U.S. soldier in Japan charged with sexually assaulting teenage girl in Okinawa


Tokyo — Japan’s government is calling for stricter oversight of U.S. troops stationed in the country after a soldier was charged over the alleged sexual assault of a Japanese teenager in Okinawa. Prosecutors in the southern island region charged the U.S. soldier in March, top government spokesman Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters on Tuesday.

Local media said the 25-year-old man had been accused of assault, adding that he knew the girl was under 16, the age of consent in Japan.

The government expressed “regret” to U.S. Ambassador Rahm Emanuel over the incident and called for stronger oversight of behavior by military personnel, Hayashi said.

Okinawa accounts for just 0.6% of Japan’s land mass but hosts about 70% of all the U.S. military bases and facilities in the country.

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The U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is seen from Kakazutakadai Park in Ginowan, Okinawa prefecture, Japan, August 23, 2022.

PHILIP FONG/AFP/Getty


A litany of base-related woes has long grieved Okinawans, from pollution and noise to helicopter crashes and COVID-19 outbreaks, leading to complaints that they bear the brunt of hosting troops.

The 1995 gang rape of a 12-year-old girl by three U.S. soldiers in Okinawa prompted widespread calls for a rethink of a 1960 pact that outlined the legal status of Japan-based U.S. military personnel.

Okinawa governor Denny Tamaki voiced his “strong indignation” at the latest case.

“That something like this was done to a minor not only causes great fear to local residents living side-by-side with U.S. bases but tramples on the dignity of women,” he told reporters. “The excessive burden of hosting military bases is an everyday matter for us, and is intolerable.”

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Participants speak against the construction of U.S. military bases in Okinawa, in southern Japan, as they take part in a rally for peace on Constitution Day in Tokyo, May 3, 2024.

RICHARD A. BROOKS/AFP/Getty


Anti-base sentiment in Okinawa has been displayed in particular over a plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

While the central government wants to move the base to a less populated part of Okinawa’s main island, many locals would prefer it be transferred elsewhere in the country. A nationwide poll by broadcaster NHK in 2022 found 80% of Japanese consider the current disproportionate distribution of U.S. forces “wrong” or “somewhat wrong.”

The latest point of test for U.S.-Japanese ties comes at a crucial time, with concern over nuclear-armed North Korea‘s ongoing weapons tests rising along with tension between Washington and China over Beijing’s increasingly assertive stance on Taiwan’s status and its territorial disputes with other nations.


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