Japan and the United States will sign a new pact next week in Washington allowing Japanese officials to enter U.S. military bases to conduct environment surveys in specific instances, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Friday.
Kishida told a news conference he would sign the accord next week with U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter.
The agreement, which will cover all municipalities hosting U.S. bases in Japan, is part of what the central government sees as measures to ease the burden municipalities bear in hosting the bases.
Japan and the United States reached a “substantial agreement” on the pact in October last year. But the extent to which Japan will be ensured access to U.S. facilities was left undecided.
The pact goes some way toward meeting the demands of prefectures that host the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan, including Okinawa. In addition to wanting free access for inspections, they want to bind the U.S. side to some degree of environmental commitment.
The existing Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, which governs the use of U.S. military bases in Japan, lacks a clause allowing municipalities to conduct environmental surveys inside bases, thereby requiring prefectural and municipal officials to obtain U.S. permission for entry. Similarly, it does not require the U.S. military to protect the environment.
Worried about pollution, Okinawa and other prefectures hosting U.S. military bases have called for the inclusion of an environmental protection clause in the bilateral agreement to allow local authorities to conduct environmental surveys on bases.
The agreement will assure Japanese authorities access in two instances: after an incident such as a spill, and when they need to do a field survey — including a tally of cultural assets — ahead of returning land to Japanese control.
After visiting Washington, Kishida will head to New York to attend meetings related to the U.N. General Assembly. He will spend five days in the country before departing Friday.
He said he will push a range of subjects during the visit.
“I want to convey Japan’s determination to come up with ways to address refugees, climate change, (nuclear) disarmament and nonproliferation, and other global issues,” he said.
Kishida said he will also hold a first trilateral meeting with his U.S. and Indian counterparts, in addition to a trilateral meeting with the U.S. and South Korea slated for Tuesday. He will hold one-on-one talks separately with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se.