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Editorial: Japanese government should call for SOFA revision

  • 2015-08-26 15:00:00
  • , Tokyo Shimbun
  • Translation

(Tokyo Shimbun: August 26, 2015 – p. 5)


 The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) stands in the way of the investigation to determine the cause of the explosion that occurred at the U.S. military facility in Sagamihara. The Japanese police and fire department do not have the authority to investigate the incident. The Japanese government should request that the U.S. government revise the SOFA.


 The SOFA stipulates the legal status and other matters concerning the U.S. Forces Japan in accordance with the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. It gives the U.S. military personnel privileged legal status in Japan. Every time an incident or accident involving the U.S. military occurs, the SOFA’s problematic nature is pointed out, but it has not been revised once since it was concluded in 1960.


 Local governments and residents who live near the Sagami General Depot where the explosion took place have serious concerns as to why it occurred and how the U.S. military will prevent a recurrence.


 However, the SOFA stipulates that within U.S. military facilities, the U.S. side may take all necessary measures for installation, operations, security, and administration, as well as police authority., Japanese police can conduct search and inspect within the facilities with consent from the U.S. military, but since the Japanese side does not have investigative authority over the U.S. military in the first place, Japanese police cannot enforce laws there.


 Sagamihara Mayor Toshio Kayama expressed at a press conference that he will call for the government to revise the SOFA so that the fire department and police will be able to take part in investigations into the causes of incidents and accidents.


 The governors’ council on base affairs comprising 14 prefectures that host U.S. military bases, including Kanagawa, Ibaraki, Saitama, Chiba, Tokyo, Shizuoka, and Okinawa, has also repeatedly called for revising the SOFA.


 It goes without saying that mayors and governors, who are expected to ensure safe living conditions for residents, are calling for revising the SOFA. However, the Japanese government has never proposed to the U.S. government that the SOFA be revised, only that its implementation be improved.


 Japan cannot exercise its sovereignty, including s investigative authority and jurisdiction, within the U.S. military bases in Japan on account of the SOFA.


 We cannot help but wonder why the Abe administration, which attaches importance to Japan’s sovereignty, ignores calls for revising the SOFA and instead focuses on passing security legislation bills that will support the U.S. military.


 Incidents caused by U.S. military servicemen have occurred repeatedly in Okinawa Prefecture, where 74% of the U.S. military facilities are concentrated. Along with base reduction, the people there are strongly hoping for revision of the SOFA, which reminds them of the past U.S. military control and extraterritoriality.


 If calls for revising the SOFA are not addressed, the U.S. military bases will be surrounded by the residents’ hostilities, which may hinder the smooth administration of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. The Japanese government should be aware of the urgent situation that requires SOFA revision. (Abridged)

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