People's consensus is to get SOFA revised -- Akahata editorial, July 22

The National Governors' Association adopted a resolution that includes the call for a review of the Status of U.S. Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Japan.

The resolution calls on the central government to make a drastic review of the SOFA so that the people's living conditions and rights be protected against environmental problems arising from U.S. military bases, as well as incidents and accidents caused by U.S. military personnel.

The fact that the governors of all 47 prefectures, including Tokyo, have agreed to get the SOFA drastically revised shows that the call represents the collective will of the people.

Criticisms of humiliating pact

The NGA meeting heard many complaints of Okinawa and other prefectural governors about the SOFA doing harm to residents' rights and their wishes for peace: The present pact is humiliating for a sovereign state. (Miyagi); Japan is not a U.S. vassal. The present condition in which the SOFA has been constricting the Japanese people must be changed. (Kochi); U.S. Aegis ships enter city ports in the face of our request for the central government to respect Nagasaki City declaring itself to be nuclear-free. (Nagasaki)

It is for the first time that the NGA has adopted a resolution for a review of the SOFA. In the background lies increasing outrages by the U.S. military in Japan.

In Okinawa Prefecture, the location of 75 percent of U.S. bases in Japan, a U.S. base personnel who was recently arrested on a charge of theft was released on the same day just because he was carrying an ID card as an express messenger. This was only part of increasing incidents in the prefecture showing the real fact that under the SOFA the U.S. forces have extraterritorial rights and privileges.

The Okinawa Prefectural Assembly and 50 city, town, and village assemblies have adopted resolutions calling for the SOFA to be revised. With two remaining local assemblies being expected to come forward with similar resolutions in September, the demand for a SOFA revision has become stronger than ever.

The U.S. Forces in Japan elsewhere are also showing no scruples about local residents in carrying out their low-altitude flying training, live-fire exercises in response to nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, and night training for an assumed antiterrorism war.

Using the international terrorist action and the war for retaliation as a chance, the U.S. Bush Administration has set forward the preemptive attack strategy which runs counter to the U.N. Charter. Under the strategy, U.S. bases in Japan, from which U.S. Forces make sorties to all over the world, are being reinforced. The SOFA's revision is urgently needed.

But the Koizumi Cabinet insists that the SOFA's "improved administration" can solve all the problems, and refuses to revise it.

Just after the 1995 schoolgirl rape by U.S. Marines, not only the Okinawans but all people in Japan got angry and wanted the SOFA revised. The "improved administration" was agreed between the governments of Japan and the U.S. in order to discourage people from requesting the SOFA's revision.

Even after the SOFA's "operational improvement," atrocious crimes have been continuously committed by U.S. soldiers, such as a sexual assault against a junior high-school girl, serial arson, and rapes. Japanese people are forced to live under increased danger and terror.

The SOFA was concluded in 1960 together with the present Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. It is a successor to the administrative agreement under the previous Security Treaty, which guaranteed the U.S. Forces colonialist privileges similar to what it had enjoyed during its official occupation of Japan. It hasn't been revised for 42 years since its inception.

The SOFA's revision is indispensable for improving the humiliating condition of Japanese people.

Government only serves U.S. Forces interests

Japan's government has never proposed to the U.S. to discuss the SOFA's revision, but Foreign Minister Kono Yohei promised in the Diet in February 2001 that Japan will have high-level talks with the U.S. on this issue.

The Koizumi Cabinet has reneged on this government statement in the Diet and is opposed to any change of the SOFA's wording. It gives priority to the U.S. Forces interests over Japanese people's living conditions, life, and security.

The NGA has adopted a resolution calling for a revision of the SOFA. Let's now develop public opinion and movement to get the SOFA revised. (end)