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SECURITY > Okinawa

GOJ demands narrowing SOFA coverage for civilian employees

  • July 1, 2016
  • , Sankei , Lead story
  • Translation

In discussions with the U.S. on ways to prevent crimes by U.S. military personnel, the Japanese government has demanded that the U.S. government exclude American workers at welfare facilities on U.S. bases and contractors working for general facilities from coverage under the Status of Forces Agreement’s provision for U.S. forces “civilian component” that gives precedence to U.S. judicial processes in case of a crime committed by a civilian worker on official duty, sources informed Sankei on June 30. In light of the rape and murder of a woman in Okinawa by a base worker who is a former U.S. Marine, the government wants to narrow the scope of “civilian component” as well as toughen measures for crime prevention.

 

According to several government sources, the Japanese government is demanding the exclusion of workers who mainly serve at establishments selling food and daily necessities and other welfare facilities on U.S. bases and facilities in Japan from the above SOFA provision. Discussions are taking place with regard to narrowing the scope of the “civilian component” by excluding contractors working on electrical equipment, communication cables, and so forth at general facilities.

 

On the other hand, technicians working on equipment used by the U.S. forces for Japan’s defense will continue to be regarded as part of the “civilian component” with SOFA status. With regard to civilian workers supporting the forward deployment of U.S. forces in a contingency, a Kantei [Prime Minister’s Official Residence] source pointed out that “people necessary for Japan’s defense need to have the status of a member of the civilian component.”

 

The Japanese government wants to incorporate the above changes for implementation as an agreement reached by both sides in the minutes of the negotiations or as a new agreement by the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee if actual revision of the SOFA will be difficult.

 

The government is stepping up negotiations to reach an agreement at an early date in light of Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter’s statement on June 2 that “we would like to discuss the pros and cons of improving SOFA implementation.” However, the ongoing negotiations are reportedly making little headway because the U.S. is concerned that the result of the negotiations may affect SOFAs with other countries.

 

In the recent Okinawa incident, the former Marine was an employee of an Internet company on Kadena Air Base. The U.S. side had provided information and cooperated with the Okinawa police’s investigation from the time the former Marine was suspected of committing the crime based on SOFA provisions and implementation rules.

 

While engaging in discussions on the “civilian component” issue, the government is also taking steps to prevent crimes, including the creation of an Okinawa security patrol unit and deploying an additional 100 police officers.

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