U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter apologized Saturday after an American base worker was arrested over the death of an Okinawa woman, a case that has stoked anger among islanders already upset for decades with the heavy U.S. military presence.

Carter extended "his sincere apologies to the victim's family and friends" during a telephone conversation with Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, according to the U.S. Defense Department.

"The United States hopes the perpetrator of this crime will be held accountable under the Japanese legal system," Carter was quoted as telling Nakatani.