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U.S., Japan Clash Anew Over Aviation, Telecom

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From Associated Press

Trade friction is again heating up between Japan and the United States, this time over air routes between the two countries and U.S. efforts to crack Japan’s telecommunications market.

Negotiators were further apart after a day of talks Thursday on air routes, said chief Japanese negotiator Masahide Ochi of the Ministry of Transportation. U.S. officials refused to comment on the talks.

Japan has refused to grant U.S. carriers new routes from Japan to other Asian nations, saying that a 1952 accord unfairly allows U.S. carriers many more such flights than Japanese counterparts are permitted from the United States.

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The U.S. side has threatened sanctions but has not specified them nor set a deadline. Japan has said it would retaliate. The current talks are scheduled to end Friday but may be extended.

At the crux of the disagreement are seven new routes from Japan requested by cargo carrier Federal Express to the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan.

Japan has asked what it would gain by approving the routes, but U.S. officials have refused to make any promises, saying the current agreement allows the new routes, said a Transport Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Japanese official also charged that United Airlines is violating the accord by allowing more passengers for Asian points to embark in Tokyo than the number of continuing passengers from U.S. cities.

After telecommunications talks, also held Thursday, U.S. officials said they are unhappy with Japan’s refusal to include a new type of mobile telephone system under a 1993 accord.

The personal handy-phone system, or PHS, was launched this month and is expected to be hugely profitable in coming years.

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But Japan’s largest telecommunications company, Nippon Telephone & Telegraph Corp., has refused to put its PHS subsidiary under the accord, which is supposed to ensure that foreign makers gain increasing shares of government and NTT telecommunications procurement.

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