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Shedding light on U.S.-Japan Joint Committee

TV-Asahi’s “Hodo Station” aired a 12-minute report intended to “unravel the mystery” surrounding the U.S.-Japan Joint Committee, which meets twice a month behind closed doors to discuss a broad range of issues related to U.S. military operations in Japan. The broadcaster took issue with some of the agreements reached at the panel that it claimed “go beyond the Japanese Constitution.”  Such “problematic” agreements include one reached in 1953 that allows U.S. military officials to access Japanese public or private property “without prior approval” for the purpose of protecting U.S. property and another reached in 1953 that says Japan will not enforce its primary jurisdiction over off-duty offenses by U.S. service members with the “exception of cases that are deemed extremely important for Japan.” MOFA reportedly told the network that the latter arrangement is still valid.


Pointing out that uniformed officials customarily represent the American side while the Japanese participants are civilian bureaucrats from MOFA and MOD, former Prime Minister Hatoyama stressed that this “asymmetrical representation makes it seem as though Japan is still occupied by the U.S. military.” The network explained that the GOJ has chosen not to call for SOFA revision based on the assumption that the U.S. would not accept it because of the potential implications for corresponding legal arrangements for U.S. personnel stationed in other countries, such as Germany and South Korea. Regular commentator Goto, a former Kyodo reporter, insisted that it is high time for Tokyo to demand SOFA revision by capitalizing on President-elect Trump’s call for a review of the U.S.-Japan security arrangements.


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