KADENA TOWN, Okinawa — A Kadena airman was in Okinawa police custody Thursday, accused of carrying an illegal folding knife.

A spokesman for Okinawa prefectural police in Kadena town said Wednesday that police officers stopped the 37-year-old staff sergeant at about 6 p.m. Tuesday because he was driving 80 kph in a 50 kph zone on Highway 74 in Kadena town’s Yara district.

According to the police report, the officers arrested the airman on the spot at about 6:22 p.m. when they discovered a folding knife with about a 3.5-inch blade in the airman’s pocket. Possession of a knife with a blade longer than 2.4 inches violates Japan’s Swords and Firearms Control Law.

The filing of a formal charge with the Naha District prosecutor is pending.

The airman was the sixth American on Okinawa arrested for possession of an illegal knife this year, according to police records.

“The law prohibits anyone carrying a knife with a blade exceeding 2.4 inches or a switchblade knife which automatically flips with an angle wider than 45 degree, unless there’s some legal justification,” said Ryojun Gibo, deputy director of the Community Safety Division of Okinawa prefectural police.

Most of the Americans arrested this year for possessing illegal knives told police they carried them for self-defense, he said.

“Carrying around a knife for self-defense, however, is not considered a legal reason,” he said. “The act poses danger to the public. Thereby, it is subject to punishment.”

Violations carry a maximum of one year in prison or a fine of 300,000 yen (about $2,580), he said.

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