No alcohol & fireworks: US military restricts troops in Okinawa after murder, rape

Okinawa residents stage a protest against a murder of the 20-year-old Rina Shimabukuro, in front of the gate of Camp Foster in Kitanakagusu, Okinawa prefecture on May 22, 2016. © Jiji Press
The US military in Japan said they are restricting all celebrations and off-base alcohol consumption for its servicemen in Okinawa after an employee was arrested on suspicion of murdering a woman and a marine pleaded guilty to raping a tourist.

The decision was announced by Lieutenant General Lawrence Nicholson at a press conference at US base in Okinawa, home to about 62 percent of all US troops in Japan.

“We should not be out shooting fireworks. We should not be out having large celebrations and parties while the Okinawan people are in mourning. If we really believe we are part of the Okinawan community, then we too must be in mourning," Nicholson said.

According to the military official, the move comes not as punishment, but as a sign of respect to the Japanese people.

Later, Nicholson released a document detailing what US servicemen are prohibited to do outside the base. He states that “alcoholic beverages may only be consumed on a military installation.” Also bars and clubs are prohibited for US soldiers, he said.

Kenneth Franklin Gadson, who goes by his Japanese wife’s family name of Shinzato, a 32-year-old civil employee of the US military base in Okinawa and former US Marine, was arrested on May 19 over the disappearance of a local woman. He admitted that he throttled and stabbed his victim and also told police where to look for the body, according to Japanese media.

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

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.

Japan summoned US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy to lodge a protest over the incident.

In a separate case on Friday, US Marine Seaman Apprentice Justin Castellanos pleaded guilty to raping a Japanese woman on Okinawa in March this year.

A slew of apologies and conversations at high level took place following the incident on Okinawa, where the Americans have a large and controversial military presence. President Barack Obama arrived in Japan on Thursday for a Group of Seven meeting, where he also met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe following the public outcry.

The government of the Okinawa Prefecture has been long opposed to US military bases in the area, but originally ecological concerns were cited. In December, Okinawa Governor Takeshi 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.