Following Okinawa murder, Abe to ask Obama to strengthen discipline among U.S. servicemen

JIJI

In the wake of the arrest Thursday of a former U.S. Marine for abandoning the body of a Japanese woman in Okinawa Prefecture, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will directly ask U.S. President Barack Obama to strengthen discipline among U.S. servicemen and workers at U.S. bases in Japan during their upcoming talks, it was learned Friday.

Abe will also ask Obama to take thorough measures to prevent any recurrence of such incidents, informed sources said.

In talks with reporters at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo on Friday morning, Abe said, “I feel strong resentment.” He added that he will urge the U.S. government to take rigorous measures, including thorough preventive steps.

By making the requests, the Abe administration hopes to minimize the impact of the incident on relations between the two countries.

Obama will visit Japan to attend a two-day summit of the Group of Seven major countries in Mie Prefecture from Thursday. He plans to hold a bilateral meeting with Abe on Thursday morning.

“Abe will have no choice but to discuss the latest incident in Okinawa in the upcoming bilateral summit,” a senior Japanese government official said Friday.

By highlighting efforts to prevent similar incidents during his meeting with Obama, Abe apparently aims to ease the anger of Okinawans at a time when the Japanese government faces a series of difficult issues, including the planned relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which is located in Okinawa Prefecture, sources said.

Abe also plans to hold talks with Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga when the governor visits Tokyo on Monday to attend a meeting of the government’s council to discuss ways to shore up the prefecture’s economy.

At a press conference Friday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that the government plans to work with the Okinawa Prefectural Government in dealing with the latest incident.

Meanwhile, Onaga told reporters in Naha, the prefectural capital, on Friday night, “The incident can never be tolerated,” adding, “I will strongly call for a revision of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement.”

Okinawa police arrested Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, the former marine and a 32-year-old worker at a U.S. base in the prefecture, on Thursday for abandoning the body of Rina Shimabukuro, 20, who has been missing since last month.

On Friday, Okinawa Deputy Gov. Mitsuo Ageda met with Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, head of U.S. forces in Okinawa, at the prefectural government office in Naha.

Nicholson expressed regret over the incident on behalf of the U.S. government.

Ageda said that he feels anger over the incident, adding that it happened because there are U.S. bases in Okinawa.