Press Conference by Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa
Wednesday, December 22, 2021, 6:47 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mr. HAYASHI Yoshimasa, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I would like to brief you on the issue involving Camp Hansen.
As a result of our inquiry to the U.S. side regarding the border measures that were taken for the unit with the recent outbreak, it was revealed last night that the implementation of the measures was not consistent with Japan’s measures. Based on Prime Minister Kishida’s instructions, I have just expressed strong regret to Commander Rupp of the U.S. Forces in Japan.
I then lodged a protest based on the following three points.
Firstly, concerning the unit with the recent outbreak, it was found that, while the U.S. side conducted PCR tests on the fifth day after their arrival, tests were not conducted either when the unit departed the United States or immediately after they arrived in Japan, based on the assumption that the unit had completed vaccinations. Since such measures are inconsistent with the measures taken by Japan, I urged the United States to ensure that all personnel under the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) undergoes tests before departure and upon arrival in Japan. In addition, it was found that the U.S. side allowed access to all facilities within the U.S. Forces facility and area during the restriction of movement (ROM) period. While the U.S. side has already strengthened part of ROM, I urged the U.S. side for the further strengthening and thorough enforcement of the restrictions.
Concerning the tests for the Omicron variant, the U.S. side is taking steps to conduct PCR tests for the variant based on cooperation between Japan and the United States, and it was decided that U.S. genomic testing would also be conducted. While appreciating these efforts, we confirmed that we will respond to the novel coronavirus, keeping in mind the strong contagiousness of the Omicron variant.
Lastly, I conveyed that the arrest of a Marine belonging to Camp Hansen for drunk driving two days ago, amidst the efforts to prevent the spread of infection, was an incident that causes great anxiety to the local people and expressed regret. I urged the United States to enforce discipline and prevent recurrences.
In response, Commander Rupp stated that he takes the Camp Hansen issue seriously and noted the following.
First, all SOFA members entering Japan would undergo pre-departure tests.
Second, regarding testing upon arrival in Japan, it had been decided previously that tests would be conducted between the third and fifth day after arrival, but the U.S. side will consider if any additional measures can be taken.
Third, it was decided that the ROM period after arrival in Japan would be 14 days.
Fourth, positive cases on Camp Hansen would be informed to Japan as soon as the U.S. side obtains the results of the PCR tests for the variant, which are being conducted with the cooperation of Japan.
This was the explanation provided.
Furthermore, Commander Rupp stated that he takes the drunk driving case seriously and that he would strengthen discipline and work to prevent recurrences.
Reporter: Governor Tamaki of Okinawa Prefecture demanded a lockdown preventing military personnel and civilians of Camp Hansen, which has been hit by a cluster, from leaving the base. Have you urged the U.S. side to impose such a lockdown? Secondly, the Chief Cabinet Secretary explained at his morning press conference that 215 people were found to be infected as of this morning. Is there any update since then?
Minister Hayashi: Regarding your first question, to alleviate the concerns of the local people, the Government requested the United States for further restrictions on movement inside and outside the base by relevant people who could be infected, and to ensure that such restrictions are strictly enforced.
In response to this, as I stated earlier, it was decided that the ROM period after arrival in Japan would be 14 days.
On the number of novel coronavirus cases, the Government of Japan is coordinating closely with the U.S. side. As of this morning, 215 cases have been confirmed. This number is from the same point in time as the number mentioned earlier by the Chief Cabinet Secretary.
Reporter: You said earlier the United States responded that the ROM period would be 14 days. What exactly did you mean by further strengthening the restrictions?
Minister Hayashi: There were reports that the rules for further restrictions on movement inside and outside the base were not thoroughly enforced. Therefore, I asked for a thorough enforcement of the restrictions.
Reporter: By the way, what rules had been in place to restrict movement on Camp Hansen?
Minister Hayashi: As I may have stated earlier, it was found that all facilities of this U.S. Forces facility and area were accessible during the ROM period. While the U.S. side appears to have already tightened part of ROM, I urged the U.S. side for the further tightening of restrictions.
Reporter: It was revealed last night that the U.S. measures were inconsistent with Japan’s. Through what channel was this conveyed to Japan? Due to the Japan-U.S. SOFA you noted earlier, personnel could not undergo Japanese quarantine or they were allowed to enter the base without undergoing quarantine. What is your take on these structural problems?
Minister Hayashi: I explained the process earlier. As I stated at the outset, information came to light last night as a result of an inquiry to the United States regarding the unit with the recent outbreak. Under the agreement of the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee, the United States is to implement quarantine procedures when members of the U.S. Forces directly enter U.S. Forces facilities and areas. Accordingly, Japan inquired about this, and it was found that their measures were inconsistent with Japan’s and I lodged a protest as I stated earlier.
Reporter: Japan has only asked the United States to take border measures that are consistent with those of Japan. I believe there are currently limits to the SOFA. Is the SOFA adequate? Are any improvements necessary? Please share your thoughts.
Minister Hayashi: As I stated earlier, since the U.S. measures were inconsistent with Japan’s, a request was made at a higher level. I lodged a protest to Commander Rupp, and he stated that the responses I mentioned earlier would be taken. Japan will continue to coordinate closely with the United States in making necessary requests and obtaining an answer one by one.