LDP open to SOFA changes

Category: [ News ]

In the aftermath of the recent murder of a 20-year-old girl by a former U.S. Marine, calls from Okinawa are getting stronger for a complete overhaul of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between Japan and the U.S. that governs the presence of the US. military presonnel in Japan.

Responding to demand from the Okinawa chapter of the Liberal Democratic Party, the party leadership in Tokyo has agreed to examine the possibility of revising the SOFA, LDP Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki said Tuesday.

Tanigaki said he has instructed LDP policy chief Tomomi Inada to start the task. “The LDP will work on SOFA revisions,” Tanigaki told reporters at a press conference in Tokyo.

However, it’s far from clear that the LDP will be able to put together actual proposals, as the United States is opposing changes to the SOFA.

The biggest point of contention is who has the jurisdiction when American military personnel or SOFA status civilian workers commit crimes. Currently, the SOFA stipulates that the United States has primary jurisdiction, although the countries have agreed that suspects in heinous cases will be handed over to Japanese authorities before indictment. However, problems arise if a suspect enters into a U.S. military base before Japanese police is able to make an arrest. In such case, the Japanese police can only question the suspect on a voluntary basis without an arrest, unless the suspect is indicted.

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