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A Chronology of News Events

November-December 1995


NOVEMBER

1st - Gen. John Shalikashvili, the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Japanese Foreign Minister Kono on Tuesday that there is room for the U.S. to consider reducing troops in Okinawa. There may be certain restrictions, he said, but there is the possibility of consolidating the prefecture's bases in such a way that troop reductions will meet the intent of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. Shalikashvili stated, however, that the U.S. will not reduce troops to the extent that it alters U.S. military strategy in Asia, which is based not on the end of the Cold War but on the era that followed it.

2nd - Japan and the U.S. formally agreed to set up a special action committee to discuss the consolidation and reduction of U.S. military bases in Okinawa. The agreement came at a meeting in Tokyo between Japanese Foreign Minister Kono and U.S. Secretary of Defence Perry. It was also agreed that U.S. President Clinton and Japanese Prime Minister Murayama would reaffirm their commitment to the security alliance when they meet on 20th November. Perry later met with Japanese Defence Agency Chief Seishiro Eto. At that meeting both agreed that 10 bases that had been under consideration for some time would be closed by the end of 1995, and that they would try to seek agreement on the return of three more. Further reduction and consolidation of U.S. bases would be considered by the special action committee, which would come under the existing two-plus-two bilateral security committee. Perry went on to express his regret over the rape incident.

4th - The U.S. military offered to pay consolation money to the rape victim and her family, defence lawyers for the accused servicemen said Friday. The amount to be paid is still under discussion. Individual military personnel involved in crimes and accidents are supposed to assume responsibility for damage payments, with the U.S. Government normally paying a token amount of consolation money. The unusual damage offer in this case, said one of the defence lawyers, seems to reflect U.S. consideration of the social and political effects the rape incident has had on Tokyo-Washington ties.

5th - After meeting with Okinawa Governor Ota in Tokyo on Saturday, yet failing to break the impasse over land leases, Prime Minister Murayama indicated that he was prepared to sign documents forcing Okinawan landowners to continue leasing their land to the U.S. military himself. Whilst expressing sympathy for Ota's position, Murayama stated that he would "make the final decision" himself. Ota and Murayama agreed on the establishment of a joint central government-Okinawa Prefecture committee to handle various problems stemming from U.S. bases in Okinawa. This was the first time the two had met to discuss the base issue since the 4th September rape incident. Ota reitterated his refusal to sign the documents and handed Murayama a 10-point petition calling for a review of the Status of Forces Agreement which governs the rights and obligations of U.S. military personnel stationed in Japan.

7th - Governor Ota said Monday that if Prime Minister Murayama decides to have a high court try the issue of signing documents on land leases for U.S. military bases in Okinawa, he would be ready to contend the issue with the central government at trial. The so-called "Local Autonomy Law" makes it possible for the Prime Minister to endorse documents with court backing if a prefectural governor refuses to do so.

8th - U.S. Navy seaman apprentice Marcus Gill, 22, pleaded guilty to charges of the abduction and rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan schoolgirl at the Naha District Court on Tuesday. The two marines also accused said they conspired with Gill in the incident, but did not commit rape. All three suspects have been detained by Japanese authorities since their indictment on 29th September, before which they were unable to hold them under the terms of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement.

9th - Assistant U.S. Sectretary of Defence, Joseph Nye, defended the current troop deployment level in East Asia on Tuesday. He stated that it was necessary to maintain 100,000 troops in the region because of the unstable situation in the Korean Peninsula, and on "long-run" uncertainties in East Asia, such as the stability of Russia and China.

12th - In a meeting with Governor Ota in Naha on Saturday, Defence Agency Chief Seishiro Eto said that the government would work hard to consolidate the U.S. bases in Okinawa by using a newly-formed mechanism to discuss the issue with the U.S. He also expressed his apologies over the rape incident. During the short meeting, Eto promised that the central government would try to transfer some of the U.S. military facilities and drills in Okinawa to mainland Japan. Ota requested a revision of the Status of Forces Agreement, but was told that the central government prefers the idea of changing its implementation. In front of the same building that the meeting was taking place in a number of landowners, students, and labour union members protested the U.S. presence on the island.

15th - A group of people from Okinawa, led by the prefectural assembly head, Chiken Kakazu, will travel to Tokyo on Wednesday to lobby the Foreign Ministry and political parties for a review of the 1960 Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement. The group totals about 80 people.

