Japan lodged a protest with the US ambassador Thursday after a former US marine was arrested in connection with the disappearance of a woman whose body was found earlier in the day on Okinawa.
The 32-year-old suspect, who is now a civilian employee at the US-operated Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, admitted involvement in the disappearance of the 20-year-old woman after police found DNA matching hers in his car, the island’s newspaper Ryukyu Shimpo reported earlier.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida called the US connection to the woman’s death “regrettable,” the Kyodo News agency reported.
The arrest comes less than a week before US President Barack Obama arrives in Japan to attend the final G7 summit meeting of his presidency. He will see the coastal city of Shima and later visit Hiroshima, where the US dropped an atomic bomb in the closing days of World War II.
"The United States is treating this situation with the utmost seriousness and the United States military is cooperating fully with local authorities in their investigation," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, calling the case a "terrible tragedy and an outrage."
The Okinawa prefectural police found the woman's body in the northern part of the island after his confession, Kyodo said.
The man expressed confusion upon being arrested, Kyodo reported, citing a lawyer who met with him at the police station in the city of Uruma.
The last reported contact with the woman in Uruma was a message she sent to her boyfriend late on April 28 saying she was going for a walk, Kyodo said.
Police began to suspect the former serviceman after looking at records of traffic in the area, the report said.
In March, a US serviceman was arrested for allegedly raping a Japanese woman at a hotel in the prefectural capital of Naha, while she was visiting Okinawa. He was later indicted.
Around half of the 53,000 US military personnel in Japan are stationed on Okinawa, where several high-profile sexual assaults on locals have prompted many residents to call for their relocation.
It was unclear whether Obama would discuss the concerns about the military base with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a bilateral meeting between the leaders next week, Earnest said.