politics

Japan eyes revision of U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement

40 Comments

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera says the Japanese government is considering asking the U.S. government to discuss a revision to the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).

Onodera made the remarks on a TV program over the weekend.

The proposal is seen as a way of securing Okinawan Gov Hirokazu Nakaima's approval for the preliminary landfill work for the proposed new site of the Futenma air base.

Nakaima is currently hospitalized in Tokyo but made the request during a visit to Tokyo on Dec 17.

The Okinawan governor has long called for a revision of SOFA to help relieve the burden of U.S. forces in Okinawa. However, U.S. government spokeswoman Marie Harf said at a press briefing in Washington last week that the U.S. has no intention of revising SOFA.

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40 Comments
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Yeah.... ummmm... Japan is now upping its defense budget to buy more from the US, and is more than ever dependent on the US military presence in regards to China's actions in particular. If there's going to be any revision, it'll be in favor of more freedom for the US military presence in Japan.

-11 ( +4 / -15 )

USA lives okinawa base. They can even hide bodies.

-17 ( +4 / -21 )

overchan: "USA lives okinawa base."

What does this even mean?

"They can even hide bodies."

Maybe it was Japanese staff who hid the body in the current news. It's completely unclear, overchan. The only thing clear is your typical and unjustified anti-American stance. Would you rather be China? because without the US presence you will be.

3 ( +12 / -9 )

yea I wish I was in my Japanese Military

-10 ( +1 / -11 )

the*

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

And here come to end of Abe as PM. Don't go agains the US.

-4 ( +5 / -9 )

This is not about going aginst the US. This is about Japan having jurisdiction within Japan.

1 ( +11 / -10 )

tinawatanabe: "This is not about going aginst the US. This is about Japan having jurisdiction within Japan."

Either way, nothing's going to change at the moment, with what's going on in the Pacific, and Japan might just have to live up to its twice-promised plan to relocate the US base.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

Okinawan people would be happy if J-police can join in investigations.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

Okinawan people would be happy if J-police can join in investigations.

What investigations are you talking about?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Investigations in general when US accidents or crimes happen in the same way Japanese accidents or crimes happen.

-1 ( +8 / -9 )

...relieve the burden of U.S. forces in Okinawa.

This IS good news, for the burden U.S. forces in Okinawa bear is becoming increasingly heavy.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

Laguna,

If the "burden" borne by US forces in Okinawa is too great to bear, they are welcome to go elsewhere!

The burden borne by Okinawans is far, far greater than tight rules about drinking off base.

As for SOFA, it is 70 years out of date.

Either the US military upgrade it to suit the 21st century or the US military can, as suggested above, relocate.

Preferably to somewhere on US soil.

Okinawans do not want them here.

-4 ( +9 / -13 )

Investigations in general when US accidents or crimes happen in the same way Japanese accidents or crimes happen.

Investigations about accidents or crimes on US bases are investigated by the controlling authorities, the US. Investigations about accidents or crimes off of US bases are investigated by the controlling authorities, the Japanese police. This is a general rule with foreign bases in any country, including Japanese bases in other countries.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Don't go against US is correct. Or would you rather face China and Russia alone?

If you want our help, maybe you shouldn't complain so much. Japan does want US's help, doesn't it? If you want the lives of US marines and military personnel to stand on your walls to protect you, then you will need to bear certain levels of burden and the collateral that come with it.

US military base means US jurisdiction. This is true in every oversea military bases in every nation.

There is no free lunch in the world.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Pentagon now ready to be franchise like Mac.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Here we go again... Okinawa feels left out of the news, again...

2 ( +6 / -4 )

OK, Mr Onodera, let's get specific - what articles or agreed views of the SOFA do you want to change? There are 28 basic articles and untold number of agreed views that have been bilaterally negotiated at each bi-weekly Joint Committee meeting since the agreement was signed in 1960.

Just understand that it's a "two way street" - while you have changes you want, understand the US has changes it desires too......

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Investigations about accidents or crimes on US bases are investigated by the controlling authorities, the US. Investigations about accidents or crimes off of US bases are investigated by the controlling authorities, the Japanese police.

