Rice touts discipline in press club speech
Servicemembers who engage in criminal behavior “do not represent the United States,” and the military will continue dealing with misconduct in an aggressive manner, the U.S. Forces Japan commander said Monday during a speech at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo.
Lt. Gen. Edward Rice Jr. also praised the “tens of thousands of U.S. servicemembers and their families” stationed in Japan who “conduct themselves in a way that we are proud of,” according to a transcript of his remarks provided by USFJ.
“The actions of one person can negatively impact all of the hard work done by our thousands of servicemembers,” Rice said. “The people that fail to uphold the highest standards do not represent the United States, and together we must jointly understand that the behavior of a few must not undermine our healthy and productive alliance.
“We must not take our eyes off of our shared values and long-term goals while dealing with those who fail to uphold the highest standards.”
Rice, also the 5th Air Force commander at Yokota Air Base, made the appearance following recent high-profile allegations of crimes by U.S. servicemembers, including the alleged rape of a 14-year-old girl on Okinawa and the alleged robbery-murder of a taxi driver last month in Yokosuka.
“We will aggressively work with the government of Japan when there is crime committed by servicemembers to ensure that justice is done, and we will move forward together knowing that we do not tolerate criminal behavior anywhere,” he said.
He encouraged U.S. military personnel to learn Japanese traditions and customs while sharing their own to boost “mutual trust and cultural understanding ... that will connect us for years to come.”
Rice also deflected criticism from Japan opposition leaders to the Special Measures Agreement, a cost-sharing arrangement that covers labor and operational expenses on U.S. military bases.
In December, the United States and Japan reached a deal on renewal of the accord. A new three-year pact went into effect April 1.
But the Democratic Party of Japan wanted to block extension of the agreement due to the recent alleged crimes, according to a Tuesday story in the Japan Times. It cites unnecessary expenses, including personnel costs for recreational facilities such as bars, bowling alleys and golf courses.
Rice contends a “modest level of money” for recreation facilities is warranted as part of the cost to maintain about 50,000 U.S. troops in Japan and Okinawa. Their presence, he said, is a crucial “investment” for Japan in fortifying its national defense and regional stability.
In its last fiscal year, which ended March 31, Japan provided 142.5 billion yen (about $1.27 billion) to the U.S. military under the Special Measures Agreement. That included 25.3 billion yen (about $226 million) in utility costs, 115 billion yen (about $1 billion) for more than 23,000 Japanese employees who work on U.S. military installations and 2.2 billion yen (about $19.7 million) in training relocation costs, mostly aimed at reducing noise burdens in heavily populated areas.
The new agreement maintains those levels of Japanese-funded labor positions and continues the framework for moving U.S. training interests, USFJ officials said in December.
The U.S. agreed to make adjustments under utility cost sharing.
Japan will pay 25.3 billion yen, or about $226 million, in base utility costs during this fiscal year, no change from 2007. It will then allocate 24.9 billion yen, or roughly $223 million, for the bills in fiscal years 2009 and 2010, a 1.5 percent reduction.