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A Chronology of News Events

January 1996


JANUARY

1st - Prime Minister Murayama and U.S. President Clinton are expected to pledge their offices to the reduction of U.S. bases in Okinawa, government sources said. Such a vow will be made when the two leaders meet in Japan in mid-April. The issue would have been addressed at a summit earlier, but Clinton was forced to postpone his scheduled trip to Japan in November. Specific base reduction plans are expected to be unveiled by the two leaders in April. Currently under discussion in the Japan-U.S. Okinawa base study committee (inaugurated in November) are plans for U.S. facilities at Futenma Airport, the Iejima Auxiliary Airport, and the Kadena Ammunition depot.

5th - Japanese Prime Minister Murayama announces his resignation.

6th - A few hours after the resignation of Tomiichi Murayama on Friday, the ruling parties basically agreed to let International Trade and Finance Minister, Ryutaro Hashimoto take his place, coalition sources said. The Diet will officially vote on the issue on Thursday. In the interim, the coalition parties will be working to reach fresh policy agreements that enable them all to throw their weight behind Hashimoto.

6th - Okinawa Governor Ota expressed his sorrow at Murayama's decision to resign as Prime Minister. "I was very surprised," he said. "Murayama took up the Okinawa issue so sincerely. There was no Prime Minister before him who really listened to the appeals of Okinawans. I was able to speak to him very frankly." "I was counting on his leadership in solving the Okinawa issue," said Ota, "so I can't help feeling disappointed."

8th - The three-party ruling coalition reached a compromise agreement late Sunday on a new package of policies for the nation's new administration under Ryutaro Hashimoto, party officials said. Two policies were formulated with regard to Okinawa: 1) to promote reorganisation and reduction of U.S. forces in Okinawa without jeopardising the security treaty with the United States, and; 2) to promote confidence-building measures in Asia and the Pacific to prevent the size of U.S. bases in Okinawa from being locked into particular strength levels.

8th - The heads of eight municipalities in Okinawa are now refusing to take the necessary procedures to expropriate property from landowners for use by U.S. military bases on the island. The municipalities of Ginowan, Urasoe, Kadena, Chatan and Onna had earlier signed proxies in agreement with the measures (whilst Naha, Yomitan and Okinawa had rejected the proxies all along). Of the base-affected areas, only the Ie Island municipality supports the renewal of land lease contracts.

8th - A U.S. Marine was involved in a car accident Sunday in which a local woman and her two daughters were killed.

9th - Okinawa Governor Ota expressed his desire to meet as soon as possible with new Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto to discuss the scaleback of U.S. bases on the island. Legal proceedings against Ota, instigated by the former premier Murayama, are still continuing. Ota would like to meet with Hashimoto before the second court session on the land lease lawsuit in February.

10th - The three servicemen accused of raping an Okinawan schoolgirl have paid a total of 900,000 yen (approx $9,000) in compensation to the victim and her family, defence lawyers said Tuesday. He further stated that the defendants intend to pay a further 600,000 yen. He emphasised that the payment does not mean an out-of-court settlement has been reached in the rape case.

10th - Okinawa Prefecture has drawn up a three-stage plan for the closing of all U.S. military base on the island by 2015, Vice, Gov. Masanori Yoshimoto said Tuesday. The plan would return the 245 sq. kilometres that the 42 installations occupy to their owners in either 2000, 2010, or 2015, Yoshimoto said. The prefecture will present its plan to the central Japanese government during talks in Tokyo on 30th January. Prefectural officials are currently discussing which bases should be closed in which phase. Futenma airfield is likely to be amongst those proposed for closure in 2000. After the bases have been removed the prefecture hopes to develop the freed lands to bring its economy on a par with the rest of Japan.

12th - Prime Minister Hashimoto's new cabinet is announced. Those with either direct or indirect involvement in Okinawan affairs would include: Defence Agency Director General, Hideo Usui (from the conservative, pro-Japan-U.S. security alliance, Liberal Democratic Party); Foreign Minister, Yukihiko Ikeda (also LDP); Chief Cabinet Secretary, Seiroku Kajiyama (also LDP), and; Hokkaido-Okinawa Development Agencies Director General, Saburo Okabe (also LDP).

