Japan, US limit legal protection for base workers

Tokyo, Jan 16 (IANS) Japan and the US on Monday signed an agreement to limit legal protection for American civilians working at US military bases in Japan.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy on Monday signed the supplementary accord of the Status of Forces Agreement, public broadcaster NHK reported.

The agreement gives the US primary jurisdiction over civilian employees who are accused of crimes while on duty.

Under the supplementary accord, the definition of civilian worker is restricted to eight categories. It includes people hired to operate military vessels, Red Cross Society workers, and other providers of health and welfare services to the military.

The accord also introduces qualification criteria for employees of companies that have contracts with the military.

It will effectively reduce the number of those workers covered by the accord to people who perform jobs that are essential for military missions and who have advanced skills and knowledge.

The revision follows a case last year in which authorities indicted a civilian base worker for killing a 20-year-old Japanese woman in Okinawa Prefecture.

Kishida said he expects the accord will boost US military supervision of civilian workers and help prevent crimes.

The revision took immediate effect.