National

Ishihara joins Inamine in drive to amend SOFA

The governors of Tokyo and Okinawa Prefecture agreed Friday to push for an amendment to the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement to reduce the burden shouldered by local communities hosting U.S. military bases.

During a 10-minute meeting in Tokyo, Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine asked Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara to work with him toward an amendment of the accord, which prescribes the rights of U.S. military personnel stationed in Japan.

Okinawa has been calling for an amendment that would require the U.S. to hand over personnel suspected of serious offenses to Japanese authorities before they are indicted.

Ishihara said he will cooperate with Okinawa, noting that Tokyo also hosts U.S. military facilities, though on a much smaller scale than Okinawa.

“Various organizations already show support (for the revision),” Inamine told a news conference after the meeting with Ishihara. “We hope to gain momentum so that it will become a nationwide movement.”

As examples of such support, Inamine cited resolutions to call for the re-examination of the bilateral agreement by the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Lower House in 2001 and the Japan Federation of Bar Associations in August last year.

The meeting with Ishihara was part of Inamine’s efforts to enhance cooperation among the 13 prefectures hosting U.S. military facilities by visiting the governors and local assembly heads.

The island prefecture hosts about 75 percent of the nation’s U.S. military facilities. The bases occupy about 11 percent of Okinawa’s area.

Inamine started his tour Wednesday, when he paid a visit to Kanagawa Gov. Shigefumi Matsuzawa.

Just as the governor began his tour, Okinawa police began interrogating a 21-year-old U.S. Marine suspected of raping a local woman in May.

Under the current agreement, the U.S. military does not have to hand over criminal suspects to Japanese authorities before they are indicted.

The Okinawa government has been calling for an amendment to the provision in response to a series of serious crimes by U.S. servicemen in the prefecture, including the 1995 rape of a schoolgirl.

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