World News

Japan angered by new U.S. crimes after rape arrest

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan slammed U.S. military discipline as slack on Monday, and it plans to raise the issue with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice next week after a series of minor crimes following the arrest of a Marine for rape.

Two U.S. Marines have been arrested on the southern island of Okinawa in the past two days, one for intruding into a home and another for drink driving, a week after the arrest of another Marine on suspicion of raping a 14-year-old girl.

“It is quite simply infuriating that they are drinking in the middle of the night, or early in the morning, and committing crimes while people are crying out for stricter discipline,” Machimura told reporters. “I can only call it slack.”

A 38-year-old Marine, Tyrone Hadnott, was arrested last Monday on suspicion of raping a schoolgirl in a car. He has denied the rape but admitted forcibly kissing the girl, police have said.

Angry lawmakers on Okinawa have called for a reduction of the U.S. military presence.

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda told ruling party executives on Monday that he would strongly complain to the United States and demand steps to prevent similar crimes in the future, Kyodo news agency reported.

The top commander of U.S. forces in Japan told reporters that the military had set up a task force to review and strengthen programmes to prevent sexual harassment and assault.

The U.S. secretary of state plans to visit China and Japan after attending the inauguration of South Korean President-elect Lee Myung-bak in Seoul on Feb. 25.

“Secretary Rice is coming next week and I think I may have a chance to meet her,” Machimura said.

“We must use the occasion to call for deep reflection,” he said. “This is extremely regrettable. I am very angry.”

A 22-year-old Marine was arrested on Sunday for drink driving, and a 21-year-old comrade was arrested on Monday for intruding into a local resident’s home, local police said. Media reports said he was found asleep on the sofa and could not remember why he was there.

Okinawa plays host to the bulk of the 50,000 or so U.S. troops based in Japan. Local residents often complain about the noise, crime and pollution associated with the bases.

“As long as we have the bases, this kind of thing will continue to happen,” one Okinawa resident told NHK television. “It’s a question of what the government thinks about that.”