Arrests of US sailors in Okinawa reignites opposition to bases (+video)
The arrests in Okinawa of two US sailors on suspicion of raping a local woman are adding to longstanding frustrations by local Japanese with the US military presence there.
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Japanese police are questioning the suspects, named as Seaman Christopher Browning and Petty Officer 3rd Class Skyler Dozierwalker, both 23, who were arrested after allegedly raping the unnamed woman as she walked home in the early hours of Tuesday. Mr. Dozierwalker has reportedly admitted to committing the crime, Japanese media said.
Japan’s Defense minister, Satoshi Morimoto, called the alleged rape an “extremely egregious and vile incident,” and attributed it to a “failure on how the US military trains its personnel.”
John Roos, the US ambassador to Japan, said: "The United States Government is extremely concerned by recent allegations of misconduct by two individual United States service members.
"We are committed to cooperating fully with the Japanese authorities in their investigation. These allegations, given their seriousness, will continue to command my full personal attention."
The arrests come amid growing resentment toward the US military following the controversial deployment of Osprey transport aircraft in Okinawa earlier this month. The aircraft, which use tilt rotors to take off and land vertically, and cruise like a conventional airplane, have been involved in a series of accidents that local residents say makes them too dangerous to fly in built-up areas.
Noise pollution, crimes committed by servicemen, and the constant threat of accidents involving military aircraft are common themes running though local opposition to US bases.
Although it accounts for just 1 percent of Japan’s total land area, Okinawa hosts about 74 percent of US bases and more than half of its 47,000 troops in Japan.
Public broadcaster NHK said seven US servicemen have been arrested in connection with rapes since Okinawa reverted to Japanese control in 1972. The most notorious was the 1995 abduction and rape of a 12-year-old girl by three US servicemen. That case prompted mass demonstrations and forced Washington to agree to gradually reduce its military footprint on the island.
But local campaigners say official crime figures underplay the true extent of violence toward women by US servicemen.
Activists: 139 attacks over 40 years
The organization Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence has documented 139 reported incidents of violence against Okinawan women by members of the US military over the past 40 years, including rape, murder, sexual assault, and common assault.