Okinawa slams US rape case, calls for treaty review
Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima said that the incident will force Japan to rethink its security arrangement with the US as the list of abuses by servicemen continues to grow."Although I have asked repeatedly for a reduction in crimes and accidents perpetrated by US military personnel, it has happened again," Nakaima told reporters."Problems will always arise as long as the US-Japan Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) remains unchanged," he said.
The US-Japanese Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) grants most American military staff an exemption from visa regulations and has led to occurrences where US soldiers have escaped Japanese jurisdiction. Two US soldiers were arrested on Tuesday for the alleged rape of a 27-year-old Japanese woman and taken into US custody.The US said it would consider handing offending soldiers over to the Japanese following the rape of a 12-year-old girl in 1995 by servicemen, but Japanese authorities have voiced complaints that they are often not allowed to interrogate suspects. The Prefectural Assembly on Japan’s southern island of Okinawa has condemned the US military for its lack of discipline and responsibility over the latest incident that sparked outcry on the island that already harbors strong anti-US sentiment.Spokesperson for the local government Susumu Matayoshi said that the case “had shocked all Okinawans and is unforgivable.”In addition, Japan’s Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba also stepped into the fray, lodging an official complaint with the US Embassy and calling on the US to enforce discipline and ensure no such incidents occur in the future.
In response, Pentagon spokesperson George Little said that the US deeply regrets “any grief and trauma the victim may have endured.”While the commander of the US forces in Japan has announced that American military personnel will be subject to a curfew and will have to take 'core values training'. The military's liberty policy is also under review. "We are also examining and will soon announce a package of measures to ensure responsible behavior and to demonstrate our commitment to maintaining positive relationships with the local communities that host our forces," Little said. He neglected to mention what these measures would entail.Members of a civic group gathered outside the Japanese Prime Minister’s official residence in Tokyo to protest against the US presence in Okinawa on Wednesday. They carried banners, reading “No rape, no base” and condemned US abuses in the region.
This latest case of US military abuses has fueled already-prevalent resentment for the American presence on the island.Okinawa hosts more than half of the 50,000 US troops stationed in Japan, taking up around 75 per cent of the land on the island.The residents of the island have long complained over the US troop presence, linking it to elevated crime levels, pollution and noise. In addition, the Japanese Defense Ministry estimates that 50 per cent of crimes and accidents that take place on the island can be attributed in some way to the US military stationed there.Okinawa made world headlines in 1995 following the rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan girl by three US servicemen. The incident sparked the ire of islanders and mainlanders alike who took to the streets in mass protests calling for US forces to be ejected from Okinawa.Japanese local media claim, citing sources, that there have been 127 cases of women raped by US troops since 1972. Nine of them occurred in the last 10 years.