2004年8月13日、午後2時18分。宜野湾市の沖縄国際大に、米海兵隊のCH53D大型輸送ヘリコプターが墜落し、炎上した。周辺には部品やコンクリート片が散乱、機体の一部は乳児が眠る部屋の壁を突き破った。

米海兵隊のCH53D大型輸送ヘリコプターが墜落した沖縄国際大=2004年8月13日、宜野湾市

 墜落してまもなく、隣接する普天間飛行場からフェンスを乗り越えて来た米兵が現場周辺を封鎖し、構内を占拠した。県警や宜野湾市消防は米軍の管理下に置かれ、現場に入ることすら許されず、報道陣や学校関係者も退去を強要された。

 立ちはだかったのは、日米地位協定の「壁」だ。17条に基づく合意議事録は、「米軍の財産」の差し押さえには米軍の合意が必要だと規定。米側はこれを盾に県警などの要請に応じず、日本側は原因究明に不可欠な機体の検証すらできなかった。

 あれから11年超。いまだに、「占領状態」を許す不条理は変わっていない。

At 2:18 PM on August 13, 2004, a U.S. Marine Corps CH-53D transport helicopter crashed and burst into flames at Okinawa International University in Ginowan City. Scattered about the area were fragments of both the helicopter and concrete from an administrative building. A section of the fuselage even shot through the wall of a room where a baby was sleeping.

Moments after the crash, U.S. Marines, who came over the fence from the adjacent MCAS Futenma Air Station, sealed off the crash site and occupied the university grounds. The Okinawa Prefectural Police and Ginowan City Fire Department were placed under the control of the U.S. military and not even permitted to enter the site. Members of the media and university officials were also forced to evacuate the area.

What precisely prevented Japan from taking any action was the “barrier” that had been erected by the Japan-US Status of Forces Agreement. The Agreed Minutes to the Agreement under Article 17 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty specify that the consent of the U.S. military is necessary for seizure of “U.S. military property.” The United States used this agreement as a shield for not acceding to requests by the Okinawa Prefectural Police or others to even inspect the aircraft, which is a necessary step to determine the cause of the crash.

Over 11 years have passed since that day and there still has been no change in this provision ? absurd as it is ? which effectively authorizes “occupation.”