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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 July 24 - 30  > Revised guidelines: Japan has no power over investigations of US military aircraft accidents in Japan
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2019 July 24 - 30 [POLITICS]

Revised guidelines: Japan has no power over investigations of US military aircraft accidents in Japan

July 26, 2019
Japan, at a Japan-U.S. Joint Committee meeting held on July 25, agreed on the revised guidelines with the U.S. regarding an initial response to off-base U.S. aircraft accidents in Japan, officially renouncing investigative rights over U.S. military aircraft crashes in the country.

The revised guidelines state that the U.S. military, in the event of a crash of U.S. military aircraft at publicly- or privately-owned areas outside U.S. military facilities in Japan, can enter the crash site without prior permission from Japanese authorities or the landowner.

The Japanese translation of the previous guidelines allowed the U.S. military to enter the site without pre-authorization if there was no time to obtain it. The guidelines this time make clear that the U.S. military is in authority to unilaterally seal off access to the crash site regardless of whether it is on public or private land.

In regard to the inner cordon area surrounding a crash site, the new guidelines grant only the U.S. military access to all wreckage, parts, secret equipment, and materials from the aircraft. Again, the new guidelines make clear that Japanese law enforcement agencies do not have any authority over seizure of evidence from the scene of the crash.

Up until now, Japan and the United States by mutual agreement restricted Japan's entry into an inner cordoned area. In fact, however, it was only the U.S. side that controlled Japan's access to the cordon exclusively.

In regard to on-site investigations pertaining to the handling of toxic substances or to potential damage claims, the revised guidelines leave room for the U.S. military to refuse Japan's entry.

The governors of the U.S. base-hosting prefectures demand that Japan have the authority to conduct investigations, initiate seizure, and carry out inspections, and that Japanese law enforcement authorities take a leadership role in controlling off-U.S. base accident sites.
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