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Prime Minister hears Appeal from Governor

Date Posted: 2004-09-03

Okinawa’s governor wants action from the central Japanese government to change the Status of Forces Agreement with the U.S.

Governor Keiichi Inamine has asked Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to revise the SOFA, saying "We can longer accept measures that focus only on improvement in application of the SOFA" and not revise the agreement itself. Inamine made the statement to reporters after meeting with Koizumi at the Prime Minister's Official Residence, where he’d gone to discuss the August 13th crash of an American military helicopter at Okinawa International University in Ginowan.

The SOFA rules give the U.S. military the exclusive right to conduct on-site investigations of accidents involving its forces in Japan. Ginowan and Okinawa Prefectural Police were not permitted to conduct their own investigations at the crash scene.

Inamine told reporters that during his meeting with Koizumi, he also stressed the long-standing grievances of Okinawa residents, who have borne the brunt of the U.S. military presence in Japan.

Koizumi, responding to reporter questions on how he will handle Inamine's pleas to revise the SOFA, said, "Okinawa has shouldered particularly heavy burdens" in hosting U.S. military forces. "This is a problem not only for Okinawa but for the whole Japanese government.”

Inamine met with Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi earlier in the day, reiterating his case for SOFA change. Inamine says the Foreign Minister acknowledged the need to reconsider how the bilateral agreement should be applied, but stopped short of agreeing to revise the agreement itself.

The governor also met Lt. Gen. Thomas C. Waskow, commander of the U.S. Forces Japan, at a Tokyo hotel, where he issued a strong protest s over the helicopter crash. Waskow told Inamine the U.S. will announce findings of its investigation in 30 days. Inamine asked Waskow to slash the number of American troops on Okinawa by relocating bases out of Japan.

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