The U.S. military imposed tight restrictions on all personnel in Okinawa today, limiting troops to bases, places of work or off-base housing amid a furor over the arrest of a Marine on suspicion of rape.
The restrictions, which tighten a midnight curfew for enlisted military on the southern Japanese island, is indefinite, the U.S. Forces Japan said in a statement.
The arrest last week of Staff Sgt. Tyrone Luther Hadnott, 38, after a 14-year-old girl accused him of raping her has sparked outrage in Japan, which hosts about 50,000 U.S. troops under a security treaty.
Hadnott admitted forcing the girl down and kissing her but said he did not rape her, police said.
The tensions have been compounded by allegations of less serious crimes by U.S. troops. Japanese leaders have accused the U.S. military of lax discipline.
The case has prompted comparisons with the 1995 rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan girl by three U.S. servicemen. The attack triggered massive protests against the U.S. military, and the three were sentenced to prison.
The Japanese government lauded today's decision. "The government welcomes the decision by the U.S. military to take strict measures," the Foreign Ministry said.
U.S. Ambassador Thomas Schieffer traveled to Okinawa last week to express his sadness over the alleged rape.
The new restrictions ban military personnel from leaving their bases except for official business, work, worship or travel to and from off-base housing.
"This period of reflection will allow commanders and all service members an opportunity to further review procedures and orders that govern the discipline and conduct of all U.S. service members serving in Okinawa," the military statement said.