12th - If the Japanese Government wants to relocate some troops from Okinawa to the mainland, the United States will agree, Ambassador Mondale said Wednesday. "Where our troops are to be located in Japan is a question for the government of Japan to decide," Mondale sais in a television interview. "So if they want to move some of them elsewhere, that would be fine by us." Any relocation, he said, would probably involve a very limited number of troops. Mondale expressed his desire to readjust forces, to reduce irritants, and to be less intrusive within the Okinawan community.

13th - In his first news conference since taking over as Prime Minister, Ryutaro Hashimoto pledged that his LDP-led administration would basically follow the course mapped out by his predecessor. As for Okinawa, Hashimoto said that he had discussed the issue with U.S. President Clinton on Friday, and that he was hoping that the two countries could explore streamlining and reducing the U.S. military presence there without damaging the bilateral security relationship. Although Hashimoto said that he was sympathetic to the "sorrow, agony and anger" of the Okinawan people, he called on them to understand the importance of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.

13th - The Fukuoka District Court on Friday rejected a plea by the mother of a U.S. servicemen accused of raping and Okinawan schoolgirl, Marine Pfc. Kendrick Ledet, to have the trial moved off Okinawa. The court said that none of the accused is in danger of receiving a biased trial there. Ledet's mother had argued that local outrage at the attack and widespread anti-U.S. sentiment would put pressure on the panel of three local judges to convict the defendants and impose harsh sentences.

13th - Japan's new Foreign Minister, Ikeda, said Friday that Japan has no immediate plans to ask Washington to scale down the number of U.S. military troops currently stationed in the country (approx. 47,000).

14th - New Defence Agency Chief, Hideo Usui, said Friday that he is looking forward to visiting Okinawa at an early date for talks with Governor Ota on the U.S. military presence there. He intends to visit the U.S. bases that will be subject to reorganisation, reduction and other changes as a result of bilateral agreements with the U.S. Usui is expected to make the trip to Okinawa after February.

15th - Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda and U.S. Secretary of State Christopher agreed Saturday to meet ahead of President Clinton's trip to Japan in April. A number of issues are slated for discussion.

15th - Prime Minister Hashimoto will meet with Okinawa Governor Ota as early as 23rd January, government sources said Saturday. Up for discussion will be the issue of U.S. bases in Okinawa and the Governor's refusal to sign land leases.

16th - Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda will leave for the U.S. on Thursday for talks with Secretary of State Warren Christopher. He is also slated to meet with Bill Clinton and Defence Secretary William Perry. Talks are expected to focus on issues related to the Japan-U.S. summit in Japan from 16th to 18th April.

16th - Defence Agency Chief, Hideo Usui, called on the people of Japan to thank the people of Okinawa for the hardships it has bourne for the sake of Japan since the end of WWII. He contrasted Okinawa's hardships with Japan's postwar prosperity. He explained that some agreements on base consolidation and reduction have been reached and that he would hope to realise them as quickly as possible.

19th Japan anf the U.S. are currently discussing the restructuring of U.S. military bases in Okinawa in working level talks in San Francisco, sources said Wednesday. On the agenda is also the handling of a bilateral acquisition and cross-servicing agreement. Defence officials from both countries are participating.

20th - Foreign Minister Ikeda and U.S. Secretary of State Christopher agreed Friday that they would try to put the Okinawa rape case behind them, although it would likely be an issue during President Clinton's visit to Japan in April. Ikeda further stated that no resolution to the Okinawa base issue should be expected by the April summit between the leaders of the two countries. All he suggested in this regard, was that the joint Japan-U.S. committees looking into the problems would work hard to try to provide direction for the two leaders.

23rd - In apparent contrast to Foreign Minister Ikeda's remarks a few days earlier, Defence Agency Chief Usui said that he hoped that the issue of military bases in Okinawa will be resolved before President Clinton's visit to Japan in April.

