Abe Protests to Obama Over Death of Woman Near Okinawa Base

  • Japan will ‘rigorously’ investigate the incident, Abe says
  • Obama says U.S. to review procedures to prevent recurrence

Obama, Abe News Conf.: Okinawa Incident; U.S.-Japan Ties

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday made a direct protest to President Barack Obama after the arrest of a U.S. citizen working at a military base on Okinawa in connection with the death of a Japanese woman.

Standing next to Obama, Abe told reporters after a meeting on the sidelines of the Group of Seven leaders’ summit in Ise-Shima in central Japan that his nation would "rigorously" investigate the incident.

Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, a 32-year-old former U.S. Marine, admitted to killing the 20-year-old woman, Kyodo News reported, citing investigative sources. The incident has triggered protests on the southern Japanese island, and led Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga to request a meeting with Obama.

"This has shaken up people in Okinawa as well as people in Japan," Obama said. "We did discuss the tragedy that took place in Okinawa and I extended my sincerest condolences and deepest regrets."

The U.S. is appalled by any violent crime that may have occurred or been carried out by any U.S. personnel or military contractors, Obama said, and the U.S. will review procedures in an effort to prevent such things from happening again.

The local community in Okinawa has long complained about the heavy U.S. military presence on the island and crimes committed by U.S. servicemen stationed at nearby bases. The central government in Tokyo has for nearly two decades wrangled with activists and local authorities over a planned move of a Marine base within the island -- an issue that is one of the few areas of tension between Japan and the U.S.

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, the biggest deployment of American forces outside the home front.

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