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Minister for Okinawa seeks revision of U.S. SOFA

JIJI

Aiko Shimajiri, the minister in charge of Okinawa affairs, says she intends to continue requesting a revision of the Status of Forces Agreement with the United States in the wake of the latest crime linked to the military bases in the island prefecture.

“As a lawmaker from Okinawa, I’ve requested a drastic revision of the pact,” Shimajiri said Tuesday, stressing her resolve to continue seeking an overhaul of the agreement that makes it difficult for Japanese authorities to investigate and prosecute crimes involving U.S. servicemen and base workers.

Shimajiri’s remark followed a review request made by Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a meeting Monday.

In a related development Tuesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that the central government hopes to make visible improvements in ways to implement SOFA, indicating the Abe administration has no intention to revise the pact.

The Okinawa affairs minister renewed her request for a full-fledged review of the pact as a measure to prevent U.S. base-related crimes from happening again, after Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, a 32-year-old civilian base worker and former U.S. Marine, was arrested last week on charges of abandoning the body of 20-year-old Rina Shimabukuro in Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of U.S. bases in Japan. Okinawa police also suspect Shinzato raped and killed the woman.

Shimajiri can be taken as expressing her personal opinion, Suga said.