24th - Prime Minister Hashimoto and Okinawa Governor Ota met to discuss the issue of military bases for the first time in Tokyo on Tuesday. Hashimoto vowed to deal with the issue "sincerely." Ota said afterwards that he expected Hashimoto to pursue the issue in the same way that his predecessor did. He also stated that he had presented the new Prime Minister with a list of demands calling for base reductions, a review of the Status of Forces Agreement, and other base-related problems.

26th All of Okinawa's 53 municipalities agreed Thursday to the Prefectual Governments three-stage plan for a complete base closure by the year 2015. The plan, which even the left-of-centre "Asahi Shimbun" calls pie-in-the-sky, calls for the decomissioning of the bases in three stages. The first would include shutting down Naha military port, Yomitan Air base, and Futenma Air Base by the year 2001. The second would include closing the Makiminato supply base and the Awase Telecommunications base by 2010. The third would include closing Kadena Air Base and White Beach by 2015.

27th - Prime Minister Hashimoto and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Mondale met Friday to discuss arrangements for President Clinton's visit to Japan in April. Mondale was asked by Hashimoto to do all he could on the Okinawa base issue so that the prefecture's requests for a reduction could be realised. Hashimoto said that it was necessary for the government to reach agreement with Okinawa Prefecture to make it easier politically for him and Clinton to issue a joint statement reaffirming the importance of the Japan-U.S. security alliance.

29th - An Okinawan father has refused to accept additional compensation from the three U.S. servicemen who are accused of raping his daughter. He has already received 900,000 yen of the 1.5 million yen offered to him, but refused to accept the rest. The lawyers in defence of the servicemen had hoped to produce a receipt for the full 1.5 million at the beginning of the trial and then call on the judges for leniency.

29th - The government is now likely to choose from amongst nine locations outside of Okinawa Prefecture (four more than previously considered) as potential sites for live shooting drills by U.S. forces. The government is also considering the transfer of a live shell firing drill, currently carried out over Okinawa Prefectural Highway No.104, to any of nine Ground Self Defence Force (GSDF) drill sites on a step-by-step basis. Sites originally proposed included GSDF areas at the foot of Mt. Fuji, which stretches across Shizuoka Prefecture and Yamanashi Prefecture, and in Hijudai, Oita Prefecture. The newly-proposed sites are in Hokkaido, Niigata, Fukushima and Shiga prefectures. Each of the four new sites offer conditions little different from those currently available to the U.S. in Okinawa in terms of long-range live shell firing exercises.

30th - Prosecutors on Monday demanded jail sentences of 10-year's hard labour for the three servicemen accused of the assault. Prosecutors say that the girl was bound, beaten, and raped in the back seat of a rental car. The father of the girl appealed to the court that the accused should be "kept in prison until they die." The three servicemen face sentences of anything between three years and life imprisonment for the crime of rape causing injury under Japanese law. Defence lawyers point out that there has never been a case in which more than ten years has been imposed. One of the three, Marcus Gill, has pleaded guilty as charged, but the two others, Rodrico Harp and Kendrick Ledet, have acknowledged only joining in the abduction. In summing up, the prosecution said that Gill and Harp had raped the girl, and that Ledet had tried, but was unable to do so. A final ruling and sentencing is expected with about a month.

30th - A U.S. Marine from Camp Butler, Okinawa, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for killing an Okinawan women by repeatedly hitting her on the head with a hammer. The judge rejected the defendant's plea that he had not been in control of his faculties at the time of the crime.

30th - A 14-man delegation, led by Prefectural Assembly Chairman Chiken Kakazu, left for Washington on Monday to appeal to the U.S. Government to downsize its bases in Okinawa Prefecture. The delegation will spend eight days in the United States.

31st - The Okinawa Prefectural Government officially handed over its plan to close all U.S. military bases in Okinawa by the year 2015 to Japanese Prime Minister Hashimoto on Tuesday. The reaction in Tokyo was described as "cool." Vice Governor Masanori Yoshimoto made it clear that the prefecture was not demanding the immediate return of bases, nor was it opposed to the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. He said instead, that the Treaty could be maintained "without U.S. bases on Okinawa." He pointed out that Okinawa had endured military bases for the last 50 years and that, even under the new plan, it would do so for about another 20. The plan was described as "unrealistic" by high-level Defence Agency officials.


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