Editorial: At summit, U.S. and Japanese heads of state showed no will to prevent crime

May 27, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo

Partial responsibility for the recent murder of an Okinawan woman by a former U.S. Marine and current U.S. military employee belongs to U.S. President Barack Obama, as the commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who provides the United States with bases in Japan. Awareness of that responsibility is decisively lacking in both heads of state.

Why did Obama and Abe discuss the recent murder case during their summit meeting at all? They should both seriously reflect on the fact that their discussion ultimately disappointed the people of Okinawa.

Obama expressed his condolences and feelings of regret, but did not apologize. It is problematic if he believes that he is not in the position to apologize.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed to Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida a sincere apology to the family and friends of the victim. But is this really a problem that can be dealt with by an apology over the phone by the Secretary of State? It even seems that the government may not consider the incident grave enough to warrant an apology from the president himself.

There have been no successful measures to prevent recurring incidents, either. Obama said that he will do everything he is able to do in order to prevent a recurrence. However, what he is able to do depends on arbitrary decisions by the U.S. government. Based on past experience, we do not have high hopes for what the U.S. government is “able to” do.

Past measures discussed and implemented have included enforcing strict discipline, conducting thorough education of U.S. military personnel and employees, and restricting off-base excursions and alcohol consumption off base. All those measures only led to the present incident. If the U.S. does not show that it is “able to” do anything more than it has done in the past, one could take that as an indication that it lacks the will to seriously endeavor to prevent a recurrence.

What the people of Okinawa demand is not more of the same ineffective prevention measures that the Japanese and U.S. governments have put forth in the past. We demand measures that will eradicate all heinous crime and ensure that not one more person will become a victim. Prime Minister Abe lacks that perspective, as was evident from his request to Obama merely for measures to prevent a recurrence.
When it comes to the lives and safety of the people of the prefecture, what matters is results. If the governments’ efforts are not made with the readiness to promise the withdrawal of U.S. forces and closure of the U.S. bases in Okinawa in the event of a future heinous crime, then such crimes will likely continue to occur.

The U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement is one reason for the persistence of incidents. It is necessary to eliminate the sense of privilege among U.S. military personnel and employees that comes from the belief that they will be protected even if they commit a crime. However, both heads of state rebuked this demand from the Okinawan people, promising merely to “improve the implementation” of the Status of Forces Agreement.

Without a fundamental revision of the Status of Forces Agreement, it is impossible to believe that the governments have the will to eradicate heinous crime. There is no way to protect the people of the prefecture but to close all of the U.S. bases in Okinawa. The summit meeting between Obama and Abe proved as much.

(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

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