Japanese PM 'outraged' over 20yo woman’s murder after US Okinawa base contractor arrested

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe © Yuya Shino
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he's outraged at the murder of a 20-year-old woman, following the arrest of a US man on suspicion of homicide in Okinawa. Japanese media later reported that the suspect admitted killing his victim.

“I feel extremely strong outrage,” Abe told reporters.

He added that he has no words "to express, considering how the family" of the victim feels.

"We urge the US side to take thorough measures to prevent the recurrence of such events."

Kenneth Shinzato, a 32-year-old civil employee of the US military base in Okinawa, and former US Marine, has been arrested for his alleged involvement in the woman’s death. He allegedly admitted that he throttled and stabbed his victim, Kyodo News said, citing sources close to the police investigation.

READ MORE: US man arrested in connection with young Japanese woman’s death in Okinawa

The 20-year-old woman, Rina Shimabukuro, went missing on April 28. The last person to speak to her was her boyfriend, who told police she had gone for a walk that night and never returned.

Shimabukuro's body was discovered in a mountainous region in Okinawa Prefecture on May 19.

During questioning, Shinzato initially admitted to disposing of Shimabukuro’s body, without saying he had killed her. He said he dumped her body in a wooden area after she stopped moving.

Shinzato reportedly lives off-base in the town of Yonabaru, Okinawa Prefecture, and works at Kadena Air Base. The US Department of Defense defines him as a US military contractor.

© Jane Fisher

On Thursday, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida summoned US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy to lodge a protest.

“I expressed a strong regret to Ambassador Kennedy and lodged a stern protest. I told her an incident like this is inexcusable and that I feel strong indignation,” Kishida told reporters after the meeting.

Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga, who is a vocal critic of US bases in the prefecture, said he was also outraged at the young woman's killing.

"As I look back at all the developments to date, I'm simply speechless," Onaga said.

The latest incident comes two months after a US soldier was arrested over the rape of a Japanese woman at a hotel in Naha in the south of Okinawa.

The case triggered massive anger in Okinawa, home to more than half of about 50,000 US troops based in Japan. The island’s residents have been very sensitive to such incidents, particularly after the infamous gang rape of a 12-year-old child in 1995.

READ MORE: ‘US military in Okinawa: 70 years of crimes, militarism, pollution’

The government of the Okinawa Prefecture has been opposed to US military bases in the area ever since, calling for a reduction in US forces. Governor Onaga filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government to stop the relocation of the Futenma US Marine Corps base to another part of the region.

© Jane Fisher