TOKYO (Reuters) - A U.S. Marine was arrested on suspicion of raping a 14-year-old Japanese girl on the southern island of Okinawa, police said on Monday, triggering anger from an area where the U.S. military presence is widely resented.
A spokesman for the Okinawa Prefecture police said 38-year-old Tyrone Hadnott, based at Camp Courtney on the island, was suspected of raping the schoolgirl when the two were in a car on Sunday. Further details were under investigation, he added.
Kyodo news agency, quoting police, said the marine had denied raping the girl, saying he had only got on top of her and kissed her.
“This kind of crime cannot be forgiven, especially when you remember that the victim is a middle school student,” Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima said in a statement. “I feel extremely angry.”
Japan is home to some 50,000 U.S. troops, the bulk of them in Okinawa, where many residents have long resented bearing what they see as an unfair burden for maintaining the U.S.-Japan security alliance, a pillar of Japan’s post-war diplomacy.
“If this is a crime committed by a member of the U.S. military, it is extremely regrettable and we urge you to maintain strict discipline and prevent a recurrence,” the Foreign Ministry quoted a ministry official as telling a diplomat at the U.S. embassy.
U.S. military bases in Japan have long caused complaints from local residents about crime, noise and accidents and in 1995, the rape of a 12-year-old Japanese schoolgirl by three U.S. servicemen sparked huge protests in Okinawa.
“If the allegations are true, our hearts are with the victim and family,” General Bruce Wright, commander of U.S. Forces Japan said in a statement. “These allegations sadden us all. We will continue to sincerely cooperate with local Japanese authorities and re-emphasize the requirement for the highest standards of conduct for U.S. military members.”
The incident comes as Japan’s government tries to persuade Okinawa residents to accept a plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station from the densely populated central Okinawa city of Ginowan to the coastal city of Nago.
The Futenma move, agreed on by Tokyo and Washington in 2006, is a linchpin of a broader accord to rejig U.S. troops in Japan and is a prerequisite for moving some 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam.
Japanese media say Nago officials have accepted the relocation plan in principle but have opposed specific details.
Additional reporting by Linda Sieg
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