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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 April 15 - 21  > US military in Japan should disclose information about coronavirus infection cases in its bases
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2020 April 15 - 21 [POLITICS]

US military in Japan should disclose information about coronavirus infection cases in its bases

April 15, 2020
Akahata editorial (excerpts)

Information concerning coronavirus infection cases on U.S. military bases in Japan has been kept secret because the U.S. Department of Defense two weeks ago decided to not disclose information and the Japanese government approved the decision.

Currently, around 57,000 U.S. military personnel and 7,000 civilian employees are stationed in Japan and many of them live with their families. Among them, more and more U.S. servicemen live off base. In addition, the number of Japanese citizens working in U.S. bases exceeds 26,000. In order to protect the health of these Japanese workers, nearby residents, and other people, it is essential for Japanese health authorities to know the extent of the COVID-19 spread on U.S. military bases in Japan.

Until the Pentagon on March 30 (local time) decided to withhold information about individual cases, U.S. military bases in Japan had made public data in this regard albeit not in detail.

According to the released data, nine U.S. military personnel and their families were tested positive for the coronavirus as of March 31: Five sailors in the U.S. Navy Yokosuka base in Kanagawa’s Yokosuka City (two of them live outside the base): one family member in the U.S. Army Sagamihara Housing Area in Kanagawa’s Sagamihara City: and two troops and one family member in the U.S. Kadena Air Base in Okinawa’s Kadena and Chatan towns and Okinawa City. The U.S. Navy Sasebo Base (Nagasaki’s Sasebo City) on April 3 exceptionally publicized one infection case.

After the U.S. military stopped disclosing data on reported cases, U.S. media reported that fifteen crewmembers of the USS Ronald Reagan contracted the coronavirus (April 9). The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is homeported at the Yokosuka Base. There is no doubt that the infection is spreading among the U.S. military in Japan.

The Japanese government claims that based on Japan-U.S. agreements, information concerning infection cases on U.S. bases has been appropriately shared between U.S. military hospitals and Japanese local public health centers. In contrast to this explanation, however, when infections were confirmed on the Kadena base on March 28, the base reported the cases to health authorities in Okinawa but did not provide any further information, such as to where the infected persons had gone, who they interacted with, and whether they had contact with Japanese citizens before being tested positive.

The information about coronavirus infection cases on U.S. bases in Japan is vital to raise public awareness about the health emergency. The Japanese government allowed this important data to remain undisclosed, which is tantamount to giving priority to the U.S. military’s operation over Japanese people’s health. It should be criticized for not fully committing to the need for infection prevention.

Past related articles:
> JCP Kokuta criticizes gov’t for having SDF ship stay in Middle East without coronavirus preparation [April 4, 2020]
> JCP Akamine demands information disclosure regarding the number of coronavirus cases among US troops in Japan [April 5 & 6, 2020]
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