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Saturday, Feb. 23, 2008

Tokyo wants better tabs kept on U.S. forces ranks


Staff writer

The U.S. must report annually on the number of service members, employees and family members living off bases in Japan under new measures announced Friday by the government to curtail crimes by U.S. military-related personnel.

The measures come on the heels of the alleged rape of a junior high school girl by a U.S. Marine in Okinawa on Feb. 10.

U.S. Forces Japan also designated Friday a "Day of Reflection" for personnel on all U.S. bases in Japan.

The Japanese government and the U.S. military have been discussing ways to prevent crimes committed by U.S. forces-related personnel.

According to a Foreign Ministry official, there will be more measures to come as the discussions are ongoing.

Up to now, local governments were not informed of the number U.S. forces-related people living off base. Staff Sgt. Tyrone Luther Hadnott, 38, the suspect under arrest in the alleged rape of the 14-year-old girl, was living off base.

Hadnott has admitted that he forced the girl down and kissed her but did not rape her, according to police.

The Foreign Ministry said that 10,748 of the 44,963 U.S. service members residing in Okinawa lived off base as of Jan. 31.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura, however, added that the Japanese government is not aware of the conditions under which U.S. military members are allowed to live off base.

As an example, Machimura mentioned that members of the Self-Defense Forces tend to move off base after getting married and having children.

"We don't know what kind of standards or policies (the U.S. military) has. It could depend on their rank, meaning that those who are in control can live outside," Machimura said. "We have decided to enter into thorough consultations over the policies in the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee."

Other measures include joint patrols by Japanese police and U.S. military police, the possible installation of more security cameras upon the request of local governments and raising awareness of Okinawa through military education programs.

"It seems like the liberty card program, which limits outings (of U.S. service members), is (managed) sloppily so it (also) needs to be reinforced," Machimura said.

Public resentment has continued to build as more allegations of rape, drunken driving, trespassing and counterfeiting have surfaced within the past week, prompting the U.S. military Wednesday to impose indefinite curfews.

The curfew covers not only army, navy, air force and marines living on and off base but also their families and civilian employees as well.

Those living on base are not allowed to leave except to attend church, school or receive medical treatment.

The curfews also apply to those stationed at the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture and Camp Fuji in Shizuoka Prefecture, as well as off-base personnel.



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