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U.S. military base worker on Okinawa arrested in woman’s murder

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    In this Aug. 14, 2012 photo, ground crew members work on a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker at Kadena Air Base on Japan’s southwestern island of Okinawa.

TOKYO » Japanese police have arrested an American working on a U.S. military base in Okinawa on suspicion of abandoning the body of a woman who had been missing since last month.

The arrest Thursday sparked outrage on Okinawa, where anti-U.S. military sentiment is already high because of the heavy American troop presence. The relocation of a U.S. air station on the southern Japanese island was recently stalled because of large protests.

Police said Kenneth Shinzato, 32, was arrested after he was questioned and investigators found the body at a location he provided.

Investigators determined that the body, found in a forest in central Okinawa, is that of a 20-year-old woman missing since April 28, when she messaged her boyfriend that she was going for a walk.

Police said they suspect Shinzato was also responsible for the death of the woman. He has not been formally charged.

They said the suspect works at Kadena Air Base and is believed to be former U.S. serviceman. Kyodo News service said Shinzato used to be a Marine.

In Washington, Defense Department spokesman Peter Cook said the man arrested was a U.S. military contractor. “This is an appalling tragedy,” he said. The U.S. military extends its “deepest sympathies to the people of Japan, and express our gratitude for the trust that they place in our bilateral alliance and the American people.”

Spokesman John Kirby said the State Department was aware of the arrest of a U.S. civilian citizen in Okinawa. He said the U.S. military was cooperating fully with local authorities in their investigation.

Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga said he was “outraged” and that the death of the woman broke his heart. “As I look back at all the developments to date, I’m simply speechless,” he said.

Onaga has spearheaded opposition to the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from a densely populated neighborhood in central Okinawa to another site on the island, saying the facility should be moved away from Okinawa instead.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida summoned U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy to convey his “regret” over the crime. Kennedy offered condolences for the death of the woman.

“This is a terrible tragedy and it’s obviously an outrage,” Kirby told reporters in Washington.

Okinawa is home to more than half of about 50,000 American troops based in Japan. Many Okinawans complain about crime and noise connected to the bases.

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  • We need to be more careful with who is allowed to go into the military. How dare they treat women in other countries like they are nothing.

  • “Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga said he was “outraged” and that the death of the woman broke his heart. “As I look back at all the developments to date, I’m simply speechless,” he said.” What developments? Trying to move the Marines out of Okinawa? Because a Japanese never committed a murder in Okinawa?

    In the land of separate trains for women because of “sukebe” men, the Japanese think and treat our Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and Airmen as criminals. Politicians need to stand up for our service members and not be “summoned”; or get us the hell out and make both sides happy.

    • I travel to Japan more than once each year and I often ride the train. I have no idea what you’re talking about when you say they have “separate trains for women”. I also find it hard to understand your belief that our politicians need to stand up for a possible killer. I do agree that we should probably move.

  • Okinawans murdering other Okinawans is not uncommon and there is little if any outrage by other Okinawans when it happens, so it is hypocritical to express so much outrage when the alleged murdered is an American. It is interesting to note that the accused, Shinzato, is of Okinawan ancestry. There would have been little or no outrage if was native born.

    • By “not uncommon” what statistics are you referring to? I’d really like to see those. You must have Okinawa mixed up with the U.S. where reported murders are so common that, yes, there is no outrage. In Japan a single murder is still a big enough deal to make the news.

      Look up the word, “hypocritical.” Hypocritical would apply if Japanese Nationals living abroad were killing citizens of their host countries. Hypocritical applies if you accuse Mr. Onaga of being hypocrite while supporting a presidential candidate who wants to build a wall to keep out “murderers and rapists” even though we home grow most of our own.

      And what doe the accused’s Okinawan name have to do with anything?

      Geez.

    • A member of a foreign occupying force murdered a local girl, so yeah, there’s some legitimate outrage. btw change your moniker from “ronin” to “baka-yaro” to reflect your knowledge of the culture.

    • What makes you think the accused is “of Okinawan ancestry”? If you did a little research before making erroneous statements, you would find that the accused looks like a “black” man who is reported to be using his Japanese wife’s family name.

  • Since the Vietnam War (my memories), the US Military Personnel and the Okinawan Civilian Community, has always had conflicts with each other. To date, our US Military has raped, killed, assaulted, and committed a rainbow of other crimes. Historically speaking, our military and civilian government leadership, has never adequately addressed these criminal issues.

  • Remember the stigma Americans bore soon after the Viet Nam War. “Ugly Americans Go Home” Since then things have improved. As far as the Governor is concerned he was just recently elected on an anti-American platform, so his comments are purely political rhetoric to insure his longevity as Governor and not the sentiment of the Japanese Government. It is in the best interests of both the US and Japan to maintain the airbase in Japan. The economic impact to the local community could be severely affected should our presence be removed.

    • By “economic impact to the local community” are you referring to the brothel and bar businesses or are you referring to locals working at the bases?

  • No one welcomes foreign military on their soil especially if they commit crimes against residents of the country.

    Imagine the outrage had a foreign military individual, stationed in the U.S. raped/killed one of our’s.

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