- Both foreign and defense ministers voiced protests, Suga says
- Local police arrested American employed at base on Thursday
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the nation’s foreign and defense ministers both sent strong protests to their U.S. counterparts after a U.S. military base worker was arrested in connection with the death of a 20-year-old Japanese woman in Okinawa.
“It’s hard to forgive such a heinous act,” Suga said during a post-cabinet meeting press conference. The arrest came a week ahead of President Barack Obama’s scheduled visit to Japan to attend the Group of Seven leaders summit.
Okinawa hosts the bulk of the roughly 38,000 U.S. troops in Japan, and local people often complain of noise and pollution associated with the bases, as well as crime.
Suga said the arrest won’t change plans to keep marines stationed within the Okinawan islands.
The 20-year-old woman was reported missing last month after texting her boyfriend that she would be stepping out for an evening walk, according to local press reports.
Local police on Thursday arrested a 32-year-old American male who was employed at a nearby U.S. military base on suspicion of abandoning a body, a standard step preceding other charges in a murder investigation in Japan.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters outside his official residence Friday that he was extremely upset over the incident and would urge the U.S. to take preventative measures.
Abe may hold a meeting with Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga on Monday to discuss the incident, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.
Okinawa, which was one of the fiercest battlegrounds during World War II, is a critical part of the U.S. military presence in Asia, playing host to about half the roughly 50,000 U.S. military personnel in Japan, which includes naval personnel. It is the biggest deployment of American forces outside the home front.