Editorial: Japanese government takes no initiative to negotiate SOFA amendment with US

May 31, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo

It seems there is a problem surrounding the Abe administration’s insistence on exercising sole authority over diplomacy, as the U.S. continues to exercise its own authority over Japan’s sovereignty, and the lives of citizens residing around military bases continue to be threatened.

Many citizens have made apparent their sentiments that Japan’s servility to the U.S. has borne this twisted state of affairs, which must be changed.

In a nationwide public opinion poll concerning the U.S. Forces Japan (USFJ)’s legal status under the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), conducted jointly by a few news agencies, 71 percent of respondents said the SOFA should be revised. The Abe administration should sincerely respond to the voices of Japanese citizens, and step forward to engage in negotiations with the U.S. to drastically change the SOFA. Not requesting the revision has led nothing to change up to the current situation.

The incident of a woman’s body being dumped after an act of violence by a U.S. military base employee has not only strengthened demand for revision of the SOFA within Okinawa, but has had a similar effect on the whole country.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not make a request for revision of the SOFA to President Barack Obama at the U.S.-Japan Summit Conference, and avoided coping with the topic throughout the conference. Obama was in agreement with Abe, saying that Abe has been showing improvement in implementation of the SOFA without actually amending it. However, Obama did not even mention an example of how Abe is improving this implementation; his statement entirely lacked concrete evidence. If they do not plan to revise the SOFA, all they can do is evade the topic.

We can no longer permit the Japanese government to repeatedly fail to respond to requests for revision of the SOFA every time they are brought up in reaction to a U.S. military-related incident.

The Abe administration appears to be waiting for Okinawans’ anger to dissipate, but is not grasping the nationwide public opinions on these issues. Criticism against the diplomatic approach of willingly obeying the U.S. is growing stronger.

As the U.S. military continues freely to operate bases in Okinawa to its preference, it does not concern itself with the human rights and living circumstances of residents living around the bases, making victims of them.

Examining the results of the public opinion poll, even among Abe’s supporters 67 percent say that the SOFA should be amended. Among those who are not Abe supporters this opinion reaches 81.9 percent. Of supporters of the ruling party (the LDP) 65.7 percent think the SOFA should be amended, and Komeito supporters agree at 75.5 percent. These numbers indicate that this is a widespread opinion.

Military personnel, civilian employees of the bases, and U.S. military members have been given a sense of privilege under the U.S.-Japan SOFA. When incidents occur off-base and outside of official business, perpetrators can escape back onto the base without being turned in to Japanese authorities, except for instances of brutal crimes.

When U.S. bases are returned and pollution is found on the land, the U.S. is not even imposed with the obligation to clean it up. With Japanese subservience to the U.S., we hesitate to even call Japan a sovereign nation. Now that 71 years have passed since the end of the war, this strange and continuous state of affairs has gotten out of hand and should be severed at last.

(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)

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