Japan, U.S. clarify rules on handling secret data

by Reiji Yoshida

In the wake of Japanese leaks of sensitive data on the U.S.-developed Aegis defense system, Tokyo and Washington concluded an agreement Friday designed to bolster security for the military information they exchange.

Under the agreement, the two countries laid out basic rules for handling military information, including compiling lists of personnel qualified to access such data.

Major categories of U.S. military secrets, namely, “Top Secret,” “Secret” and “Confidential,” will be recognized as equivalent to Japan’s top categories, and the exchanged data will be handled accordingly.

Japan had not previously concluded such a pact with the U.S., which has similar agreements with dozens of other countries.

Tokyo and Washington agreed to start talks on the General Security of Military Information Agreement at a meeting of foreign and defense ministers in Washington in October 2005.

The two countries accelerated efforts to conclude the pact following the revelation earlier this year that members of the Maritime Self-Defense Force leaked possibly confidential U.S. data on the Aegis defense system.

No crash charges

NAHA, Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) Prosecutors dropped charges Friday against four U.S. Marines in connection with a helicopter crash at a university in Ginowan, Okinawa, in August 2004 that injured the three U.S. servicemen aboard the aircraft.

Okinawa police last week sent information to prosecutors on the four mechanics without revealing their names. The United States refused to disclose their identities, citing privacy considerations, although a Japan-U.S. joint committee on the accident pointed to poor maintenance of the chopper.

The four have been court-martialed and punished in the form of demotions and pay cuts, the Foreign Ministry said.

Japanese law-enforcement authorities faced difficulty in investigating the crash of the CH-53D transport helicopter at Okinawa International University adjacent to the U.S. Futenma Air Station in Ginowan. Investigators were hindered in part by the U.S. military’s right to refuse an on-site inspection immediately after the accident under provisions of the bilateral Status of Forces Agreement.