TOKYO — An association of Japanese airline companies has asked Japanese government ministers to seek an early return of radar approach control at Yokota Air Base, according to news release from the group.

The Scheduled Airlines Association of Japan submitted the letter Thursday in response to the recently announced U.S.-Japan plans for military realignment; the plans say returning a portion or all of the airspace west of Tokyo should be discussed.

“Yokota airspace has prevented efficient flight routes to be set for flights flying in and out of both Haneda and Narita airports,” the release stated. The association said the problem creates air traffic congestion and related flight delays.

The association called for part or all of the airspace to be returned earlier than 2008, the year set in the realignment agreement to return part of the airspace. The association said great economic and social effects can be expected from the return.

Officials at Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, which received the petition, said they were also seeking a revision of airspace due to a scheduled expansion of Haneda airport in 2009.

Officials at the foreign ministry said the ministry will continue to push for an early return of the airspace.

Air Force Maj. Richelle Dowdell, a U.S. Forces Japan spokeswoman at Yokota, said Friday the U.S. military hasn’t been informed about any recent petition and declined further comment.

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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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