16th - A U.S. civil rights group said Tuesday that it suspects Japanese authorities of fabricating evidence against the three U.S. servicemen currently on trial for the rape of a 12-year-old girl. The Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference asked President Clinton to investigate the investigation methods of the Japanese authorities. The group alleges that U.S. and Japanese investigators were prejudiced and that it suspects forced confessions were obtained.

17th - U.S. President Bill Clinton on Wednesday regretfully called off his scheduled trip to Japan because of the domestic budget crisis. He stated that Vice President Al Gore would be attending the APEC forum in his place. Clinton was to have met with Japanese Prime Minister Murayama on the same trip to discuss the issue of military bases in Okinawa and to reaffirm the importance of the Japan-U.S. security alliance system.

19th - In an interview with NHK (Japan's premier television broadcaster) at the White House on Friday, President Clinton said that he was willing to reduce the "size and distribution" of U.S. military forces in Okinawa, but that there were compelling reasons for the maintenance of the Japan-U.S. security relationship. At the same time, however, Clinton stated that there would be no reduction in the overall number of troops stationed in Japan (currently 47.000).

19th - The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Adm. Richard Mackie, abruptly resigned on Friday. The resignation followed some controversial comments he made in an interview earlier in the day. In the interview he suggested that the three servicemen accused of raping a 12-year-old Okinawan girl had been stupid, because they could have used the money paid for the rental car to hire a prostitute.

20th - Japan and the U.S. formally agreed to establish an ad hoc action committee to facilitate consolidation and reconfiguration of U.S. bases in Okinawa. The agreement was made during a 90-minute meeting between Prime Minister Murayama and U.S. Vice President Al Gore. When Gore was asked by a reporter what the U.S. is expected to do when there are no other prefectures in the rest of Japan willing to accept those bases that may be relocated from Okinawa, he said "It is for the Japanese Government to determine in dialogue with the United States." Both leaders said that they would like to realise the visit of President Clinton to Japan as soon as is feasible.

21st - Japan and the U.S. convened the first session of an ad hoc action committee in Tokyo to study the consolidation and reduction of U.S. military bases in Okinawa. The action group was composed of Masaki Orita of the North American Affairs Bureau and Masahiro Akiyama of the Defence Policy Bureau, and their U.S. counterparts, Winston Lord, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Asian and Pacific Affairs, and Joseph Nye, U.S. Assistant Secretary of DEfence for International Affairs. The inaugural session, at the Foreign Ministry, was also attended by Foreign Minister Kono, Defence Agency Chief Eto, and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Walter Mondale. The group agreed to: 1) promote consolidation and reconfiguration of U.S. military base, whilst accomplishing the goals stipulated in the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty; 2) study specific ways to deal with issues linked to U.S. military facilities. including military exercises, noise pollution and safety, and; 3) to report the result of discussions of the group to cabinet members of both governments within one year.

21st - Okinawa Governor Ota urged both Japan and the U.S. to thoroughly reconsider U.S. bases in the prefecture if they hope to solve the problem. He said that the issue would not be settled if the two governments only seek a solution with 23 proposals set forward in the past (In the Japanese Government's 1994 report "Defence of Japan," it was stated that 23 facilities and areas totalling 10 sq. kilometres had been, or were in the process of being, released. These releases were the result of previous discussions between Japan and the U.S. in June, 1980).

22nd - Prime Minister Murayama set in motion the legal process to force unwilling landowners in Okinawa Prefecture to continue leasing their lands to the U.S. military. The move was endorsed by the leaders of the three coalition parties. "This is a tough but necessary choice to maintain the Japan-U.S. security alliance," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Koken Nosaka in quoting Murayama. Governor Ota responded to the decision by saying that the Prime Minister should consider the fact that landowners on Okinawa have been forced to lease their property for the last 50 years, even though the Constitution guarantees the right to property. Murayama is expected to sign documents for 35 land leases due to expire at the end of March, 1996 (including the leases for the Sobe Telecommunications Facility). Officials at the Defence Facilities Administration Bureau said that the Prime Minister would only be able to sign the relevant documents before the expiry deadline with the cooperation of the Okinawa Governor. If that is not forthcoming, the government could resort to an emergency legal provision that would allow use of the land for up to six months. Currently, 35 of the 2,937 military landowners have refused to renew leases.

23rd - Prime Minister Murayama may visit the U.S. to meet with President Clinton if the current budget crisis forces the President to remain at home, a diplomatic source said Tuesday.

