Marines deny report that they withheld base passes from Okinawa students
Stars and Stripes June 11, 2003
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Marine Corps officials on Okinawa denied a Japanese newspaper report Monday that the Corps had withheld passes from Japanese students, preventing them from attending college courses on its bases.
A June 4 article in the Ryukyu Shimpo “was both misleading and inaccurate,” said Capt. Christopher Perrine, Marine Corps spokesman on Okinawa.
Perrine confirmed that occasionally passes have been delayed because students changed classes they planned to take, or registered late. However, he said, every student who’d registered for the University of Maryland’s Term V had a base pass by June 5 — three days after the semester began and one day after the article was published.
The spokesman flatly denied the Shimpo article’s allegation that the Corps screened students on the basis of creed.
“Nobody is denied a pass because of thoughts or beliefs,” he said.
Bases routinely do criminal background checks of those seeking passes, Perrine acknowledged, but he said Japanese students face no more stringent screening than Americans do.
Perrine added that passes have been held up in the past because there was too little time for them to be approved and returned. In some case, he explained, students change classes they want to take at the last moment.
And because students not covered by the status of forces agreement are given passes for specific classes and hours, reissuing them takes time.
Because of heightened force protection conditions at the start of the war in Iraq, the Air Force at Kadena Air Base and the Army at Torii Station stopped issuing base passes to non-SOFA residents on Okinawa.
Japanese students have not been able to attend University of Maryland courses at those bases for Terms IV and V.
University officials said Monday they’re consulting with Kadena and Torii leaders to restart issuing the passes to Japanese students. But they said they did not know if that would occur by the Aug. 1 start of Term I.