TOKYO – The U.S. military in Japan is restricting celebrations and off-base alcohol consumption in Okinawa after the arrest of a former Marine suspected of killing a woman on the southern Japanese island.
The Marine Corps commander in Japan said Saturday the measures are not punishment but an effort to show respect for the victim's family and mourn with the people of Okinawa.
"We should not be out shooting fireworks. We should not be out having large celebrations and parties while the Okinawan people are in mourning. If we really believe we are part of the Okinawan community, then we too must be in mourning. And we do," Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson said at a news conference at a U.S. base in Okinawa.
The 30,000 U.S. troops will not be allowed to drink alcohol off-base, and visiting clubs and bars is prohibited. Upcoming festivals and concerts on bases are being postponed until later in the summer. The restrictions took effect Friday and will last until June 24.
Police say they arrested 32-year-old Kenneth Shinzato on May 19 after he told investigators where they could find a 20-year-old woman's body abandoned in a forest. Under Japanese law, he can be held for 21 days before charges are filed. The former Marine had married a Japanese woman and was working for a contractor that provided services to U.S. bases on Okinawa.
The arrest comes as tensions are already high over a plan to relocate a Marine Corps air station to a less-populated part of Okinawa. About half of the U.S. troops stationed in Japan are on the island, and many residents resent the burden they bear for the defense of Japan and the region. They want the air station moved off Okinawa all together.