24th - A letter from Prime Minister Murayama urging Governor Ota to sign documents required to force local people to lease their lands to the U.S. military arrived at the prefectural government office in Naha on Thursday. The letter is the first in a series of legal steps necessary to complete the signing of lease documents. Ota is expected to refuse, prompting Murayama to take additional measures to eventually win a court order authorising hime to sign documents on behalf of the Governor.

25th - In a meeting with Prime Minister Murayama in Tokyo, Okinawa Governor Ota refused to cooperate in enforcing the leasing of land to the U.S. military. Ota instead pressed Murayama to reconfigure and reduce U.S. bases and troops in Okinawa.

25th - A group of three U.S. lawyers will travel to Okinawa to help defend the three servicemen now on trial for the abduction and rape of a local schoolgirl. According to the New York Times, lawyers Eric Ross, Michael Griffith, and Charles Beach are expected to arrive there prior to a court hearing scheduled for 4th December. The lawyers say that the servicemen may have been pressured to admit their guilt. "An independent investigation needs to be done into the veracity of their statements," the paper quoted Ross as saying.

26th - At a meeting of the Council on Problems Relating to U.S. Military Bases in Okinawa on Sunday, the central government and Okinawa prefecture reached agreement on working out a specific package of measures within a year for solving U.S. military base problems in Okinawa. The meeting was held at the Prime Minister's residence in Tokyo. Attending the meeting were Chief Cabinet Secretary Nosaka, Foreign Minister Kono, Defence Agency Chief Eto, and Okinawa Governor Ota. During the meeting Ota issued a 5-point demand that encouraged the government to: 1) get together an "action plan" to reduce the size of military bases in Okinawa "in a visible way;" 2) to review the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement to enhance the authority of the Japanese law enforcement officials in crimes linked to U.S. servicemen; 3) to formulate a joint Japan-U.S. agreement on preventing noise pollution at U.S. bases; 4) to formulate measures to prevent crimes and accidents involving U.S. personnel, and; 5) to reinforce the existing tripartite liason council (comprising the Okinawa Prefectural Government, the Naha Regional Bureau of the Defence Facilities Administration Bureau, and the representative of U.S. forces stationed in Okinawa) to include a representative from the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

28th - Governor Ota refeused to comply with Prime Minister Murayama's written request that he sign documents forcing landowners to lease their lands to the U.S. military. Ota informed Murayama of his decision in a letter mailed from Okinawa on Monday. At a press conference, Ota said that his recent meeting with the government had been constructive and that there seemed a willingness in Tokyo to resolve the base issues, but that he would still not comply with the land leases. In response to the issue of the government filing a suit against him Ota said "It is not certain if I will be given the opportunity to express my views in court, but I will make preparations for it and will be ready for any other possible developments."

29th - Japan and the United States are considering pushing President Clinton's visit to Japan back to April of 1996, diplomatic sources said Tuesday. The issue is being discussed because of the U.S. President's tight schedule. Prime Minister Murayama said that a postponed visit would not hinder the current negotiations concerning military bases in Okinawa.

30th - U.S. marines in Okinawa resumed artillery exercises at Camp Hansen on Wednesday. The exercises had been suspended since the 4th September rape incident. According to the U.S., the marine corp will fire live 155 mm shells over Prefectural Highway 104 to the Onna Mountains from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for three days. It is the 10th exercise this year, and the 163rd since 1973. Members of local citizens' groups protested the exercises in front of Camp Hansen.


DECEMBER

2nd - In the Daily Yomiuri, Asian affairs specialist Larry Niksch predicts that the Third Marine Division on Okinawa could be cutback without harming U.S. military capabilities in the Western Pacific. The Pentagon, he said, "viewed the Third Marine Division as more of a rapid reaction force to be sent to various trouble spots...outside of Asia...the Persian Gulf for example, rather than being a unit focused on Western Pacific defence contingencies." He foresees less of a chance of reductions within the U.S. Air Force F-15 squadrons, logistical units, and naval units on Okinawa, which are each very important in defence strategies related to the Korean Peninsula.

5th - One of the three U.S. servicemen accused of abducting and raping an Okinawan schoolgirl told a court Monday that U.S. military investigators coerced him into saying "what the Japanese would like to hear." Marine Pfc. Rodrico Harp acknowledged his role in the incident, but denies actually raping the girl, which he was coerced into confessing. Harp said that the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Services police woke him at 4 a.m. on 6th September and began taking his statement.

