Okinawa official in U.S. for SOFA, Futenma talks
Stars and Stripes November 6, 2009
NAHA, Okinawa — Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima is in Washington to push for changes in the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement.
He is part of a delegation from the Japan Governors Association, which represents the 14 prefectures that host U.S. military bases.
Among top SOFA issues to be discussed with U.S. officials, a spokesman for Nakaima said, are provisions that would make the U.S. responsible for the environmental cleanup of bases before they are closed. Currently, it is up to the Japanese and local governments to clean up hazardous wastes found on old base property.
Also to be discussed is turning over U.S. servicemembers suspected of off-base crimes to Japanese authorities upon request.
Under the current SOFA, servicemembers are placed in U.S. custody until they are indicted — unless they are arrested by Japanese police outside the bases.
During their eight-day visit to the U.S., Nakaima and the chairman of the governors association, Kanagawa Gov. Shigefumi Matsuzawa, are to meet with senior Defense and State Department officials plus Sen. Daniel Inoue, D-Hawaii, and Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo.
Nakaima is also expected to push for a quick decision on replacing Marine Corps Air Station Futenma now that the new government in Tokyo seems to be hedging on the 2006 military realignment pact calling for a new Marine air station on Camp Schwab in rural northern Okinawa before some 8,000 Marines could be relocated to Guam.
"Our stance, as the governors association, is that we want the realignment to be completed by 2014 as agreed in the road map," Matsuzawa said during a recent news conference.
State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters Tuesday the issue of replacing MCAS Futenma is ultimately up to the new Japanese government.