Japan paid ¥380 million in compensation for accidents by U.S. military personnel

SOFA terms oblige Japan to help pay victims compensation

by

Staff Writer

Japan has paid about ¥380 million over the past decade in compensation as a result of accidents caused by U.S. military personnel or civilian employees under the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement, according to the Defense Ministry.

The revelation will likely draw further public criticism of SOFA, which has not been formally revised since it was signed in 1960.

Under the agreement, which forms the legal framework for U.S. military personnel operating in Japan, the Japanese government is obliged to cover 25 percent of compensation for incidents that occur during U.S. military duties, even if Japan played no role in the accidents, the Defense Ministry said.

Japan’s financial burden rises to 50 percent for cases in which both Japan and the U.S. military share responsibility.

Between fiscal 2004 and 2013, the ministry recognized 9,962 accidents and crimes caused by U.S. military personnel or U.S. civilian employees, of which about 48 percent took place in Okinawa, a ministry official told The Japan Times.

Among the nearly 10,000 incidents, 2,138 cases took place among people who were on official U.S. military duty.

The remaining 7,824 accidents and crimes — which are mostly accidents but which include robberies and rapes — took place outside their official duties, the official said.

A total of around ¥2.03 billion was paid in compensation to victims over the last 10 years. Of that amount, about ¥1.5 billion was paid for accidents that took place during official military duty, according to the ministry.

Japan covered 25 percent, or more than ¥380 million, of the ¥1.5 billion, the official said.

Japan did not cover compensation for any crimes, such as robbery and rape, committed by U.S. military personnel, according to the ministry.

Japan is not responsible for issuing compensation for accidents or crimes that took place outside the military’s duties, the official said.

On the 2004 crash of a U.S. Marine Corps Sea Stallion helicopter on the campus of Okinawa International University, the government covered 25 percent of the ¥270 million that was paid in compensation, even though Japan shared none of the blame.

Hiromori Maedomari, a professor at Okinawa International University and former chief editorial writer for the Ryukyu Shimpo newspaper, said SOFA is an unequal treaty that should be revised so the U.S. pays 100 percent for incidents caused by its military personnel.

“The agreement was signed when Japan’s position was much weaker,” Maedomari said. “There have been arguments for revising the agreement, but it hasn’t been revised to this date. . . . It’s because of ignorance and indifference on the part of the public. They don’t know that taxpayers’ money was spent on these things.”

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