Kishida’s protest over lax US military COVID testing only flatters the domestic public

Photo: AFP of Fumio Kishida

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida protested and expressed his anger at U.S. military personnel who did not perform any coronavirus tests before coming to Japan, according to Japan-based TBS News on Friday.

All U.S. forces in Japan had exempted their personnel from testing for new coronavirus infections upon leaving the United States on September 3, in line with U.S. policy, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said on Friday. The practice was not exposed until a cluster infection was reported at the United States Marine Corps’ Camp Hansen in Okinawa Prefecture earlier this month.

Is it possible that the Japanese government ignored this decision by the US military since September? If the cluster infection at Camp Hansen had not been exposed, would the Japanese government continue to pretend ignorance even when the Omicron variant is raging across the world?

This incident once again demonstrates the inequality of the US-Japan alliance, in which Japan finds itself in a much weaker position. Under an agreement between Japan and the United States, quarantine measures for arriving U.S. military personnel are enforced by the U.S. side, which means they are not subject to Japanese quarantine rules. at airports. In other words, Japan’s quarantine measures do not apply to the US military.

When the Japanese government has put in place strict border controls in an effort to prevent entry of the Omicron variant by prohibiting the entry of non-resident foreign nationals, US military personnel can even come to Japan without testing. coronavirus. This highlights the inequality between Japan and the United States in terms of legal jurisdiction.

US troops stationed in Japan must abide by Japanese laws, rules and regulations, and those who violate them must be punished accordingly. This is what an equal relationship should be. But the one between Japan and the United States, as we see it, apparently doesn’t work like that.

In terms of Kishida’s response, “his anger and protest is above all a spectacle presented to the domestic audience, with the aim of allaying their discontent and anxiety,” Yang Xiyu, senior researcher at the China Institute for International Studies from Beijing, told the Global Times, “But Kishida should be clearly aware that such a protest cannot fundamentally change the inequality between Tokyo and Washington.”

The United States will not revise the agreement regarding the status of the United States armed forces in Japan, even if it compromised the public health security of Japan. Consequently, any protest will be in vain. Although Hayashi has said that the United States’ practice of not performing coronavirus tests on military personnel before arriving in Japan “has now been changed at the request of Japan,” American troops stationed in Japan are not not likely to fully comply with Japanese standards for epidemic control and prevention, and US troops in Japan can not be regulated by Japan. Tokyo is unable to change its weak position in its alliance with Washington. In order to maintain the US-Japan alliance and seek US security protection, it can be expected that similar scenes will be repeated over and over again in the future.

Amid lax US quarantine measures and the unequal US-Japan alliance, US troops stationed in Japan will become a glaring flaw in Japan’s efforts to prevent the spread of the virus. As the Omicron variant wreaks havoc, US military personnel will pose a huge challenge to Japan. It turns out that the Japanese public, especially residents living near US bases such as those in Okinawa Prefecture, will finally bear the risks. It is a modern tragedy of Japan.

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