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U.S. Navy eases drinking ban in Japan after Okinawa incidents

  • KYODO NEWS VIA AP / MAY 20

    In this file photo, police officers escort Kenneth Shinzato, center, an American working on a U.S. military base in Okinawa, out of Uruma Police Station on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa to turn him over to the public prosecutor’s office on suspicion of abandoning the body of a woman who disappeared last month.

TOKYO » The U.S. Navy in Japan has eased a ban on drinking imposed after an American sailor was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving in Okinawa.

U.S. Naval Forces Japan said in a statement Friday that sailors are now allowed to drink on base as well as at their off-base houses. Other drinking off-base is still prohibited.

The restrictions were imposed on June 6 after the sailor drove the wrong way on a freeway and hit two other vehicles, injuring two people in the other cars.

The incident further fueled anti-U.S. base sentiment on the southern Japanese island that is home to about half the 50,000 American troops based in Japan.

Separately, a U.S. military contractor in Okinawa has been arrested on suspicion of raping and killing a woman.

In a separate case, Japanese police on June 9 said a U.S. military contractor arrested on suspicion of abandoning the body of a young woman on Okinawa is now officially the prime suspect in her murder and rape.

The arrest took up a significant part of a Japan-U.S. summit that was held a week later, causing President Barack Obama to apologize. The U.S. military in Okinawa issued an order two days later on June 11 restricting celebrations and off-base drinking.

Police arrested 32-year-old Kenneth Shinzato, who is also a former Marine, on May 19 after he told investigators where they could find the woman’s body in a forest, three weeks after she disappeared. An autopsy on the decomposed body could not determine the cause of death.

Police said that Shinzato hit the 20-year-old woman on the head with a club, dragged her into the weeds and raped her, while strangling her and stabbing her with a knife. Kyodo News service reported that Shinzato told police that he drove around for a few hours to find an assault target.

Born Kenneth Gadson, reportedly from New York City, he is married to a Japanese woman and used her family name, Shinzato. He worked at Kadena Air Base as an employee for a contractor that provides services to U.S. bases on Okinawa.

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