Japan has been negotiating with the United States to make it possible for Japanese law enforcement officers to carry out their own investigations of serious incidents involving U.S. military aircraft.

Foreign Minister Taro Kono said at an Upper House Budget Committee session on Feb. 7 in response to a question from Komeito’s Yoshihiro Kawano, “I have given instructions and have had discussions with the United States to ensure that our nation's authorities can deal with incidents (involving the U.S. military).”

Under the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), Japanese laws do not apply to the U.S. military.

Based on a series of incidents last year involving U.S. military aircraft in Okinawa Prefecture, Komeito made a proposal to the government to revise five points of the SOFA, one of which is the right to enter sites of incidents caused by the U.S. military.

Based on the SOFA, Japanese police officers and local government officials are not allowed to enter such sites without permission from the U.S. military.

This has often caused problems related to the SOFA in the case of U.S. military accidents, including those in Okinawa Prefecture.

However, the Japanese government, which has been reluctant to revise the SOFA, has taken the stance that improving the operation of the agreement is realistic.

Kono did not touch on revision of the SOFA on Feb. 7, simply saying, "I want to resolve the issue step by step in the most effective manner."

Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki had talks with Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya in the Diet the same day, asking for a thorough revision to the SOFA in a written request.

Iwaya acknowledged receiving the request in front of reporters after the meeting.

(This article was written by Ryo Kiyomiya and Shinichi Fujiwara.)