Latest military incident draws renewed cries for SOFA revision
An incident involving a drunk airman breaking into a third-story apartment and hitting a teenager is the latest anti-military action that has triggered irritation and anger by Okinawan residents who are demanding the bilateral accord be changed.
The assault and breaking and entering incident came only two weeks after two Navy sailors allegedly raped a young woman in Okinawa City. That incident brought a daily 11 p.m. ~ 5 a.m. curfew imposition on all U.S. military personnel in Japan, and not only Okinawa. Now, Okinawans want much more. They want rights of Japanese to be given equal priority with protecting the rights of American service members.
The argument now is that even a curfew has no bearing on the attitudes and behaviors of American military personnel. The 24-year-old airman from Kadena Air Base, now hospitalized at the U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa with internal injuries and broken bones incurred when he jumped from the third story apartment while trying to flee, is the catalyst for the renewed demands. His misbehavior in a bar, followed by the assault, all came during curfew hours.
The calls for revamping the Status of Forces Agreement are running the gamut from ordinary citizens to the Okinawa governor. Governor Hirokazu Nakaima says he is “compelled to question the effectiveness” of the curfew, and is urging both Washington and Tokyo to review terms of the SOFA. Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto is inclined to agree. “I cannot look the Okinawa governor squarely in the face,” the visibly disturbed Morimoto says. “I am truly sorry and cannot apologize enough.” Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba echoed that, saying “we need assurances of effective measures rather than repeatedly being told discipline is being reinforced.
A high-ranking foreign ministry official asked about possible steps to curb crime by GI’s said “if there had been anything that could have been done, it would already have been taken care of. If you ask if there are any measures other than a curfew, that’s difficult to answer.”