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U.S. notified Japan of 35 disciplinary actions taken against service members

Kyodo

Washington has notified Tokyo of a total of 35 disciplinary actions taken against U.S. military personnel since an accord reached in October 2013 to revise the bilateral status-of-forces agreement on U.S. military operations in Japan, U.S. and Japanese diplomatic sources said Monday.

Many of the punishments during January to September were related to relatively minor incidents such as traffic accidents, the sources said. The two governments have agreed to inform victims of crimes committed by U.S. military personnel in Japan of court proceedings, including any punishments imposed.

The move is apparently aimed at easing opposition in Okinawa, which has criticized U.S. disclosure of punishments as insufficient, to a plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within the prefecture.

Many people in Okinawa oppose the long-stalled plan to relocate the major U.S. military base now located in densely populated Ginowan to a less-populated area in Nago. The prefecture hosts the bulk of U.S. bases in Japan.

The revision of operational arrangements for the notification system under SOFA came into effect last Jan. 1.

The Japanese government had previously been informed by the U.S. side only of finalized court rulings. Under the new rules, Japan is also informed of court decisions before they are finalized, whether personnel are subject to punishment and the nature of any disciplinary action.

According to Washington’s notification by November, the largest number of 10 disciplinary actions was imposed in April, while no measures were taken in January and February.

The bases to which U.S. soldiers belong and figures by region are not revealed.

Japanese victims are only notified of information that perpetrators have agreed to disclose regarding the specific nature of any punishment, taking into account the U.S. standpoint of protecting personal information, the sources said.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government guarantees the notifications will not be disclosed to third parties.

Local governments that host U.S. bases are calling for the disclosure of such notifications, arguing it is necessary to prevent the recurrence of crimes.

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