civilian airports during contingency operations.

For more:
- download the full "Civil-Military Use of U.S. Bases in Japan" report (.pdf)

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