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Japan bans Boeing 737 Max planes

Announcement follows US ban as list of countries to take the step surpasses 50

Garuda Indonesia's lone Boeing 737 Max 8 is parked at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport near Jakarta on March 13.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Japan is banning Boeing 737 Max 8 jets from its airspace amid safety concerns that arose following a cash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight earlier this week, Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism announced on Thursday.

The Ethiopian crash was the second in five months involving the 737 Max 8. A Lion Air flight went down in Indonesia in October. Both crashes came shortly after takeoff and share other similarities.

Governments began grounding the aircraft almost immediately after news of the Ethiopian crash first surfaced. The U.S., home to Boeing, held out until Wednesday. Japan, the latest country to take the step, joins more than 50 others in doing so.

No Japanese airline uses the Boeing 737 Max. But five airlines that fly to Japanese airports do use the jets, including China's Xiamen Airlines and Singapore's SilkAir. No delays in these flight services have resulted from the grounding as all five airlines have switched to alternative aircraft, the transport ministry said.

Japan's ban came in a response to the U.S. move. "The country that designed the aircraft is essentially responsible for its safety," a ministry official said, adding that the U.S. has the best knowledge about the aircraft.

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