6th - Yukio Hatoyama, Secretary General of the New Party Sakigake, said on Monday that U.S. bases in Okinawa could be moved not only to mainland Japan, but also abroad. "Thinking of the issue from the point of the U.S. presence in Asia, their destinations will not necessarily be sought in Okinawa Prefecture or other parts of Japan," he said.

6th - The U.S. Marine Corps said Tuesday that a night landing exercise due to begin at midnight along White Beach in Katsurencho, Okinawa, would be cancelled following a request from municipal government officials.

7th - A Yomiuri Shimbun/Gallup Organisation poll conducted in October and November, showed that only 23% of those Japanese surveyed felt that relations between Japan and the U.S. were favourable. This was the lowest figure since 1978, and was reflected in the U.S. where only 29% felt that current relations were favourable. In contrast, about 60% in both countries reaffirmed that the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty serves their national interests.

8th - Japanese Prime Minister Murayama on Thursday filed suit against Okinawa Governor Ota, demanding that he sign documents necessary to force Okinawans to continue leasing their land to the U.S. military. Murayama filed the suit with the Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court as a prerequisite for signing the documents himself. The government will argue that signing the documents is one of the duties Ota is obliged to do. The Okinawa Prefectural Government is expected to respond by arguing that the forced leasing of land is a violation of a constitutional provision guaranteeing an individuals' rights to own property. A ruling is expected in March, after several hearings. If Ota refuses to accept the expected court order, Murayama will sign the documents himself. Following this, the government must then ask the Okinawa land expropriation committee to issue a ruling regarding 37 hectares of land owned by 2,937 different landowners who are refusing to renew their leases. Since the leases for this land will expire at the end of March, the government will have to apply an emergency use provision.

12th - About 200 professors and instructors at seven universities in Okinawa Prefecture held an inaugural rally expressing support for Governor Ota in his refusal to sign land lease documents. Another 100 or so expressed support for Ota's stance, bringing the number of scholars backing the Governor to one-third of all college teachers in Okinawa.

12th Marine Pfc. Rodrico Harp apologised for the rape of an Okinawan schoolgirl at the Naha District Court on Monday, but maintained that his confession had been coerced by U.S. military authorities. He said that there could be no excuse for the incident, which he called "stupid." He said that he understood the anger of the Okinawan people. At Monday's hearing, the third, Harp continued to maintain that he had denied the facts of the rape as presented by the U.S. military investigators, but signed the confession because authorities told him he would receive a lighter sentence. At last week's hearing Harp's wife, Denitrease, also apologised to the girl and her family and said that members of her church were collecting money to help pay compensation to the victim.

13th - The U.S. Marine Corps began a four-day live firing exercise on Okinawa Tuesday, amid a protest rally staged by local residents. It was the 11th exercise this year and the first since the U.S. marines resumed their artillery firing drills at Camp Hansen in late November.

15th - Yolanda Gill, the wife of Navy Seaman Marcus Gill who is on trial for the abduction and rape of an Okinawan schoolgirl, told the court that she felt very sorry about what her husband had allegedly done to the girl, her family, and the local community. She said that her husband used to be a good-natured man, different from the man who was now sitting in the dock. She urged leniency in punishing the seaman, however, begging them not to take her husband from his family.

21st - Seventy-eight landowners who may be affected by the trial concerning the forced leasing of land for the U.S. military, have petitioned the court Wednesday to be allowed to assist Okinawa Governor Ota in his defence. If allowed to take part, the landowners plan to argue that the Japan-U.S. security arrangements are a violation of the Japanese Constitution, since the Cold War is over and the forced leasing of their land is illegal.

21st - Japan and the U.S. agreed Tuesday on a 10-point package for a 2% reduction in the area occupied by U.S. forces in Okinawa. Although certain conditions are attached, the package confirms the return of land housing 10 separate facilities at 8 bases.

23rd - Japanese Government officials demanded in court on Friday that Governor Ota must sign the documents that would force landowners to continue leasing their lands to the U.S. military. They argued that Ota's position made it difficult for the government to fulfill its obligations under the Japan-U.S. Security treaty and the bilateral Status of Forces Agreement. The government side submitted a number of documents to back up their case, including letters to Ota from Prime Minister Murayama. A barrage of more than 10 lawyers on Ota's side argued that he was not obliged to sign the documents and that this responsibility fell on the construction minister, who has jurisdiction over the Compulsory Purchase of Land law. They argued, on this basis, that the court should dismiss the suit. Lawyers also argued that the forced leasing of land was unconstitutional. The government wants the hearings completed as quickly as possible, whilst the Okinawan side intends to drag the trial out for as long as possible.


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