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Governors call for revisions to SOFA

Date Posted: 2008-03-21

The 14 governors whose prefectures are home to American military installations are appealing to the central government to revamp the US-Japan Status of Forces Agreement.

Okinawa’s governor joined in the talks in Tokyo with the Foreign Minister and Defense Minister, calling the current SOFA “outdated” and in need of revision to meet current conditions. Hirokazu Nakaima says the 1960 SOFA is overdue for change.

Nakaima, along with the other governors, met with Shigeru Ishiba, the Defense Minister, and Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura to complain about the need for significant revisions to the SOFA, particularly in areas governing jurisdiction on who has the right to hold Americans suspected of crimes off base. The governors, who have a liaison council, say Komura predicts a SOFA change would be “extremely difficult”.

Shigefumi Matsuzawa, governor of Kanagawa Prefecture and head of the council, says the defense minister agreed there was need for serious discussion and a possible review of the SOFA, but a Defense Ministry spokesman later denied making the comments. Ishiba also denies making promises to the governors.

The petition from the governors to the central government said SOFA changes are needed “to resolve the various problems stemming from U.S. bases.” Komura, for his part, promised to check into circumstances of American responsibility for environmental issues discovered on the bases.

Governors from Hokkaido, Aomori, Ibaraki, Saitama, Chiba, Tokyo, Yamanashi, Shizuoka, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Fukuoka, Nagasaki and Kanagawa Prefectures, as well as Okinawa, are members of the liaison council.

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