Four Japanese port cities ask for revisions to elements of SOFA
TOKYO — Four Japanese port cities announced Monday they will urge Japan’s government to revise agreements with U.S. forces stationed in Japan.
Sasebo, Yokosuka, Maizuru and Kure said they’ll ask the government to revise the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement and to act to prevent crimes by U.S. servicemembers.
They also want to be able to tell residents when nuclear submarines are to visit their ports.
Before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the United States, through the foreign ministry, notified local governments 24 hours in advance of a nuclear submarine’s visit. The local government then made that information public. However, after 9/11, officials were asked not to publicize the visits.
“It has been two years since the series of terrorist attacks, and it seems the alerts surrounding the base have been eased in recent days. We request nondisclosure measures, which somehow exert influence on lives of the residents, to be lifted immediately,” the request said.
The cities meet annually to discuss various requests to be made to the government but this was the first year their wish-list included SOFA revisions.
Air Force Col. Victor Warzinski, U.S. Forces Japan spokesman, did not comment on the cities’ requests, beyond noting that for USFJ to comment would be inappropriate because the requests were made between Japanese officials.
“We believe that the SOFA agreement, as it’s currently written, provides appropriate framework for managing the relationship between our military forces and the government of Japan,” Warzinski said.
However, he said, the U.S. military seeks talks with Japan’s government about rights of U.S. servicemembers charged with a crime in Japan. U.S. officials have said in past that the United States seeks a change to the agreement to allow servicemembers to have a U.S. representative present when being questioned by Japanese police.
“We also have been calling for discussion with the Japanese government concerning the criminal jurisdiction procedure of SOFA,” Warzinski said, adding this was among topics Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi discussed when they met in Tokyo last weekend.
Japanese officials were not available Tuesday for comment.