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Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012

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Damage control: U.S. Ambassador John Roos faces reporters as he delivers a statement after meeting Friday with Vice Foreign Minister Shuji Kira at the Foreign Ministry. AFP-JIJI

U.S. airman's home intrusion draws fire

Entry, drunken assault follow sailors' recent alleged rape


Staff writer

The government lodged a protest Friday with Washington over the reported break-in and assault by a U.S. serviceman in Okinawa, an incident that comes less than three weeks after a high-profile alleged rape by two U.S. sailors of a woman in the prefecture.

According to the Okinawa Prefectural Police, a drunken member of the U.S. Air Force from the Kadena base become violent at a bar in the village of Yomitan around 1 a.m. Friday, violating a new curfew imposed in the wake of the alleged rape. The man's name is being withheld by Japanese authorities.

The suspect reportedly broke into an apartment on the third floor of the building housing the bar and, while trying to flee, struck a 13-year-old boy. The man reportedly then jumped off the third floor and as of Friday evening was being treated at a U.S. Navy hospital in Okinawa for injuries sustained in the fall.

"It's inexcusable to go out, let alone hitting a boy, especially after a new curfew was imposed" following the rape incident, said Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba, adding the Foreign Ministry will lodge a further protest at a higher level of the U.S. government.

During a news conference later in the day, however, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said the government will not request the suspect be handed over to Japanese authorities, saying the U.S. side is fully cooperating with the investigation. "We don't believe we need to seek custody" of the alleged perpetrator of the attack, Fujimura said.

Under the bilateral Status of Forces Agreement, the suspect in U.S. custody will not be transferred unless Japan indicts him. Some domestic observers argue key evidence could be lost during that time.

Summoned by the Foreign Ministry, U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos met with Vice Foreign Minister Shuji Kira and pledged Washington's full cooperation in investigating the case.

"It's an understatement to say I am very upset with the reported incident in Okinawa," Roos told reporters after his meeting with Kira. "First and foremost, we are obviously very concerned with the well-being of this young man."

The incident occurred less than three weeks after the U.S. Forces Japan imposed a curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. for all American service members, including those on temporary assignment, following the alleged rape.

The case will further fan local opposition to the presence of U.S. military personnel in Okinawa, which for years has carried the burden of hosting the majority of U.S. bases and forces stationed in Japan.

Amid mounting opposition to the U.S. military presence in the prefecture following the alleged rape, the forces started reviewing service members' liberty policies.

But cosmetic changes are unlikely to appease Okinawans, who have witnessed such preventative measures before, including the imposition of previous temporary curfews, and believe they have little impact on U.S. military personnel since they have been repeatedly violated them.

Information from Jiji added



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