Japanese official urges review of incidents after alleged molestation
NAHA, Okinawa — Japan’s top official on Okinawa said Friday that the alleged molestation of a schoolgirl by a Kadena Air Base airman prompts a need for a review of all the incidents and accidents with which military members on Okinawa have been involved during the past year.
During a monthly press conference, Yuji Miyamoto, ambassador in charge of Okinawan affairs for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said officials of the U.S. military and Japanese and Okinawan governments soon would call a meeting of the Cooperative Working Team.
The Cooperative Working Team was formed in September 2000 by the Tripartite Committee, consisting of U.S., Okinawan and Japanese officials, to exchange ideas for preventing misconduct by U.S. military members outside the bases. Members of the team include officials with the U.S. military, the Okinawa prefectural government, the U.S. Consulate General, the Defense Facilities Administration Naha Bureau, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and local communities that host military bases and entertainment business owners.
Staff Sgt. Armando Valdez has been in Okinawan police custody since he was arrested last Sunday for allegedly photographing and touching the breast of a 10-year-old girl in Okinawa City.
Miyamoto called the incident “unacceptable” and “extremely reproachable.”
“To prevent any similar incident from happening again, the case must be thoroughly reviewed, including the background and surrounding environment of the criminal act,” he said. He said that the meeting would be held as early as possible.
Miyamoto welcomed an Air Force announcement Friday that it would enforce a curfew on all people who work or live on Kadena, banning them from leaving the air base or their off-base homes between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m.
“It is a step forward on the issue,” he said. “However, something further must be done.”
According to the Okinawa Prefectural Police, 72 U.S. servicemembers, civilians and family members were arrested for committing 59 crimes in 2004, nearly half the number of arrests made the previous year.
Criminal acts committed by a servicemember cannot be looked at as only an individual matter, Miyamoto said.
“He or she represents U.S. military,” he said. “It is the same with us — when we are in a foreign country, whatever we do is representative of our country.”