US airman accused of assaulting Japanese boy

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 November, 2012, 3:11am

A US airman is suspected of assaulting a young boy yesterday on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, authorities said.

The incident comes just two weeks after a curfew was imposed on all 52,000 US troops in Japan over the arrest of two Navy sailors for allegedly raping a local woman. Half of those troops are based on Okinawa.

Authorities on Okinawa said the 24-year-old airman was suspected of entering an apartment and punching the 13-year-old boy before breaking a television set and trying to escape through a third-floor window. The airman, whose name has not been released, fell and was taken to a military hospital.

Japan's Foreign Ministry said the government had lodged a formal complaint with US ambassador John Roos. "This is unforgivable," Defence Minister Satoshi Morimoto said.

Military related crime is an emotional issue on Okinawa and a flashpoint in relations. All US troops in Japan were put under a curfew from 11pm to 5am after the sailors were arrested for the alleged rape on October 16. Yesterday's incident is believed to have occurred at about 1am.

The airman reportedly had been drinking in a bar on the building's first floor. He was being treated on Kadena Air Base for possible broken bones and internal injuries, base officials said.

"It is extremely regrettable when an alleged incident like this occurs," said Colonel Brian McDaniel, the vice-commander of Kadena's 18th Wing. "We are fully co-operating with Okinawan authorities on this investigation to ensure justice is served."

More than half of all US troops in Japan are stationed on Okinawa, and the recent incidents have further inflamed tensions and distrust.

About 1,300 people held a protest earlier this week over the alleged rape in October and the deployment of the Marine Corps' MV-22 Osprey to a base. Many Okinawans believe the aircraft is not safe to operate over their crowded cities.