Defense Agency chief Shigeru Ishiba suggested Sunday that Japan should consider revising the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement if bilateral discussions to prevent “arbitrary use” of the accord do not produce a solution in the handling of the recent helicopter crash in Okinawa.
“If SOFA can be used arbitrarily, we have to first discuss how to ensure that this does not occur,” Ishiba said on a morning NHK TV program.
But if such a discussion does not provide any practical solution, it may be necessary to start discussing revising the accord, Ishiba said.
A CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter crashed Aug. 13 on the campus of Okinawa International University, adjacent to the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station, in Ginowan, injuring the three U.S. servicemen on board.
The U.S. military invoked SOFA to seal off the crash site and bar local police from conducting an on-site probe.
The incident prompted protests from local residents and rekindled calls in Okinawa for a revision to SOFA.
The Japanese government has said it will study the handling of the incident in light of the accord and will ask for its improved enforcement, rather than an outright revision.
SOFA governs the management and operation of the U.S. military in Japan. It requires Japanese authorities to seek permission from U.S. forces for investigations of U.S. military property.
Meanwhile, Shinzo Abe, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, said on a Fuji TV program Sunday morning that Japan should try to improve implementation of the agreement but will have to think about revising the pact if Washington refuses to cooperate.
He also questioned the government’s handling of the incident, saying, “Japanese police should have taken part in the on-site investigation. The government should have discussed the matter with U.S. authorities” when the incident was first reported.
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