Drunk driving and indecent exposure – tempers rise over behaviour of US service members in Japan

11/25/2012
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Tempers are rising in Japan following the recent arrests of two more American servicemen in separate incidents. There are calls for further restrictions on US service personnel stationed in Japan, and also for a reduction in the number of servicemen and bases. These latest arrests are the latest in a seemingly endless string of complaints, including the failure to relocate a noisy and potentially dangerous facility to outside a population center, and the deployment of the CV-22 Osprey aircraft in Japan, perceived as being a danger to the surrounding community.

TOKYO (majirox news) — More than a thousand people gathered at a hall in Tokyo on Nov. 24, demanding tougher restrictions on US troops. They also want action to reduce the numbers of the US military and bases in Japan. Four US servicemen have been arrested this month, which have fueled anti-American feelings, especially in Okinawa. These feelings were already running high after the alleged rape of a local woman by US servicemen a month ago.

“I am not optimistic that anything will change because the United States is strong and determined to keep their military bases in Japan,” said Yoichi Iha, former mayor of Ginowan in Okinawa. “These incidents will happen over and over again and the US will not change the way they handle them.”

Following the rape incident, all US troops in Japan were subject to a nighttime curfew. These recent incidents allegedly took place within the curfew hours. One for drunk driving following an accident, another allegedly stripped naked in an Internet cafe, another was arrested for trespassing and another for hitting a 13-year-old Japanese boy while drunk.

Ten years ago, an Australian woman was allegedly raped by a US serviceman in Japan, and went through years of legal battles. As a figurehead of the movement to fight for tougher restrictions and consequences of crimes committed by the US military personnel, she has just returned from Okinawa.

“I was there last week,” Fisher said. “The people of Okinawa have had enough of these incidents. There is suppose to be zero tolerance. They need the Japanese government to take action.”

Okinawa plays reluctant host to half the 47,000 US military personnel stationed in Japan – and tempers there are flaring over these incidents, also fueled by the recent deployment of the controversial CV-22 Osprey aircraft to the US Marine Corps’ Futenma air station in the middle of the city of Ginowan.

Though officials in the Japanese national government and the regional Okinawan government have been in contact with Washington DC, progress seems to have reached a standstill.

While the overwhelming majority of US servicemen stationed in Japan are careful and considerate visitors to Japan, one or two, almost inevitably will step outside the bounds of the law. These incidents are constant reminders to the Japanese people that foreign armed forces are stationed on their soil, and this breeds resentment, along with the appropriation of land for US bases, and the the noise and perceived danger of US military operations alongside and within population centers. With a probable upcoming change in the Japanese government, it is difficult to see any immediate change, though.

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