Q&A: What is the Japan-US Joint Committee? A consultation organization whose contents are unclear, including the COVID-19 information of the U.S. military base

2022.1.26 06:30
Prime Minister Kishida Fumio recently has indicated that he will discuss strengthening countermeasures at the Japan-US Joint Committee in connection with the problem of a series of COVID-19 infections in US military bases in Japan and surrounding local governments. We have organized the issue of joint committee which has little public information and is wrapped in a veil.

U.S. Navy Yokosuka Base

Q What is the Japan-US Joint Committee?
It is a consultative body that is clearly stated in the Japan-US Status of Forces Agreement, which stipulates the use of facilities in Japan and the legal status of US soldiers so that the US Forces in Japan can act smoothly. It is stipulated as "a consultative body on all matters that require mutual consultation regarding the implementation of the agreement". Practitioners in Japan and the United States discuss a wide range of themes, such as the handling of air traffic control of US military aircraft, noise control, and the scope of shared use of SDF facilities, at a pace of about once every two weeks.
Q Who are the members?
On the Japanese side, the director of the North American Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is at the top, and a total of six executives from each ministry of legal affairs, agriculture, forestry and fisheries, defense, and finance participate. The US side is represented by the Deputy Commander of the U.S. Forces Japan Headquarters, and there are a total of seven people, including the minister of the embassy in Japan and military personnel.
Q Why is there so little information about the committee?
It is because of the agreement that "the official minutes will not be published without mutual agreement", concluded at the first meeting of the Japan-US Joint Committee held in 1960. The whole discussions are private, including the schedule.
Q Is it possible to know the whole contents of the consultation?
It is published only to the extent permitted by both countries, and the outline and the full text can be viewed on the website of MOFA. Other than that, the committee doesn't even reveal how many agreements there are. Some people criticize that it violates the "people's right to know" without being obliged to report to the Diet.
Q What is the outlook for discussions on strengthening measures against the COVID-19 of the U.S. Forces Japan?
Prime Minister Kishida said that he would discuss "health and hygiene issues related to the US forces in Japan." However, according to MOFA, no specific agenda has been set other than dealing with the quarantine issue. At this moment, they have just begun informal working-level meetings. It is unclear what kind of results will be achieved in the future, including whether all the results will be announced in the first place.

This article is composed using Google Translatecustomized exclusively for The Chunichi Shimbun. The translation may havelimited accuracy.