U.S. imposes curfew on Okinawa forces

Tokyo welcomes 'period of reflection' to prevent further disturbances

Compiled From Kyodo, AP

NAHA, Okinawa Pref. — The U.S. military imposed a curfew on all its personnel in Okinawa beginning at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, following a recent series of troubling incidents, including the alleged rape of a teenage Japanese girl by a marine.

The length of the curfew, which has been designated as a period of reflection, has not been set. The measure covers not only army, navy, air force and marine corps personnel living on and off bases but also their relatives and nonmilitary staff. They will be restricted to their bases, residences or workplaces, whichever applies.

The measure also applies to U.S. military personnel stationed at the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture, as well as Camp Fuji in Shizuoka Prefecture.

Military personnel living on base are not allowed to leave for any activity other than those related to church, school, medical care or official duty.

Personnel living off base can, in principle, only move between the installations and their homes by private car, taxi or military transport.

The Japanese government praised the move.

“The government welcomes the decision by the U.S. military to take strict measures,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“Japan plans to closely consult with the U.S. on appropriate prevention measures for the mid- and long term to be taken by the U.S. side.”

At a news conference Wednesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura noted it is rare for the U.S. military to impose a daytime curfew on its personnel.

U.S. Forces Japan will also designate Feb. 22 as a “Day of Reflection” for all U.S. military facilities in Japan, setting up a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Task Force in an effort to prevent similar incidents.

The U.S. military came under fire after the marine was arrested for allegedly raping a junior high school girl in the city of Okinawa on the night of Feb. 10. The United States immediately promised to tighten discipline.

But uproar in Japan continued following revelations that a marine was arrested for drunken driving in the same city and another marine was arrested for trespassing after he was found passed out on a sofa in a private residence in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture.

“USFJ has generated recommendations and reached a mutual agreement that all USFJ components will take additional actions to further reinforce and encourage the already high standards of professionalism among U.S. Forces serving in Japan,” the U.S. military said in a separate statement Tuesday.

Okinawa is considered a linchpin in U.S. military strategy in Asia, and Washington is eager to quell rising sentiment against American service members. U.S. Ambassador Thomas Schieffer traveled to Okinawa last week to express his regret over the alleged rape.

The case has prompted comparisons with the 1995 rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan girl by three U.S. servicemen. The attack triggered massive protests against the American military. The three were handed prison terms.