Secret pact covered jurisdiction of U.S. military crimes committed in Japan

By THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN Published: April 10, 2010

TOKYO — In a 1958 secret agreement with the United States, the Japanese government effectively ceded the right to try U.S. military personnel for crimes committed in Japan, Foreign Ministry sources said Saturday.

The revelation comes on the heels of reports of the existence of several secret security-related agreements between Japan and the United States.

The latest revelation came to light as a result of a ministry investigation into the matter, according to the sources.

The de facto abandoning of jurisdiction over crimes committed by U.S. military personnel was referred to in a document on Japan-U.S. talks held in connection with a bilateral Administrative Agreement signed in 1952 regarding the status of U.S. military installations and members of U.S. forces stationed in Japan.

The agreement was replaced by the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement at the time of the 1960 revision of the bilateral security treaty.

The 1952 agreement stipulated that Japan could exercise jurisdiction over criminal offenses committed in Japan by members of the U.S. armed forces while not on official business, though offenses committed on duty should be under U.S. jurisdiction.

Some international relations experts, however, have pointed out the existence of a U.S. government document kept at the U.S. National Archives concerning the secret deal that nullifies the stipulation of the 1952 agreement concerning crimes.

The agreement coincides exactly with the U.S. document, the sources said.

The newly found document is a record of the minutes of bilateral negotiations on Oct. 4, 1958, between then Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi and Foreign Minister Aiichiro Fujiyama and the U.S. ambassador to Japan at that time, Douglas MacArthur II, on revision of the Japan-U.S. security treaty, according to the sources.

The minutes were found during an investigation of four secret Japan-U.S. accords that came to light last year, including a 1972 deal allowing U.S. forces to bring nuclear weapons into U.S. bases in Okinawa Prefecture in contingencies, the sources said.

During the Kishi-Fujiyama-MacArthur talks, the U.S. ambassador pointed out a behind-the-scenes deal that was included in the minutes of a Japan-U.S. joint committee meeting held on Oct. 28, 1953, on revising the bilateral administrative agreement.

MacArthur was quoted as saying in the talks that as part of the deal in question, Japan had agreed to cede to the United States the right to try members of U.S. forces in Japan for crimes committed in Japan even during off-duty hours.

MacArthur told the Japanese side the United States was willing to make the agreement public if Japan agreed to do so, but the government declined, according to the minutes, which the sources said resulted in Japan's abandoning of jurisdiction remaining a secret.

Prof. Kazuya Sakamoto of Osaka University, one of the members of an expert panel tasked by the ministry to look into the issue of Japan-U.S. secret pacts, said, "Judging from a number of other related documents at the ministry, the 1958 deal should be understood to have remained unchanged at the time of the 1960 revision of the Japan-U.S. security treaty."

Japan's abandonment of the right to try members of U.S. forces for offenses committed during off-duty hours could be considered to still apply under the current status of forces agreement that has been in force since 1960, Sakamoto said.

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