U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos on Wednesday expressed deep concern over the alleged rape of an Okinawa woman by two U.S. service members amid an intensifying outcry over the U.S. bases in the prefecture.
Summoned by the Foreign Ministry, Roos met with Vice Foreign Minister Shuji Kira, who called for stricter discipline of U.S. service members in Japan and preventive measures.
After the meeting, Roos told reporters that the U.S. government, including the military, will cooperate in any way possible with the investigation.
“I do understand the anger that many people feel with respect to the reported incident. I would not be honest with you if I did not tell you that I did not share some of the anger,” said Roos.
The Okinawa Prefectural Police arrested two U.S. sailors over the alleged rape of a woman in her 20s Tuesday morning. The two were identified as Seaman Christopher Browning and Petty Officer 3rd Class Skyler Dozierwalker, based at the Fort Worth Naval Air Base in Texas. They were scheduled to leave for Guam on Tuesday.
According to news reports, the pair followed and assaulted the woman, who had ignored them. Police say that Browning denied the allegation, while Dozierwalker has admitted to the crime.
The incident is fueling anger among Okinawans, who have witnessed repeated cases of rape and criminal conduct by U.S. service members for decades. In 1995, two U.S. Marines and a navy corpsman raped a 12-year-old girl, sparking massive protests by Okinawans, and in August, a U.S. Marine was arrested for harassing an Okinawan woman. It is believed many misdeeds go unreported.
Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima met with Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto to call on the government to demand that the U.S. instill stricter discipline into its service members and review the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement.
“This situation is mad and insane,” Nakaima told Morimoto. “We need to drastically rectify the situation.”
Morimoto responded that the Defense Ministry is asking the U.S. to open a joint committee on the case.
“This is such a heinous and vicious case. I have to say U.S. forces are having trouble teaching discipline to their soldiers,” said Morimoto.
The latest case is expected to intensify the already vociferous antibase movement in Okinawa. Residents have protested the recent deployment of 12 Osprey tilt-rotor transport aircraft at the Futenma base, citing safety fearns.
Despite the groundswell of opinion, the strategic importance of the Okinawan archipelago, strung out from the Japanese mainland to Taiwan, makes it a vital bulwark against the rising might of China.
In Washington, a U.S. Defense Department official said the U.S. Navy in Japan is cooperating with the Okinawa police rape probe.
The local woman, whose identity was not revealed, suffered injuries to the neck, police said.