(* This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only. The original text is in Japanese.)

Press Conference by Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahiko Koumura

Date: Thursday, April 3, 2008, 4:30 p.m.
Place: In front of the Minister's Room, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Main topic:

  1. The Murder Case in Yokosuka

1. The Murder Case in Yokosuka

Minister:
As far as the incident involving robbery and murder of the taxi driver in Yokosuka, today an arrest warrant was issued for the US military individual involved. This is an extremely regrettable incident. This afternoon at 14:50 I asked US Ambassador to Japan J. Thomas Schieffer to come to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and I said to him the following. "This is an extremely regrettable incident. I would like you to promptly see to it that the handover procedures occur before he is charged." In response to this, Ambassador Schieffer said, "I am deeply sorry. We will promptly take care of handing over the individual involved." I understand that at about 15:30 this afternoon the individual involved was in fact handed over to the police.

This is an extremely regrettable incident but at the same time I believe this is an incident which demonstrates that improvements to the operations of the Status of US Forces Agreement functioned, in the sense that we have achieved the prompt handing over of the suspect.

Furthermore, I touched upon the issue in the meeting with Ambassador Schieffer of the serviceman who has gone Absent Without Official Leave. I said that we need to reach a conclusion quickly on this issue between the US side and the Japanese side. I request that action should to be taken promptly in practice, not only in words, but that in fact as quickly as possible prompt action is taken. I explained to him that the actions that have been taken thus far are insufficient and I said that they should be strengthened and carried on. Ambassador Schieffer said that he would see to this. That is all I have to say from my side.

Question:
Regarding this incident, it seems that quite a long time was required from the time the incident occurred until the ultimate arrest. What do you have to say about that?

Minister:
You should ask the police. This is not something that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should be commenting on.

Question:
According to certain reports in the media, it appears that quite a long time ago a request was made to the United States side for an interrogation but that the United States side did not respond to this. What are your thought on that?

Minister:
I have not heard of that. You should thoroughly ask the police about that.

Question:
Regarding the serviceman who has gone Absent Without Official Leave, how do you intend on settling this matter?

Minister:
We are discussing that right now. I believe that a result will be forthcoming in the not-too-distant future and you will be informed at that time.

Question:
Once again, I understand that the secretary-generals of the three opposition parties came to see you and called for a revision of the Status of US Forces Agreement. What are your thoughts on that?

Minister:
The views of the Government of Japan on this matter are basically that we will respond to these matters going forward by improving the operation of the Status of US Forces. In fact, the person involved in this incident was handed over promptly prior to the case being brought, and as you are well aware, the only nation in which individuals are being handed over by United States forces stationed overseas prior to cases being brought is Japan. In that sense, it would be quite difficult to revise the terms in the Status of US Forces Agreement itself in a way that would be more advantageous to Japan than other countries. That is why I would like to respond by using improvements to the operations. That is what I have in mind.

Question:
Ultimately, in fact, the police required time to complete their investigation and it did take a long time before the person involved could be handed over. I believe that this is somewhat a result of the police investigation, but in fact it did take a long time and therefore I have the impression that there was a major negative impact on the feelings of the people of Japan towards the US military forces. Did you not have any concerns about that?

Minister:
I am always concerned. The police conducted their investigation and they did take their arrest warrant as soon as it could be issued. At that point they promptly spoke to the United States and we were able to achieve a handing over of the person in charge before charges were brought.

Question:
Yokosuka is a town with a military base and considering the fact that from this summer a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier will be stationed there, I assume that there is a need to cooperate with the local people. What are your thoughts on the influence that this case will have on that?

Minister:
Although I do not really know, I do hope that there will be a smooth changeover to a nuclear submarine. For that reason as well I very much hope that nothing like this case ever happens again, which is what I said today. I understand that there are pretty good relations between the mayor of Yokosuka and officials on the side of the United States military forces. However, when such an incident occurs, it exerts a negative influence on the standing of the mayor and therefore I would like to have more precautions taken in this regard.

Related Information (Japan-U.S. Relations)


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