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US Air Force member charged with kidnapping and raping Japanese schoolgirl

Washington was released on bail and transferred to the Kadena US Air Base in Okinawa for custody, according to a government spokesperson. His trial will begin July 12, according to the Naha District Court spokesperson.

The prosecution comes at a time when Washington and Tokyo are deepening their military alliance – in part as geopolitical tensions rise with both China and North Korea.

The alleged rape is the latest in a history of criminal cases involving US personnel in Okinawa, home to one of the largest US foreign military bases, and could exacerbate tensions with residents who have long opposed the presence of American troops and weaponry on the island.

The presence of V-22 Ospreys, a tiltrotor military aircraft, have also been a regular source of anger and protest in Okinawa following a series of recent crashes and noise complaints.

Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki told reporters Tuesday the allegations of rape and kidnap were “extremely regrettable,” adding it was necessary “to strongly protest against the US military and other related organizations.”

The governor also said his office will “take a tough stance in dealing with the situation.”

“We understand and share the local community’s concerns regarding this case,” Nelson said, adding that Wing leadership was “deeply concerned by the severity of this alleged crime,” and has been working with local authorities to investigate the allegations.

“All US service members are expected to uphold the highest standards, and the US military is committed to holding accountable those who are convicted of criminal acts,” the Wing spokesperson said.

The indictment comes nearly 30 years after three US servicemen raped a 12-year-old Okinawa schoolgirl in 1995, sparking a backlash against the US military on the island.

In 2016, the rape and murder of a 20-year-old woman by a former US base worker in Okinawa triggered mass protests in the island’s capital, with tens of thousands of residents demanding the US move its bases outside of Okinawa. The fallout resulted in curfews for US personnel on the island.

In another crime involving US personnel in Japan, a US Navy officer killed two Japanese nationals while driving down Mount Fuji in 2021.

Masataka Okano, Japan’s Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, called for stricter discipline and lodged a protest with the US Ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, on March 27, the day Washington was indicted, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

Japan and the US have a mutual defense alliance and a decades old military partnership that has only been deepened in recent years by regional threats, particularly North Korea and an ever more assertive China.

US President Joe Biden met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol at Camp David in August 2023 in a show of solidarity and force against Beijing.

In what Biden hailed as a “new era of cooperation,” the three powers committed to a yearly trilateral summit, intelligence sharing and annual military exercises.

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