Japan to Push for More Jurisdiction Over US Military Personnel

Posted November 26th, 2011 at 1:50 pm (UTC-5)
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Japan's foreign minister has promised that Tokyo will pressure the United States to give Japanese authorities more jurisdiction over crimes committed by U.S. forces on Okinawa.

Koichiro Gemba made the pledge Saturday in a meeting with Okinawa governor Hirokazu Nakaima.

Gemba said he will do all he possibly can to persuade the United States to make more changes to an agreement that gives the U.S. military initial jurisdiction over its soldiers and their families accused of crimes in Japan.

Nakaima said he is grateful for Japan's efforts to further modify the agreement.

Crimes committed by U.S. military personnel in Japan have caused public outrage, compounded by delayed handovers of suspects to Japanese authorities and punishments perceived as lenient.

On Friday, prosecutors on Okinawa indicted an American working on a base for a traffic accident that resulted in the death of a Japanese motorist. U.S. authorities had punished the American by suspending his driver's license for five years.

Gemba's pledge comes as the United States and Japan are trying to reach a compromise on the controversial relocation of a key U.S. air base on Okinawa.

A 2006 agreement on the U.S. Futenma Marine Air Station called for a new base to be completed in a less congested part of Okinawa by 2014, and for 8,000 Marines to be moved with their families to the U.S. island of Guam.

But the deal has been delayed by various circumstances. Anti-base groups, backed by some local politicians, want the facility moved from Okinawa to another part of Japan.