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U.S. military restricts troops after murder in Okinawa

  • Lt. Gen. Lawrence D. Nicholson, U.S. Marine Corps Commanding General of III Marine Expeditionary Force, speaks during a press conference at the USMC Camp Foster in Okinawa, Japan after a former Marine was arrested on suspicion of killing a woman on the southern Japanese island. (Sadayuki Goto/Kyodo News via AP)

TOKYO » The U.S. military in Japan is restricting celebrations and off-base alcohol consumption in Okinawa after the arrest of a former Marine suspected of killing a woman on the southern Japanese island.

The Marine Corps commander in Japan said Saturday the measures are not punishment but an effort to show respect for the victim’s family and mourn with the people of Okinawa.

“We should not be out shooting fireworks. We should not be out having large celebrations and parties while the Okinawan people are in mourning. If we really believe we are part of the Okinawan community, then we too must be in mourning. And we do,” Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson said at a news conference at a U.S. base in Okinawa.

The 30,000 U.S. troops will not be allowed to drink alcohol off-base, and visiting clubs and bars is prohibited. Upcoming festivals and concerts on bases are being postponed until later in the summer. The restrictions took effect Friday and will last until June 24.

Police say they arrested 32-year-old Kenneth Shinzato on May 19 after he told investigators where they could find a 20-year-old woman’s body abandoned in a forest. Under Japanese law, he can be held for 21 days before charges are filed. The former Marine had married a Japanese woman and was working for a contractor that provided services to U.S. bases on Okinawa.

The arrest comes as tensions are already high over a plan to relocate a Marine Corps air station to a less-populated part of Okinawa. About half of the U.S. troops stationed in Japan are on the island, and many residents resent the burden they bear for the defense of Japan and the region.

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  • This is ridiculous. The alleged murderer is a FORMER Marine who was granted permission by the Japanese Government to reside in Japan with his Okinawan wife following his discharge from the Marines. He was in fact a legal resident of Japan, not a member of the US military community, and he was not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He subsequently was hired by a contractor doing work on military installations in Okinawa, but that did not make him a member of the US military community. Such contractors frequently hire former service members who are legal residents of Japan along with Japanese nationals. There would not have been a peep out of Okinawans if the alleged murderer was a Japanese employed by the contractor doing work on US military installation, but the outrage they are expressing is as though Shinzato is a current member of the US military and that the US military is in some way responsible for the murder. I don’t doubt that there are some Okinawans who are mourning the victim’s death, but I dare say that most Okinawans are going about their business as usual, going to karaoke centers and bars, drinking Orion beer and their beloved awamori, enjoying life as usual and doing all the things that Lt. General Nicholson has prohibited all US military on Okinawa from doing.

    • If the situation was reversed and happened in the U.S. and there were foreign troops stationed in the U.S.
      we’d react the same way.

      Let’s face it:
      No one WANTS foreign troops stationed in their country.

    • Lets have compassion for the family and their community, I would think the community accepts and understands the commanders response to this tragic event.

      Now is not the time to place your idea of how life should be!

      • You and Marauders don’t get it. The alleged murderer is not a member of the US military. His only connection to the US military since his discharge has been his employment by a civilian contractor that does business on military installations in Okinawa. Yet, he is being portrayed as a member of the US military community. The restrictions placed on the US military on Okinawa by Lt General Nicholson may play well in the local media, but he is in effect punishing them for actions of an American who is a legal resident of Japan. The restrictions also will have a negative effect on many businesses in Okinawa.

        • With regards to my comment about the impact on Okinawan business, I was living and working in Okinawa in 2004 and 2005 when an incident occurred involving US military personnel. I do not recall the specific incident, but I believe it was a fatal hit and run accident involving US military personnel who had been drinking off base. When the perpetrators were arrested, there was lots of outrage expressed by Okinawans along with the usual demands to close all US bases on the island. The base commander reacted by restricting personnel living on base to the base for some period and placing bars, lounges and clubs off limits to those residing off base. More outraged was expressed by Okinawans, but it was not about the incident. It was about the business they were losing by the restrictions imposed by the base commander. The restrictions were quickly lifted.

    • What you say is mostly correct. The general, however, is showing compassion for the local people and will likely soothe the tensions there. It’s a smart move. The letter of the law is not always the right path to follow.

      As a side note, ever hear the phrase “Once a Marine, Always a Marine”? “once one has earned the title, he remains a Marine for life”. A USMC slogan says “There are no ex-Marines or former-Marines. There are (1) active duty Marines, (2) retired Marines, (3) reserve Marines, and (4) Marine veterans”.

      • Showing compassion for the local people? Why isn’t that being shown by Japanese from the main Japanese islands. It is business as usual for the tourism industry. Japanese tourists are arriving in droves. They are enjoying Okinawa to the fullest while the 30,000 US military personnel and their family members have had restrictions placed on them that prevent them from doing likewise. .

  • If we went strictly by the level of complaints and protests, we might think that the U.S. military stations a disproportionate number of its criminal types on Okinawa. Since this is obviously not the case, we have to assume that the real issue here is political. The Okinawans, who are ethnically different from and were mistreated and discriminated against by the Japanese throughout much of their history, have suddenly become fervently anti-American. If they get their wish and the U.S. military leaves or drastically scales back, what will make up the economic losses? With the increasingly expansionist Chinese in the neighborhood, they need to rethink this. They remind me of some of the Hawaiian Nationalists around here.

    • Lets have compassion for the family and their community, I would think the community accepts and understands the commanders response to this tragic event.

      Now is not the time to place your idea of how life should be!

    • The Okinawans are doing fairly well economically after the island were returned to Japan. Lots of improvements were made and Okinawa has become a resort like area for the Japanese on the main islands.

      The Okinawan islands were kept under U.S. rule for a long time, up until 1971, and still is occupied by large U.S. military bases. Nobody wants to be under foreign occupation for such a long time. It’s time the U.S. start reducing their bases there and leave the people there a better place.

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