US commander in Japan apologises for rape case

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 October, 2012, 8:40am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 October, 2012, 9:55pm

The commander of US forces in Japan apologised on Friday for a case in which two American sailors allegedly raped a woman in Okinawa, and said all US military personnel in the country will now be subject to a curfew and other restrictions.

A statement released by US Forces Japan says the 11pm to 5am curfew will apply to US military personnel whether they are stationed in Japan or just visiting. It requires them to be in their homes, on base or wherever they are lodging.

Lieutenant General Salvatore Angelella said US military members in Japan also will have to take “core values training”. The military’s liberty policy is also under review.

The two sailors were in Okinawa on a brief stopover and are now in Japanese custody. According to Japanese media, they had been drinking before they attacked the woman, in her 20s, who was on her way home before dawn on Tuesday.

The case has drawn protests from the Japanese government and an outcry on Okinawa, where the presence of US military has long been a sore point. The island hosts more than half the 47,000 US troops in Japan.

“I want to personally apologise for the grief and trauma the victim has endured and the anger it has caused among the people of Okinawa,” Angelella told reporters.

Angelella said American military personnel are “held to a higher standard”.

Both he and US Ambassador to Japan John V Roos said the US will cooperate in the Okinawan police investigation. Roos said the US government viewed the situation with “utmost seriousness”.

“We will put forward every effort to make sure that incidents like this do not happen,” Roos said.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service has begun its own investigation, although Japan has primary jurisdiction.

Seaman Christopher Browning of Athens, Texas, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Skyler Dozierwalker of Muskogee, Oklahoma, were arrested on Tuesday. Both are 23, joined the military in 2008 and are assigned to Joint Naval Air Station, Fort Worth, Texas.

The latest case has inflamed chronic tensions between the US military and Okinawa over base-related crimes and other issues. Okinawans also have been protesting plans to deploy the Marine Corps’ MV-22 Osprey to a base there because of safety concerns.

Local opposition to the US bases over noise, safety concerns and crime flared into mass protests after the 1995 rape of a schoolgirl by three American servicemen. That outcry eventually led to an agreement to close a major Marine airfield, but that plan has stalled for more than a decade over where a replacement facility should be located.