US sailor arrest "regrettable," Japan premier says

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe criticized the US military on Monday following the arrest for suspected drunk driving of a sailor stationed on the island of Okinawa.

The arrest was “extremely regrettable and outrageous,” the premier told reporters.

The 21-year-old woman drove on the wrong side of the road and collided with two vehicles late Saturday, injuring two people, before she was arrested early Sunday, Kyodo News agency reported.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida lodged a protest Sunday with US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy over the accident.

The arrest of the petty officer 2nd class prompted the US military to vow to enhance discipline among servicemen in Japan, Kyodo reported Monday.

After a meeting of its commanders in Japan, the US military agreed this week "to review measures to reinforce standards of conduct and maintain good order and discipline" in the country, according to a statement released Sunday in Washington, Kyodo reported.

Saturday's accident came around one week after US forces in Okinawa imposed a midnight curfew and alcohol ban off base for a month following the arrest of a former US Marine in connection with the death of an Okinawa woman in mid-May.

The arrest coincided with an overwhelming victory by anti-US base candidates in the Okinawa prefectural assembly election on Sunday. The victory gave a boost to Governor Takeshi Onaga, who vowed to block the construction of a new US military base in the northern part of the island.

According to a survey by local newspaper Ryukyu Shimpo on Friday, 84 per cent of Okinawans are against the project, which would take over the functions of US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the middle of residential areas in Ginowan city.

Regardless of the outcome of the Okinawa election, the central government will push forward the construction of new US military facilities on the island, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.

The current project is the only solution "when taking into account the need to maintain the deterrent capacity of the Japan-US alliance and eliminate the hazards of the Futenma base,” Suga said.

Many Okinawans have long been critical of the US military presence on the island and crimes committed by its troops. US military installations account for nearly 20 per cent of Okinawa's mainland, which is located 1,600 kilometres south-west of Tokyo.

Last update: Tue, 28/06/2016 - 17:25
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