July 10, 2020 Ryukyu Shimpo
It came to light on July 9 that the U.S. Marine Corps has rented a hotel in Chatan Town as a countermeasure to the spread of the novel Coronavirus. The hotel will be used as an isolation facility for personnel from overseas who are being reassigned. The Chatan Town government announced this information after having received it from the Okinawa Prefectural Government. The number of persons to be accommodated and the duration the hotel’s use is still unknown. Mayor Masaharu Noguni of Chatan Town said that U.S. military personnel coming to Okinawa “should be isolated and managed on U.S. military facilities for an appropriate period of time”, and on July 8 made an objection to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Okinawa Liaison Office.
In response to the spread of the novel Coronavirus, the Japanese government has designated the United States as a country from which visitors will be refused entry to Japan. However, U.S. military personnel, civilians in military employ, and family members are exceptions because the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law applies to such persons under the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement.
According to the Chatan Town government, the U.S. military personnel reassignment period will be July and August, approximately two months long, and the explanation from, inter alia, the MOFA Okinawa Liaison Office concerning the renting of the hotel is said to be because the accommodations on military base compounds are insufficient.
Mayor Noguni stressed the point: “I want there to be consideration of methods by which reassigned personnel can be isolated within military base compounds, such as by extending the personnel reassignment period and redistributing personnel numbers”. On July 9 the Chatan Town government sent objection letters to the MOFA Okinawa Liaison Office and the U.S. Consulate General’s Office in Okinawa. In a few days’ time an objection will also be filed with the Okinawa Defense Bureau.
Professor Manabu Sato (political science) of Okinawa International University spoke about isolation measures being decided while there is no information available concerning the quantity of accommodations on military base compounds or the number of persons being reassigned from the United States, where numbers of infected persons continue to rise. He pointed out “It is essential to deliberately inform us of what is abnormal and why it is that even bare minimum, fundamental information cannot be shared”. Additionally, he concluded, “What I am saying is that quarantine or two-week isolation should be confined to military base compounds”.
(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)