Asahi Shimbun reports
that two US sailors were arrested by Okinawa police and accused of raping a local woman. Seaman Christopher Browning and Petty Officer 3rd Class Skyler Dozierwalker, both 23 and stationed at Ft. Worth Naval Air Base in Texas, were taken into custody on Tuesday. The pair, who had allegedly been drinking off one of the many US bases on Okinawa, followed a local woman as she left work after 3:30 a.m. on Tuesday. The Americans allegedly assaulted her after she refused to talk to them; she was left suffering from neck injuries in addition to being raped.
Japanese officials from Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda down to local Okinawan authorities expressed their outrage over the alleged crime.
"This is an extremely egregious and vile incident," Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto told the Asahi Shimbun
. "It goes way beyond the limits of what is tolerable. I feel that there must have been a failure in how the US military trained its personnel."
Okinawa governor Hirokazu Nakaima, who called the alleged rape "insane," slammed the status of forces agreement (SOFA) between the US and Japan, as an unequal treaty
designed to protect Americans who commit or are accused of committing crimes while stationed in Japan.
"Although I have asked repeatedly for a reduction in crimes and accidents perpetrated by US military personnel, it has happened again," Nakaima told the Asahi Shimbun
. "Problems will always arise as long as the SOFA remains unchanged."
US Ambassador to Japan John Roos issued a statement
Wednesday expressing his "extreme concern" over the rape allegation and promising full cooperation with Japanese investigators.
"These allegations, given their seriousness, will continue to command my full personal attention," the statement said.
US troops have a long history of criminal misconduct on Okinawa. More than 100 American bases have been established on the island, which is roughly the size of Los Angeles, over the past seven decades. US troops have committed hundreds of murders, rapes, assaults and robberies over that period, causing widespread distrust and revulsion among the local population. Massive demonstrations against the continued US presence regularly occur on the island; in 2010 some 90,000 people
turned out to protest the relocation of a US air base. Earlier this month, more than 100,000 Okinawans protested
the planned deployment of US MV-22 Osprey aircraft.
A 2007 Okinawa Times
poll found that fully 85 percent of locals opposed the US military presence, citing noise pollution, the risk of accidents, environmental damage and overcrowding.
Promises by Japanese politicians to move bases off the island have made
and broken careers. Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama successfully campaigned, in part, on a pledge to remove a Marine base from Okinawa. He later broke this promise under intense pressure from the Obama administration and paid for his decision
with his job.