When that helicopter crashed into a university building in Ginowan - off base, on Japanese land, in a civilian area - the US military authorities closed off the site, refused Japanese police access not only to the immediate crash site, but to school buildings, and stopped traffic on the adjacent road for four days. Looks like the general rule doesn't apply in Okinawa.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

When that helicopter crashed into a university building in Ginowan - off base, on Japanese land, in a civilian area - the US military authorities closed off the site, refused Japanese police access not only to the immediate crash site, but to school buildings, and stopped traffic on the adjacent road for four days. Looks like the general rule doesn't apply in Okinawa.

Good point. The problem in this case was that the accident involved military hardware and the U.S. Japan Status of Forces Agreement specifies that the right of management of U.S. property is under U.S. jurisdiction. If the Japanese side wishes to inspect, it requires U.S. permission. This is to protect military secrets. When I wrote of accidents and crimes, I was referring to accidents and crimes involving civilian equipment. However, you bring up a very good point with regard to the blocking of access to school buildings and the surrounding area. That does not seem to come under the rules that I listed. My assumption here is that because the accident involved US property, the US government felt it was in its rights to block access. The lack of reaction by the Tokyo government also suggests at least tacit agreement.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

The Status of Forces Agreement is not just a matter for Okinawa. No revision is necessary. (North Korea's repeated eerie provocations and China with ambitions of territorial expansion can not be denied.)

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Getting ready to kick China's butt!

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

There should be no problem for the U.S. to give what Japan is asking for. After all it is the U.S. that has been egging Japan against China. One thing other countries somehow fail to rcognise from observations of American global military actions is that it always uses other countries to fight their battles so if anyone does get hurt it is never America but the ones used. Japan will soon be taught a life-long lesson it will not forget.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

When that helicopter crashed into a university building in Ginowan - off base, on Japanese land, in a civilian area - the US military authorities closed off the site, refused Japanese police access not only to the immediate crash site, but to school buildings, and stopped traffic on the adjacent road for four days. Looks like the general rule doesn't apply in Okinawa.

The Japanese police do not conduct investigations of any airplane crashes in Japan the Aircraft and Railway Accidents Investigation Commission (ARAIC) investigates the cause of the crash, My point being that crash sites are often very dangerous and you don't want a the local politicians and police running about a crash site trying to conduct "their investigation" when they are not trained or qualified to handle post crash health hazards. It was a US military aircraft so the US investigated and responded to the crash, If it was JSDF they would have done the same, a Civilian flight ARAIC would have investigated and the JSDF probably would have cleaned up the crash. The Japanese police only role was to secure the site (block off access) which they did after Tokyo had to remind them ,if you can recall when the US military removed the Helo it was Japanese police stopping the protesters from blocking their way.

The issue we have is if the local politicians really thought that if they got access to the site or the crashed helo (many tried) with no aviation background they could have aided the investigation, the answer being no of course so we see that in fact it was Okinawa not following the SOFA status agreement and was not trying to conduct a serious investigation only staging a political stunt to keep them elected for the next decade.

Guidelines Regarding Off-Base US Military Aircraft Accidents in Japan http://www.mofa.go.jp/region/n-america/us/security/guideline3.htm

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Tyler,

Thank you for that information.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Tyler,

Thank you for posting the references.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The proposal is seen as a way of securing Okinawan Gov Hirokazu Nakaima’s approval for the preliminary landfill work for the proposed new site of the Futenma air base.

Or rather it can be seen as a way of nudging the US into revising SOFA, which presently waives the US responsibility to restore the soil condition of the base even if polluted with dioxin and others to what it used to be. Abe is fairly deft to make it a bargaining point for Futenma air base relocation.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I would like to echo slumdog's comments, but -

Access Denied

You don't have permission to access "[no URL]" on this server.

Can't even see the guidelines? Is this Abe-kun's secrecy law kicking in already?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Surprise, surprise and surprise.

