NAHA, Okinawa Pref. – The Naha city assembly on Thursday unanimously called for a law requiring the central government to pay compensation for crimes and accidents by U.S. military personnel stationed in Japan.
The call came in a statement that responds to a spate of scandals involving U.S. servicemen in Okinawa, where around 25,000 U.S. military personnel are stationed — more than half the 47,000 stationed throughout the nation.
The statement says it is “institutionally difficult to seek compensation from perpetrators considering that they stay only a limited period of time and therefore have minimal assets with them” that may be used to pay compensation.
Citing the frequency of accidents and cases involving U.S. servicemen, it states the importance of “clarifying the obligation of the Japanese government for such compensation on behalf of the perpetrator,” which will “establish the victims’ rights” as a way of protecting citizens’ lives and property.
Under the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, compensation for crimes committed by U.S. servicemen while on official duty is to be shouldered by the Japanese government. However, the servicemen are supposed to pay compensation themselves for crimes they commit while off duty.
Once the U.S. personnel return home, however, it becomes technically difficult to press demands for compensation and many victims have been forced to give up.
Also on Thursday, the Okinawa prefectural assembly unanimously adopted a resolution of protest and a separate statement that ask the U.S. military to report on accidents and prevent them.
The two statements, bearing the same content, are in reference to an incident in early February in which two U.S. Marine Corps helicopters from the Futenma Air Station clipped each each other in midair.
The incident, which was reported in the U.S. military newspaper The Stars and Stripes on March 10, caused alarm because it was not reported to prefectural authorities.
The resolution and statement both strongly protested that the incident could have “created a major catastrophe with one false step,” pointing out that “civilians reside in areas surrounding the bases.”
In the Feb. 5 midair incident involving two CH-53E helicopters, both choppers were damaged but no one was hurt, according to the paper.
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