July 11, 2020 Ryukyu Shimpo
With confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to climb in U.S. military bases in Okinawa, such as in Camp Hansen in the northern part of the main island, the Okinawa prefectural assembly (Noboru Akamine, chairman) unanimously passed a resolution and official statement on July 10 calling for a report disclosing information such as where infected individuals and those who came in close contact with them went outside the base, as well as things such as a drastic overhaul of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). The resolution also asks U.S. and Japanese authorities for such things as a thorough quarantine for those who have been infected, the number of people infected as well as the number of people they came in close contact with, and a detailed history of where they went. Additionally, they requested a revision of SOFA, and proper application of Japanese laws such as the Quarantine Act.
Confirmed cases started to rise in U.S. bases in Okinawa starting at the beginning of July, but since the 9th the number of new cases and the movement history of infected individuals have not been made public to media outlets.
Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki held a press conference July 10, and on the same day vice-governor Kiichiro Jahana explained their requests to Brigadier General William Bowers, commander of Marine Corps Installation Pacific, which included: (1) publicly disclosing the number of cases; (2) implementing protection measures in line with Japan’s such as administering PCR test to all military personnel who enter the country, and (3) enacting isolation measures for those transferring in and out of Okinawa or Japan as a rule on the bases. He commented that they did not intend to release their own figured for confirmed cases in Okinawa, and that “they wanted to align with U.S. policies.”
The official statement and resolution passed by the assembly was proposed by representatives from each of the assembly’s factions. Dai Shimabukuro, a member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Okinawa’s majority faction, explained the reason for proposing the resolution and statement, saying, “This is the first new confirmed case in almost two months, we are worried about the virus spreading, and so we are demanding that the U.S. military stationed in Okinawa take further measures to prevent its spread.”
The resolution was addressed to the U.S. ambassador to Japan, the commander of U.S. forces in Japan, the Okinawa Area Coordinator (OAC), the commander of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force (3MEF), and the consul general in Okinawa. The official statement was addressed to the prime minister of Japan, as well as the Foreign Minister, Defense Minister, and the Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs. Due to concerns around spreading COVID-19, the resolution document and official statement were mailed instead of delivered personally to relevant agencies.
(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)