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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 August 23 - 29  > Japan-US SOFA seen from firefighter’s eyes
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2017 August 23 - 29 [US FORCES]

Japan-US SOFA seen from firefighter’s eyes

August 23, 2017
Akahata ‘Morning breeze’ column

A USMC CH-53D helicopter stationed at the U.S. Futenma base crashed on the campus of Okinawa International University on August 13, 2004, bursting into flames.
Miraculously, no one was injured, except for crewmembers. This was a serious incident infringing upon the local residents’ right to live in peace.

Firefighters in Ginowan City where the university is located immediately rushed to the scene and battled the fire. When they were about to extinguish the blaze, however, the U.S. military suddenly blockaded the area around the crash site. Then, it began removing not only the firefighters but also all the other Japanese including police officers, the Okinawa governor, the Ginowan City mayor, university officials, the residents, and the press. It even unilateraly carried the aircraft out of the scene.

Yamauchi Tadashi was a firefighter in the position of overseeing the overall firefighting operation at that time. He later assumed the post of principal of the prefecture-owned fire academy. During his term of office, he obtained a master degree at Okinawa International University and wrote a thesis on the issue of Japan’s fire investigation rights being interfered with by the U.S. forces into a voluminous research paper. He writes that the U.S. action on that day violated even agreements between the Japanese and U.S. governments, and that the root of the problem lies in the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement. He argues that to fundamentally amend the SOFA is essential for public safety.

Thirteen years have passed since the crash. The danger associated with U.S. bases in Japan has been increasing even more with the deployment of Osprey aircraft. Yamauchi has maintained his position regarding the need to revise the SOFA from the perspective of the fire service administration.

Past related article:
> Protests continue across Japan against Osprey flights after fatal crash [August 13&14, 2017]
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