Given the frequency of sex crimes committed by U.S. military personnel in Okinawa Prefecture, the central government has pledged to promptly share information if more cases arise in the future.

Tokyo came under sharp criticism over its policy of keeping Okinawa out of the loop, typically on the pretext of protecting the privacy of victims. But now that this new system is in place, Tokyo must ensure it operates with precision and with the proviso, of course, that crime-fighting must always come first.

We also hope Washington will spell out its viable crime-prevention measures.

U.S. soldiers and U.S. military-related personnel in Okinawa have been involved in five sex crime cases since last year, including non-consensual sex. It also emerged recently that none of these cases was disclosed to the public or reported to the Okinawa prefectural government.

The new information-sharing system applies only to yet-to-be disclosed sexual offenses by U.S military personnel stationed in Japan.

With the exception of those that have been dropped by prosecutors for lack of sufficient evidence, investigative authorities will refer all cases to the Foreign Ministry, which will relay the information to the Defense Ministry, which in turn will notify the local administrative authorities concerned.

From the standpoint of privacy protection, however, the content of the information is to be “within possible limits.” The system also prohibits the disclosure of information “handled in an inappropriate manner.”

Will that guarantee the effectiveness of this setup and help local governments get the attention of residents?

We ask these questions because we seriously doubt the central government is committed to reducing Okinawa’s burden and building a solid relationship of mutual trust with the southern island prefecture.

For instance, the controversial relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within Okinawa Prefecture is proceeding because Tokyo ignored Okinawa’s rights by literally bulldozing ahead with the reclamation work by proxy.

And as for a new Ground Self-Defense Force training ground planned in the city of Uruma without prior consultation with local residents, the government was eventually forced into scrapping the project due to bitter local protests.

Around 70 percent of all U.S. military facilities in Japan are concentrated in Okinawa Prefecture, and now the latter is being saddled with a new burden under the SDF’s “southwestern shift” strategy that is directed against China.

Tokyo will never win the trust of Okinawans unless it proves its goodwill beyond doubt by squarely facing the people’s fears and doubts. And that applies to Washington, too.

Vice Foreign Minister Masataka Okano met U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel on July 5 to renew his call to strengthen discipline at U.S. military facilities. Emanuel expressed deep regret for the crimes that brought fear to the local community.

Back in 1995, then-U.S. Ambassador Walter Mondale apologized in person to Governor Masahide Ota for the rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan girl by three U.S. servicemen--an incident that so enraged the people of Okinawa that it led to the Tokyo-Washington agreement on the return to Japan of the land currently occupied by the Futenma facility.

Emanuel told Okano that, as a former mayor of Chicago, he was fully cognizant of the importance of communication with local citizens. If so, the ambassador should hasten to indicate to Okinawans a set of viable measures, including his priority plans to review education and training programs for U.S. military personnel.

--The Asahi Shimbun, July 10

QOSHE - EDITORIAL: Tokyo faces an uphill battle to regain the trust of Okinawans - The Asahi Shimbun
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EDITORIAL: Tokyo faces an uphill battle to regain the trust of Okinawans

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10.07.2024

Given the frequency of sex crimes committed by U.S. military personnel in Okinawa Prefecture, the central government has pledged to promptly share information if more cases arise in the future.

Tokyo came under sharp criticism over its policy of keeping Okinawa out of the loop, typically on the pretext of protecting the privacy of victims. But now that this new system is in place, Tokyo must ensure it operates with precision and with the proviso, of course, that crime-fighting must always come first.

We also hope Washington will spell out its viable crime-prevention measures.

U.S. soldiers and U.S. military-related personnel in Okinawa have been involved in five sex crime cases since last year, including non-consensual sex. It also emerged recently that none of these cases was disclosed to the public or reported to the Okinawa prefectural government.

The new information-sharing system applies only........

© The Asahi Shimbun


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