Japan, U.S. to sign pact limiting base workers' immunity next week
Japan and the United States will sign next week an agreement narrowing the scope of legal immunity granted to U.S. military base workers under the bilateral status of forces agreement, aiming to deter crime, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Friday.
The pact will supplement the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, under which the United States has primary jurisdiction over U.S. military personnel and base workers classified as a “civilian component” when they are accused of crimes while on duty.
The move is a response to the arrest in May last year of a civilian U.S. base worker in Okinawa Prefecture over the violent death of a local woman. The killing intensified existing anti-base sentiment in the southwestern island prefecture, which shoulders much of the U.S. military presence in Japan.
“The U.S. (government) will also make clear how it will control military personnel, helping to prevent incidents in Okinawa that involve them,” Kishida told a press conference.
Amid the furor over the woman’s killing, the Japanese and U.S. governments decided in July last year to clarify the scope of the “civilian component.” They also established four distinct categories of civilian personnel protected under the SOFA.
Kishida said in late December that the governments had agreed to sign a supplementary pact.
Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, who was working at Kadena Air Base at the time of his arrest in May last year, is to be tried for the woman’s murder and rape in a Japanese court.