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KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Air traffic over Okinawa soon will be directed by Japanese air traffic controllers, for the first time since the end of World War II.

After years of training Japanese controllers at Kadena Air Base, the U.S. Air Force will hand over the Radar Approach Control system by the end of the month, according to a spokesman for Air Traffic Services System Planning Division in the Civil Aviation Bureau of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

All that’s left to do is complete some paperwork, Akitoshi Tanimoto said this week. The Japanese controllers will work out of Naha International Airport.

“For the past five years, we have worked hard for the shift,” he said, adding that the deadline was agreed upon by both governments in 2007.

The long-range radar system monitors the airspace within an 80-mile radius of Okinawa.

The U.S.-Japan joint committee overseeing the change announced Thursday night that the radar approach control turnover will be March 31.

Once the handoff is made, the Japanese controllers will handle long-range radar control before ceding responsibility for final approach to the local air traffic controllers at Kadena, Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Naha and two smaller civilian airports on islands off Okinawa.

The Kadena Air Traffic Complex handled 263,000 flights in 2009. More than 300 civilian aircraft take off and land daily from Naha International Airport, representing about 75 percent of the traffic.

Naha International Airport is the fifth-busiest airport in Japan. Only the Haneda, Narita, Fukuoka and Nagoya airports are busier, according to the Civil Aviation Bureau.

Stars and Stripes reporter Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this story.

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