Has Japan's government had any part to play in handing over U.S. airman to Japan? -- Akahata editorial, July 7, 2001

The U.S. Air Force staff sergeant, who is suspected of sexual assault on a Japanese woman in Chatan Town in Okinawa Prefecture, was at last handed over to the Japanese investigative authorities.

A week has passed since the incident occurred, and the suspect was
arrested four days after a warrant was issued.

Why can't the Japanese police execute an arrest concerning a crime which took place in Japan? Why does the U.S. have the right to decide whether the suspect is to be handed over to the Japanese police or not?

The developments following the incident have revealed the actual position of Japan bound by the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty and the serious flaw in the Koizumi Cabinet.

Wait-and-see till anger dies

The Okinawa Prefectural Police obtained an arrest warrant because there was evidence to support the charge, and the court recognized the need to question him while under arrest and in police custody.

The U.S. took delaying tactics in making the decision on handover. A deputy spokesman of the U.S. Department of Defense said that the U.S. is concerned about the suspect's human rights.

For a foreign country to find fault with Japan's judicial system in relation to a crime committed in Japan is tantamount to compromising Japan's national sovereignty. It also poses doubts about Japan being a law-governed country.

This seriously affects the security of the lives, property, and human rights of the Japanese people.

The Japanese government should have resolutely asked the U.S. to immediately hand over the suspect to Japan, because at stake was the human dignity of the victim of the rape. The Japanese people, in particular Okinawans, are enraged. Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo on July 5 demanded that the government do so.

Although the incident occurred the day before the Japan-U.S. summit talks, Prime Minister Jun'ichiro Koizumi during the talks did not even mention the incident. On the contrary, in London he called for precautions against harboring bitterness. By this he meant to ask the people to swallow their anger. Returning home, the prime minister said that he would wait and see, and did just that.

On the U.S. rejection to hand over the suspect even after an arrest warrant was issued, Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuda Yasuo said that it was an unexpected matter, but he actually waited for a U.S. decision, saying that it will be made "tonight" or "tomorrow."

Such a weak-kneed attitude of Japan's government allows the U.S. to continue to look down on Japan.

The Status of U.S. Forces in Japan Agreement (SOFA) includes a humiliating provision for Japan that in case of crimes by U.S. personnel who are off duty, the U.S. is allowed to keep the suspect until they are indicted by Japan. A substantial revision of the SOFA is urgently required.

When the whole of Japan was infuriated in 1995 by the gang rape by U.S. Marines of a girl in Okinawa, the then government and government parties (the Liberal Democratic and Socialist parties) tried to blunt the edge; running counter to the public call for the SOFA's revision, they only requested the U.S. to improve the implementation of the SOFA, which meant expecting a goodwill gesture by the U.S. toward Japan on whether or not it will hand over criminal suspects to Japan.

Even under such an arrangement, the Koizumi cabinet under the LDP government must intensively request the U.S. to hand over the suspect. But, it failed to utter anything about this in the Japan-U.S. summit talks and just kept on letting the matter go as it is.

Such an irresponsible attitude must never be condoned because U.S. soldiers' crimes have been repeated not only in Okinawa but at all localities hosting U.S. military bases.

How, then, can lives and human rights be defended?

The latest rape incident again sheds a sharp light on the fact that LDP politics in subjugation to the U.S. under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty can not defend the lives and human rights of the people.

In order to defend public lives and property from U.S. soldiers' crimes, the JCP again calls for a drastic change in Japan's foreign policy from one in subordination to the U.S. to one in favor of Japan's independence, as well as the withdrawal and reduction of U.S. military bases in Japan, and a radical revision of the SOFA. (end)