The Japanese government is trying to negotiate with the United States to revise the existing Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) so they can include several articles covering environmental concerns. Such provisions are seen by the central government as important in getting approval from Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima to reclaim land needed to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which is currently in Ginowan.
Washington, on the other hand sees no point in revising the current SOFA and it is still unclear whether they are willing to accommodate the additional provisions but Tokyo is keen on making the U.S. understand how important the environmental issues are for Japan. Nakaima has requested for revisions to the SOFA to incorporate tough environmental standards for U.S. military bases including a stipulation for local authorities to conduct inspections on soil contamination before making a decision to grant consent to reclaim land for the base’s relocation.
The government looks at their efforts to revise the SOFA as an initiative to ease and lessen Okinawa’s burden in hosting the U.S. military facilities. They are also keen on convincing Nakaima to favor the land reclamation and grant the permit as soon as possible. The U.S. on the other hand is reluctant to such a move as it fears it will have an effect on the status of forces agreements it has with other countries. Tokyo is looking at presenting a revised proposal that would highly benefit the U.S., highlighting Japan’s burden of shouldering the expenses to protect the environment of the U.S. bases and surrounding areas and ensuring a smoother decision on constructing the said facilities. As everyone awaits the U.S.’ consent, other options may be a new special agreement for Okinawa’s request or the creation of an agreement on the operation of SOFA at another Japan-U.S. joint committee.
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