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Revise SOFA now so Japan can get access to bases if a spill occurs

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On-site investigations by Japanese officials into a massive leak of potentially toxic material from a U.S. military base in Okinawa Prefecture highlighted many problems concerning environmental accidents within U.S. facilities, despite being touted by the government as “progress.”

On April 10, a large amount of firefighting foam containing a chemical known to cause cancer leaked from the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the city of Ginowan. Officials of the central government as well as the prefectural and municipal administrations were allowed onto the air base to inspect the site of the spill and collect contaminated water and soil samples in May. The samples are now analyzed.

There is no provision in the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) concerning such environmental investigations. Five years ago, mainly in response to requests from Okinawa prefectural authorities, Japan and the United States signed an Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Environmental Stewardship Relating to the United States Armed Forces in Japan, which supplements the SOFA.

This latest incident marked the first time Japanese officials........

© The Asahi Shimbun