Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine asked Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Wednesday to revise the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement.
“We can longer accept measures that focus only on improvement in application of the SOFA” and not revise the agreement itself, Inamine told reporters after meeting with Koizumi at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence.
Inamine’s plea came after a U.S. military helicopter crashed Aug. 13 at Okinawa International University in Ginowan.
Under the SOFA provisions, the U.S. military has the exclusive right to conduct on-site investigations of accidents involving its forces in Japan. Local police were not permitted to conduct an on-site probe into the latest accident.
The governor said that during his meeting with Koizumi, he also stressed the long-standing grievances of Okinawa residents, who have borne the brunt of the U.S. military presence in Japan.
Asked by reporters how he will handle Inamine’s pleas to revise the SOFA, Koizumi said, “Okinawa has shouldered particularly heavy burdens” in hosting U.S. military forces. “This is a problem not only for Okinawa but for the whole Japanese government.”
Accidents near the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station have long been feared by local residents, who want the base removed from the middle of the densely populated city.
Inamine also requested that SOFA be revised during a separate meeting with Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi earlier in the day.
Kawaguchi said she sees the need to reconsider how the bilateral agreement should be applied but stopped short of agreeing to revise the agreement itself, Inamine said.
Earlier in the day, Inamine met Lt. Gen. Thomas C. Waskow, commander of the U.S. Forces Japan, at a Tokyo hotel to protest strongly over the helicopter crash.
According to Inamine, the U.S. side said they will reveal the results of the investigation into the cause of the accident in around 30 days.
Inamine asked Waskow to reduce the U.S. military forces in his prefecture, move exercises elsewhere and relocate bases overseas.
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