Former Secretary of State Clinton was talking to revise SOFA and modify criminal legal jurisdiction given to Japan.. This is not good for Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

During WWII when the US attacked Okinawa a lot of land was taken from people who owned the property & were never compensated. Today, the previous owners are not asking for compensation but want their property back. In my opinion, we should remove our troops from some countries & yet maintain friendship with the neighboring countries. My understanding is we have troops in 32 countries in Africa - why?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Accidents need to be investigated by the Self Defense Force. You say secrets? Like what secrets on mostly Marine helicopters, like the US does not trust Japan. Second the bases in Japan need to be run by the Self Defense Force. The US occupies Japan and is not a quest. No the SOFA needs to be revised to reflect Japan as a ally and friend vs foe.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This article is terrible. It says absolutely nothing except they want to change it; not one detail about how they want to change it. Is this news? The comments are more news that the article itself.

Moderator: This is because the Japanese government hasn't said what they want to change.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think what Okinawan people wants to see it changed most is about when crimes happen. If I remember correctly, when rapes and murders by US soldiers happened, Japan could not try them in the way they normally do.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

If I remember correctly, when rapes and murders by US soldiers happened, Japan could not try them in the way they normally do.

I do not think you are remembering correctly. You might just want to look these things up instead of trying to remember them.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/03/01/us-navy-sailors-okinawa-rape/1955873/

Seaman Christopher Browning, of Athens, Texas, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Skyler Dozierwalker, of Muskogee, Oklahoma, were found guilty by the Naha District Court of raping and robbing a woman in her 20s in a parking lot in October. Both admitted committing the crime. Browning, 24, was sentenced to 10 years and Dozierwalker, 23, received nine years.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Okinawa base is a cemetery for helicopters and unknown human bodies. It is secretive and protected by outdated SOFA.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

During WWII when the US attacked Okinawa a lot of land was taken from people who owned the property & were never compensated.

Nonsense. Almost all Japanese farmers and peasants were tenants before the war, the land was "owned" by a minority of absentee landlords. It wasn't until after the war when America insisted on land reforms that normal people had an fair opportunity to own land. You will find very few Japanese farmers who survived the war who have hard feelings against America, which allowed them to own their farms rather than pay rent, as their families had been forced to do for generations before.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

slumdog the reason they went to jail was because the JP bagged them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

slumdog the reason they went to jail was because the JP bagged them.

The ones in 1995 were also jailed in Japanese jails. Police in Okinawa a 22 year old serviceman with the U.S. Air Force after he was seen vandalizing a parked car in June of this year. In November 2012, a soldier was arrested by the Okinawan police for traspassing. In February of 2012, a drunken soldier was arrested by Japanese police for driving under the influence of alcohol and causing an accident. Crimes outside the bases are dealt with outside the bases, as it should be. The claim above was that US military were not being tried or punished under Japanese law. However, they have been. That was my point. It is better to discuss this issue with facts and reason.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan is unlikely to get the U.S. to agree to a modification of the existing SOFA. Yes, there are provisions in the SOFA for the modification of any article in the SOFA, but they require both parties to agree to the modification. Any modification is invariably going to result in the U.S. having to spend more than they do now.

What's likely going to need to happen is Japan will need to end the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation (the document that called for the creation of the SOFA). That treaty has a clause that states either party to the treaty can terminate the treaty after 365 days' notice. Terminating the treaty renders the SOFA terminated as well. A year after notifying the U.S. that the existing treaty was being terminated, U.S. forces would need to be out of Japan unless a replacement treaty was signed by then. (Anybody ever known a treaty to be negotiated by both countries AND approved by Congress/Diet AND signed by the President/Prime Minister within 365 days? Yeah, me neither.)

That said, Japan would need to beef-up their military prior to terminating the treaty. This appears to be the direction Abe is moving, so while I doubt the SOFA will get modified, I can see the SOFA getting completely nullified down the road.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is Abe's real goal. The China threat is just cover. Abe will liberate Japan from the American occupation, after 70 years.

How can you justify military expansion without an external threat? The Americans are the ones that have been occupying Japan politically and militarily and arresting its rise. Obviously you cannot tell the Americans that. So you say China is the threat. That suits the Americans just fine.

But the Americans are suspicious of Abe. His difficulties with the Americans are the proof.

This is why when Biden met Xi he told Xi that American's backing of Japan is not targeted at China, but to "keep peace in Asia". That's a code word for saying to keep Japan in check.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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