TOKYO – The U.S. Navy imposed limits Wednesday on travel and alcohol consumption by personnel at its base near Tokyo following the killing of a Japanese taxi driver.
The limits start immediately and will last at least through Monday when the measures will be reviewed, said Cmdr. David Waterman, a Navy spokesman.
No alcohol will be sold on the base and public drinking by personnel will be banned due to "a period of heightened sensitivity" over the stabbing of 61-year-old taxi driver Masaaki Takahashi last month in Yokosuka, which is just south of Tokyo and home to the U.S. naval base, Waterman said.
The announcement came hours after Japanese authorities questioned a U.S. sailor over his suspected role in Takahashi's death.
The sailor, a 22-year-old crew member of the Yokosuka-based ship USS Cowpens, has been in U.S. custody since Navy authorities apprehended him on a desertion charge last month in Tokyo.
U.S. navy investigators have also questioned him about the killing because a credit card with his name was allegedly found in the taxi.
The case comes amid mounting public anger over the American military presence in Japan, where U.S. troops currently face several allegations including rape and drunk driving.
About 50,000 U.S. servicemen are stationed in Japan.
Referring to the limits on the activities of U.S. personnel, Rear Adm. James Kelly, commander of U.S. Naval Forces in Japan, said in a statement that "The goal of this action is to review plans and policies on violence prevention and to respectfully mourn the tragic loss of Mr. Takahashi."
Waterman denied the measures came in response to the sailor's reported admission to the killing to Japanese police.
Japanese police went to the Yokosuka base Wednesday to question him about the death, Waterman said. He refused to confirm Japanese media reports that the sailor acknowledged fatally stabbing the driver.
Japanese authorities, who were reportedly preparing to obtain an arrest warrant for the sailor from a Japanese court, were expected to ask the U.S. Navy for his handover as early as Thursday.
Waterman said the Navy will fully cooperate with Japanese authorities.
The U.S. has not released the sailor's name, age, nationality or other details, citing privacy reasons. Japanese media reports have said he is a Nigerian citizen serving in the U.S. Navy.