Thursday, October 29, 2009

Washington Post: U.S. pressures Japan on military package

As reported by the Washington Post on 10/21, some elements in Japan are exerting pressure on the US to move or close the base on Okinawa, possibly moving it to a less-populated area of the island or to the mainland. The new Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, has spoken about redefining Japan's relationship with the US.

The US has pushed back quite hard, and the Post reports today that Japan seems to be caving.

For better or worse, Japan and the US need each other as a counterweight to China's increasing military power. I'm not going to comment extensively otherwise on this issue.

However, there is a bigger issue. Earlier, Amnesty International released a research report showing that multiple competing legal jurisdictions left significant loopholes where no policy agency was clearly in charge, which placed Native American women on reservations at risk of sexual assault by external parties (i.e. non-Reservation members).

There is a similar problem in Okinawa. In this case, there is a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that generally shields American servicepeople from prosecution by Japanese or Okinawan authorities. There are numerous, well-documented instances of American servicemen being shielded from local prosecution by SOFAs.

This is unacceptable. A country crosses the line into empire when it disregards local laws and local needs. US servicepeople should be subject to local laws in most circumstances. In cases where they are based in a relatively democratic, allied country, there should be absolutely no question about this. There are worries that American servicepeople might be unjustly treated by local criminal justice systems - but it is not asking too much that well-disciplined, well-trained soldiers obey the law. It is not asking too much that they either not commit rape, or that they answer for their crimes if they do. Shielding American servicepeople from proper prosecution guarantees that they will commit more crimes.

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