Japanese governors want in on U.S. base discussions
Stars and Stripes
GINOWAN, Okinawa — Japanese governors from prefectures that host U.S. military bases met with U.S. and Japanese officials Thursday to press their case for reducing the footprint of the bases and to demand they be kept in the loop on basing issues through regular meetings with U.S. officials.
During the 20-minute meeting in Tokyo, Kanagawa Gov. Shigefumi Matsuzawa and Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima — representing the 14 governors — handed U.S. Ambassador John Roos a copy of a resolution the governors’ association submitted to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku earlier in the day, said spokesman Yasushi Ota of the Kanagawa prefectural government’s military affairs office.
The 80-page document urges the establishment of a standing panel under the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee to reflect the voices of the base host communities. The governors want the first meeting to take place in December or January, Ota said. The Japan-U.S. Joint Committee is comprised of representatives from the Japanese government, U.S. Forces Japan and the U.S. Embassy. It discusses issues concerning the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, including the status of forces agreement.
The governors insisted that the Japanese government “clarify its basic stance on national security” and to negotiate an agreement that would make the U.S. responsible for making sure base property is environmentally sound prior to returning base land to Japan.
“Environmental pollution stemming from the military operations … can greatly threaten the lives and health of the residents of adjacent communities,” the document said. “A pact must be exchanged between the governments so that administration and operations of military installations are complied with the host nation’s environmental laws.”
Meanwhile, during the visit with Sengoku earlier in the day, Matsuzawa asked that Prime Minister Naoto Kan appoint a cabinet-level minister to oversee base issues in Okinawa, where 75 percent of Japanese land used solely by the U.S. military is located.
“I will take the requests to heart and see what we can do now,” Sengoku told reporters after the meeting, according to a transcript.
The U.S. Embassy had no comment on Thursday’s meeting with the governors.