TOKYO: Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki on Wednesday informed the Japanese government of strong concerns among local residents over increasing novel coronavirus infection cases at US bases in the southernmost Japan prefecture.
“People in Okinawa have great anxieties,” Tamaki told Defense Minister Taro Kono at their meeting in Tokyo, urging the central government to tackle the situation. Kono replied that he is “strongly concerned,” and pledged to respond to the issue.
The Okinawa prefectural government said Wednesday that 36 new cases of the novel coronavirus have been confirmed at the US Marine Corps’ Camp Hansen in the prefecture. The cumulative number of infection cases at US military bases in Okinawa rose to 136.
Under the Japan-US status of forces agreement, US military personnel in Japan are not subject to the country’s immigration control law, according to Japan’s Foreign Ministry. US troops and their families, and civilian base workers are exempt from Japan’s strengthened border control measures against the novel coronavirus and from its entry ban related to the pandemic.
Tamaki handed Kono written requests to have all such people entering Japan take polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests for the virus and to revise the bilateral agreement so that Japanese laws related to quarantine will apply to US troops in Japan.
After the meeting, Tamaki told reporters that the minister “should say what should be said” to the US side by understanding the position of Japanese prefectures hosting US bases.
Later on Wednesday, Tamaki met with Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and made similar requests.
Motegi replied that he will work sincerely on the requests, according to Tamaki.
Also on the same day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference that US troops in Japan are obliged to take quarantine measures. “We are urging them to take the steps more thoroughly,” the top Japanese government spokesman said.