NAHA, OKINAWA PREF. – The Okinawa Prefectural Assembly passed a resolution and issued a statement Tuesday protesting the alleged rape of a Japanese tourist by a U.S. serviceman this month and demanding the U.S. military enforce discipline.
“We cannot help but say that the U.S. military’s efforts and instructions have not been effective, and we feel deep resentment,” the assembly said, noting it has repeatedly called for thorough measures to prevent crimes by U.S. personnel from recurring.
It also demanded a fundamental review of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, which defines the legal status of U.S. military personnel in Japan, and the consolidation and reduction of U.S. military bases in the prefecture.
Earlier this month, local police arrested sailor Justin Castellanos, 24, of U.S. Marine Corps Camp Schwab in Nago, on suspicion of taking a tourist to his room after finding her asleep in the corridor of a hotel in the prefectural capital and raping her there.
The case has sparked another round of outrage on the island, where residents have long been frustrated with crimes committed by U.S. service members, especially the infamous gang rape of a 12-year-old child in September 1995.
On Monday, thousands of people gathered near the construction site of a U.S. replacement base near Camp Schwab in the Henoko coastal area to protest the alleged rape.
“Incidents and accidents never cease to exist as long as there are bases here,” Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine told the protesters, repeating his opposition to the relocation project. “If the U.S. military were a good neighbor, these kinds of incidents wouldn’t happen. How long do we have to keep holding these gatherings?”
The area is the site of the replacement facility being built for the transfer of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan in south of the island.
Sachiko Kudeken, 64, took part in the protest with her 1-year-old grandchild. She said public anger had reached the “boiling point.”
Suzuyo Takazato, head of a local support group for rape victims, said at the protest that women in postwar Okinawa have long been victims of sexual violence.
“Even if the U.S. military enforced discipline and took steps to prevent a recurrence, violence against women hasn’t been addressed,” she said.
Several days after the seaman’s arrest, Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, top commander of U.S. forces in Okinawa Prefecture, apologized to Gov. Takeshi Onaga and expressed his “deepest regret and remorse” over the incident, which is being investigated by local authorities.
Okinawa hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan, and residents have been demanding a reduction and cancellation of the Futenma project ever since the 1995 rape.