The Okinawa Prefectural Government (OPG) will send officials of its Military Base Affairs Division to Italy and Germany, which host U.S. forces like Japan, in January to study the operational conditions of U.S. military bases in Europe. The mission will focus on comparing how other countries deal with crimes and accidents involving U.S. military personnel with cases in Japan to highlight the “unfairness” of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), in order to boost the Japanese public’s support for Okinawa’s demand for a drastic revision of the SOFA. This was revealed by Kiichiro Jahana, director of the governor’s Executive Office, in response to a question from Tsutomu Kinjo (Komeito) during general interpellations at the November session of the Prefectural Assembly.
According to Jahana, the mission will focus on studying the question of exclusive jurisdiction on U.S. bases.
Under bilateral agreements on the stationing of U.S. forces signed with Italy and Germany, domestic Italian and German laws also apply to the U.S. military’s activities. In Italy, the Italian military has jurisdiction over U.S. military bases and Italian commanders have unlimited access to U.S. military facilities. In Germany, the federal and local governments have the right to enter U.S. military facilities.
In the NATO member nations, the armed forces of the host country and the U.S. forces form a joint investigation committee and conduct joint investigations when accidents involving U.S. military aircraft occur.
Jahana explained during the interpellation that the mission will study three aspects in particular: 1) provisions of the Japan-U.S. SOFA and the NATO SOFA; 2) related bilateral agreements; and 3) differences in handling specific cases of crimes and accidents. He said: “It is important to show how disadvantageous Japan’s SOFA is compared to those of other countries.”
The OPG said that it had commissioned the translation and case studies of Italian and German agreements relating to the stationing of U.S. forces on Dec. 6 at a fee of 3.86 million yen.
Last September, Governor Takeshi Onaga revised the OPG’s demands regarding SOFA revision for the first time in 17 years and has asked the government to implement these changes. (Slightly abridged)