50 Years On: Status of Forces Agreement Still Hampering Probes in Okinawa

Society

Naha, Okinawa Pref./Tokyo, May 16 (Jiji Press)--Authorities in Okinawa Prefecture have faced problems investigating local incidents and accidents related to the U.S. military because of the status of forces agreement, signed between Japan and the United States in 1960.

Although changes have been made to the ways the agreement is implemented, U.S. forces-linked investigations remain subject to the discretion of the U.S. side half a century after Okinawa was returned to Japan in May 1972 from post-World War II U.S. occupation.

The agreement, which defines the rules governing U.S. forces in Japan, came under the spotlight after the rape of a schoolgirl in Okinawa by three U.S. servicemen in September 1995.

Local police in the southernmost Japan prefecture obtained warrants to arrest the three, but the U.S. military refused to turn them over, citing the agreement.

This unleashed antibase sentiment among locals, with as many as 85,000 people attending a rally to demand revision to the agreement, which limits Japanese authorities' exercise of investigative power. It was one of the largest demonstrations organized in the prefecture since Okinawa's reversion to Japan on May 15, 1972.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Jiji Press