July 25, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo
Last year, the Japan National Governors’ Association (chaired by Kiyoshi Ueda, governor of Saitama Prefecture) adopted a proposal requesting that the State drastically revise the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). This year the conference was held in Toyama Prefecture and on July 24, the final day of the conference, Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki said, “I hope governors from all over the country cooperate [to make good on the proposal].” Other prefectural governors also expressed the opinion that it is essential to take initiative from the perspective of protecting Okinawans’ safety and local automony, and again affirmed that this would be dealt with as a national matter.
Governor Tamaki distributed a written report, compiled by the Okinawa Prefectural Government, about the status of forces agreements that the U.S. has with other countres including Germany and Italy. The report states that SOFAs with European countries guarantee that the laws and ordinances of each respective country apply to the U.S. military, controls on their activities, and the right to enter the base compounds. It points out that this differs greatly from the SOFA between the United States and Japan, which does not guarantee that domestic laws apply to the U.S. military, and does not guarantee the right to enter U.S. military base compounds.
Upon receiving this information, governors from across the country one after another stated that they share awareness of the issue. Takuya Tasso, the governor of Iwate Prefecture, said, “It is extremely problematic that the U.S. military is not required to follow democratic regulations in way that Japanese citizens are, both from the perspective of local autonomy and citizen safety, and from the perspective of promoting welfare.” Governor Taizo Mikazuki of Shiga Prefecture agreed, “It is crucial that we pursue more investigations concerning local automony and democracy, and make efforts in solidarity [with Okinawa].”
Masanao Ozaki, governor of Kochi Prefecture, mentioned elementary school pupils crying and screaming during low-altitude flying exercises by the U.S. military to stress the indespensibility of information about flights being provided beforehand. Governor Toshizo Ido of Hyogo Prefecture spoke about how in May this year, the U.S. military began making official announcements on the internet if U.S. military aircraft would potentially be flying in the skies over Hyogo. He said, “It is essential for there to be a basic policy for officially announcing information relating to the U.S. military.”
(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)