A Japanese court rejected a government appeal yesterday and ordered it to pay residents near a US air base a record 4 billion yen (US$34.7 million) in compensation for the noise of military jets, a court official said.
The Tokyo High Court upheld a 2002 district court ruling in favour of most of the 3,500 residents who complained about the jet noise from Atsugi base near the capital, a court spokeswoman said on condition of anonymity, citing protocol.
She refused to give further details.
The amount awarded is the highest in a series of lawsuits over noise caused by the US military, according to Japanese media reports.
In 2002, the district court ordered the government to pay 2.7 billion yen (US$23.5 million) in compensation.
The high court ordered more yesterday, saying the plaintiffs were entitled to payment covering the four years since the original ruling.
Judge Toshimi Ouchi said the noise around the Atsugi base has not improved to date, forcing the residents to "suffer damages that go far beyond the level anyone can tolerate," public broadcaster NHK said.
In April, Tokyo and Washington agreed on a sweeping realignment of US troops in Japan, giving Tokyo greater responsibility for regional security.
Under the plan, the US aircraft carrier wing at Atsugi is slated to move to another base Iwakuni, 725 kilometres southwest of Tokyo by 2014.
The Atsugi base, primarily a US naval air facility, is also used by Japan's Self-Defence Forces.
Yoshiyuki Jibiki, chief of general affairs at the Defence Facilities Administration Agency, which oversees US military facilities in Japan, said it was "unfortunate" the court did not support the government's view, but promised to "improve the living environment for residents near the Atsugi air field and gain their understanding."
Japan hosts about 50,000 US forces, roughly half of them on the southern island of Okinawa. Residents near US bases have long complained about noise and crime.
In 2002, Japan's top court rejected an appeal by residents against the US Air Force to compensate them for aircraft noise near Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo, saying Japanese plaintiffs had no right to seek compensation from the US military, citing a bilateral security pact.
Source: China Daily