TOKYO — The United States is still refusing to grant an operating permit to a new Japanese air cargo carrier that wants to start service April 1, but so far Japan has not threatened to retaliate, an American negotiator said here last week.
The negotiator, Franklin Willis, a deputy assistant secretary of state, also told reporters Friday that the United States wants to expand Los Angeles-Tokyo air service and increase the number of cities in the United States linked by direct flights to Tokyo.
He said the United States is "more determined than ever" to eliminate Japanese government restraints on U.S. airlines serving Japan.
Willis said he does not know whether the new Japanese carrier, Nippon Cargo Airlines (NCA), will be given a permit to begin operations by April 1. But he made it clear that the permit will not be issued if Japan, in return, does not grant new privileges to U.S. carriers serving Japanese cities.
He said that whenever an American carrier has wanted to start new service here or to expand service, "we had to strike a bargain, so we are only asking for the same thing."
Executives of NCA have threatened to ask the Japanese Transportation Ministry to retaliate by stopping service by the American cargo carrier Flying Tigers unless the United States agrees to give it a permit to begin six weekly round-trip Tokyo-San Francisco-New York flights. But Willis said the Japanese government has given no hint of retaliation.
Willis indicated that the United States is seeking to expand service between Japanese cities and the U.S. territories of Guam and Saipan as part of the NCA arrangement. Japan imposes severe restrictions on Continental Air Micronesia flights on those routes.
Willis denied that the NCA talks had ended in a rupture and said the United States is willing to settle the issue without awaiting the conclusion of U.S.-Japan negotiations on revising the 1952 aviation treaty between the two governments. A deadline of Sept. 30 has been set for signing a new treaty.
There will be five more sessions to work out the new overall agreement, he said. An agreement to give NCA a permit could come before March 28, when the next overall session is to be held in Tokyo, he added.
NCA executives have said that any delay beyond April 1 in their bid to inaugurate service to the United States will impose unreasonable financial burdens on the new airline, which is a consortium of 74 companies, including 19 freight-forwarders and six large shipping firms. The firm has bought two Boeing 747-200Fs at a cost of $100 million apiece and has ordered a third.
Willis said NCA "should have guessed that their entry would require negotiations." Ever since the late 1960s, "every new entry has required negotiations," he said.
As an example of a field in which U.S. carriers suffer because of such government constraints, Willis cited charter flights from Japan to the United States. The two governments agreed to permit airlines of each country to fly 300 charters a year, but U.S. carriers will be able to fly only 50 such charter flights this year because of Japanese regulations, he said.
By contrast, Japan will "use all of its 300 flights this year," he said.
"Our carriers flying to Japan meet a whole web of regulations that constrain and impede their ability to compete on equal terms with Japanese carriers," Willis charged.
He said that in the overall talks, the United States is pressing Japan to allow Japan Air Lines and U.S. carriers to begin new direct flights linking Tokyo with cities in the United States that have no non-stop service. One of those cities is Dallas, he said.
Also being sought, he said, is additional service for carriers of both countries to and from Los Angeles, Hawaii, and Portland.
Other Flights Sought
Bids by Continental Airlines to inaugurate Houston-Los Angeles-Tokyo flights, by Delta Airlines to serve Atlanta-Los Angeles-Tokyo, and by Aloha Airlines to begin Hawaii-Tokyo service also are at issue, he said.
He disclosed that the United States would like to win Japanese permission to serve Fukuoka, Sapporo, Niigata, and Kagoshima in addition to the four Japanese cities to which U.S. carriers now fly: Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and Naha on the island of Okinawa.