US military to limit legal protection to some contractors in Japan

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Washington said it will limit legal protections and benefits to some US civilian contractors working for the military in Japan in a bid to assuage local anger following the killing of a Japanese woman on Okinawa island. Japan and the US agreed on Tuesday to tighten eligibility for the US-Japan Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed in 1960, which sets out the legal status of US bases and military personnel working in Japan. Under certain cases, such as actions committed during official duty, it protects personnel from being pursued by Japanese courts.”This will without doubt reduce the number of civilian contractors covered by the agreement,” Japan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida said in Tokyo. Kishida spoke after he and Japan’s Minister of Defense Gen Nakatani met with US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and US Air Force Lieutenant General John Dolan, commander of US forces in Japan. SOFA also exempts personnel from requiring visas while in Japan, and has been criticized because it has been used by the US military to ship people home before capture by the Japanese police. Civilian contractors are typically included under the agreement, which gives them access to housing benefits and other perks that can represent a substantial chunk of their income.

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