“There needs to be a fundamental resolution,” Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga declared.
18,600 U.S. sailors are banned from drinking alcohol on or off base while stationed in Japan. The declaration comes from the U.S. Naval Commander after Petty Officer 2nd class Aimee Mejia, 21, was arrested on suspicion of Driving Under the Influence after driving the wrong direction down a freeway in Okinawa and crashing head-on into two oncoming cars. The petty officer was found to have 6 times the legal limit of alcohol in her bloodstream.
American Military installations in Japan have caused tension for Japanese-American relations. Over the years, the relationship has been strained by a string of arrests and crimes littering the path. In 1995, three U.S. servicemen were arrested and found guilty of raping a 12-year old Okinawan girl.
Last month, 32-year old Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, a former U.S. Marine working as a civilian employee at the U.S. Airbase in Okinawa, confessed to brutally stabbing and strangling a 20-year old Japanese woman killing her. The news shook Japan as well as the U.S. and fueled a great ire in Japan over the presence of American military on their island.
Rear Admiral Matthew Carter stated that, “It is imperative that each sailor understand how our actions affect that relationship, and the U.S.-Japan alliance as a whole.” Thus, all ‘non-essential’ duties ie things other than grocery shopping or picking up children from school were banned from U.S. Navy personnel. The families of those stationed in Japan will not be affected by the ban.
“Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of the 7th Fleet, says, “The overwhelming majority of our Sailors are doing an outstanding job every single day… We will not condone misconduct that impacts our ability to conduct our mission or which jeopardizes our critical alliance with Japan.”