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US ambassador to Japan comments on American military sex crimes

Rahm Emanuel has expressed regret over the incidents but fell short of apologizing, according to media reports

US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel has expressed regret over sex crimes committed by American military personnel stationed on Okinawa Island, saying that the training standards of the troops were “just not working,” media reported on Saturday.

The southernmost prefecture hosts 70% of all US military facilities in Japan, despite comprising just 1% of the country’s territory.

Last month, the media revealed that a US Air Force soldier had been arrested back in March on charges of kidnapping and raping a teenage girl in Okinawa, a crime dating back to December 2023. Another similar case involved a US Marine who was arrested in May on suspicion of attempted rape resulting in injury.

The Japanese government has acknowledged that at least five such cases took place this year in Okinawa.

Following the incidents, Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Masataka Okano lodged a protest with the US ambassador in late June.

Emanuel said he deeply regretted what had happened to the victims, their families, and their community, but fell short of apologizing, according to the Associated Press.

“Obviously, you got to let the criminal justice process play out,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean you don’t express on a human level your sense of regret. We have to do better,” Emanuel added, admitting that the US military’s standards and protocols for the education and training of its troops were “just not working.”

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Okinawa police and the foreign ministry, which was also aware of a string of sex crimes involving US troops in the prefecture, chose not to disclose the information to the local government, citing privacy considerations relating to the victims.

This delay in reporting the incidents may have impeded measures intended to alert residents and take preventive steps, said Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki.

“These cases caused strong fear among prefectural residents and neglected women’s human rights and dignity,” Mainichi news outlet quoted him as saying last week.

According to local media reports, Okinawa has seen a spate of sex crimes committed by US military personnel since 1995, when a 12-year old girl was raped by three American service members, sparking massive protests against the US presence in the area.

In 2016, a woman in the city of Uruma was reportedly assaulted and murdered by a civilian US base worker who was formerly a Marine.

In Okinawa, the number of incidents in which US military personnel and civilian staff were criminally accused has been on the rise with 72 cases reported in 2023, a record high over the past 20 years, Mainichi reported, citing prefectural police.


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