Japan, U.S. agree to ease limits on navigation in area off Okinawa

The Japanese and U.S. governments formally agreed Thursday to ease restrictions on navigation in an area used for U.S. military training off Okinawa's main island, enabling fishing under certain conditions.

The bilateral accord now allows vessels to navigate in the area when no U.S. military exercises are conducted. Until now, fishing boats have effectively been barred from entering the area.

Under the deal, the U.S. military will notify Japan's Defense Ministry when and what time it will not conduct exercises over the subsequent two weeks in the "Hotel-Hotel training area" off the east coast of Okinawa in southern Japan, according to their agreement.

In the event the U.S. military is in urgent need of holding exercises, it will give notice to the ministry 48 hours in advance.

Tokyo and Washington will review their accord within a year and consider expanding the coverage of the area for navigation and some fishing.

The ministry, U.S. military, local fishermen's unions and concerned parties will discuss further details such as when fishing will begin and vessels can navigate.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said at a news conference that the two countries' agreement will "lead to easing the burden of Okinawa in a tangible manner."

The Japanese and U.S. governments agreed in principle to ease the restrictions last December.