• Kyodo

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U.S. Forces Japan has eased restrictions governing off-base drinking by military personnel based in Okinawa Prefecture, but they are still restricted from consuming alcohol from midnight to 5 a.m.

Following a spate of incidents involving U.S. servicemen, the current policy for military personnel in Japan allows them to drink up to two small bottles of beer from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. off base.

The relaxation is in response to a decrease in the number of incidents involving military personnel. But communities in Okinawa are likely to protest.

Last Saturday, two U.S. servicemen were arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. Two days earlier, a U.S. Marine Corps serviceman was suspected of being involved in a hit-and-run in Okinawa City.

On Monday, Okinawa Mayor Sachio Kuwae visited the U.S. Marine Corps’ Camp Foster and asked for a delay in easing the restrictions, citing continued incidents involving military personnel.

In announcing the policy revision, the U.S. military released a statement saying “we will continue our utmost efforts to prevent incidents and accidents.”

Following the rape of a woman by two U.S. servicemen in Okinawa in October 2012, the U.S. military imposed a curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. across Japan.

Despite this measure, a spate of crimes linked to drinking by U.S. servicemen continued, leading to further restrictions. In December of that year, U.S. forces in Okinawa ordered all military personnel in the prefecture not to drink alcohol off base. Restrictions have since been gradually eased for off-base drinking.

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