National

Okinawa slaying prompts local assemblies to pass protest resolutions over U.S. military presence

Kyodo

Several municipal assemblies in Okinawa Prefecture unanimously passed resolutions Tuesday to protest the slaying of a local woman to which a civilian U.S. base worker has reportedly confessed.

The assemblies in Naha, the prefectural capital, and Uruma, where the victim, Rina Shimabukuro, 20, lived, also passed a resolution calling for reducing U.S. bases in Okinawa and a drastic review of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).

The Nago Municipal Assembly passed a similar resolution.

SOFA, which governs the management and operation of the U.S. military in Japan, is intended to serve U.S. interests, including protecting U.S. servicemen from being subject to what the United States sees as unfair criminal or civil justice systems.

The development came after police last Thursday arrested Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, a 32-year-old former U.S. Marine, for allegedly dumping Shimabukuro’s body. Investigative sources say Shinzato has admitted killing Shimabukuro after sexually assaulting her.

The incident has stoked anger among residents who already feel burdened with the heavy U.S. military presence in the prefecture.

“Citizens in the city and the prefecture are deeply shocked and worried. Deep sorrow and strong anger are growing,” the Uruma Municipal Assembly said in a statement.

“It is absolutely wrong that we have to live here while at the same time be frightened by crimes committed by U.S. military personnel and base workers,” the Naha Municipal Assembly said, adding that it will send the resolution to the U.S. government and opinions to the chairs of both chambers of the Diet.

The Defense Ministry and the U.S. Department of Defense, however, expressed reluctance to review SOFA.

Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said at a news conference Tuesday, “Investigation of this case has been carried out rigorously based on Japan’s right to investigate and jurisdiction under the Status of Forces Agreement.”

Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said Monday that the United States and Japan have been improving the way the agreement is applied and will continue with the effort.

Adm. Harry Harris, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, offered an apology over the incident in Okinawa when he talked Monday with Adm. Katsutoshi Kawano, chief of the Joint Staff of the Self-Defense Forces, over the phone.

Harris and Kawano reaffirmed the view that the Japan-U.S. alliance plays a vital role in maintaining regional peace and security, and that the two countries will continue to work to realize a deeper alliance.

According to investigative sources, Shinzato said he drove around for several hours looking for a woman to rape. He was also quoted as saying he strangled and stabbed Shimabukuro before stuffing her body into a suitcase and transporting it in his car.

The Okinawa Prefectural Police suspect Shinzato may have planned the incident beforehand, as he had placed the suitcase in his car earlier. He reportedly told the police that he threw the suitcase away, but he later became silent.

Shimabukuro went missing after she texted her boyfriend at around 8 p.m. April 28 to say she was going for a walk. Her remains were found Thursday in a wooded area in the village of Onna, about a 40-minute drive from her home.

The remains showed marks consistent with being stabbed with a knife, according to investigators.

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