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Incoming government wants U.S. accountable for pollution

Date Posted: 2009-09-17

The incoming Japanese government led by the opposition Democratic Party of Japan is speaking loudly about expectations the U.S. become legally responsible for environmental and pollution damages caused by the American military.

The Sankei, a major mainland newspaper, is reporting DPJ officials intend to press for changes to the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement to insert an environmental clause. Under current SOFA rules developed in 1960, the U.S. has no legal obligation to correct pollution or other damages to bases and facilities.

Planned facilities changes in Okinawa, including relocating Futenma Marine Corps Air Station from Ginowan City to a sparsely populated site in northern Okinawa at Camp Schwab and nearby Oura Bay has sparked new interest in environmental issues. Opponents to the move, as well as others who are demanding American military units vacate Okinawa, want to see more accountability.

Tatasuo Oyakawa, who heads the Okinawa Prefecture Government’s division responsible for U.S. base operations, says “the environment is one of the most important issues” in reviewing the SOFA. Okinawa Prefecture has complained to the U.S. military in the past about contaminated soil when bases were being turned back over to Japan.

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