U.S. commander in Japan: Curfew alone can’t fix problems
January 25, 2006
TOKYO — In the aftermath of a killing, an alleged robbery and an alleged burglary this month for which U.S. sailors stand accused, U.S. Forces Japan Commander Lt. Gen. Bruce Wright told reporters in Tokyo on Monday that a curfew, although helpful, isn’t likely to stop the problems.
“I as a parent know of nothing good that happens after about 1 o’clock in the morning, for anybody of any age, let alone someone who’s 22 years and younger,” he said. “But it can’t just be curfews [to] punish the majority for the mistakes of the few. We’ve got to look at it in a much more holistic way, such that junior officers and junior NCOs take on their leadership responsibilities. They know who needs more watching. So we want to empower the chain of command” to act, along with imposing curfews, to prevent future incidents.
During his next bimonthly meeting with the component commands in Japan, scheduled for Feb. 10, Wright and the leaders of all the services here will plan ways to cut criminal incidents, as well as safety mishaps, to zero, he said.
The U.S.-Japan “alliance has just been significantly challenged, and challenged from within. When a young man brutally murders, allegedly, a lady about my age, it’s horrific, it’s horrible,” he said. “What could we have done different to prevent it? Well, we can’t change the outcome of this tragedy. We certainly can recommit in every possible way to never let that happen [again], ever.”
Wright noted that criminal instances in general have declined in the past year, and the goal for leaders now is to figure out how that occurred and do whatever they can to return to the downward trend.
Wright spoke at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, and answered questions on topics ranging from discipline to strategic relations in the region.
In his opening speech, Wright spoke about the importance of the alliance the U.S. shares with Japan and the mutual defense treaty.
“We forget sometimes the most active word in that treaty: The most active word is mutual. Not one country or one military occupying another country. No sense of victor or vanquished. But mutual… We need to constantly, I think, go back to the fact that this alliance is a partnership.”
Referring to the Defense Policy Review Initiative signed in October that will, among other things, transform the U.S. military in Japan, both countries will begin developing closer cooperation through joint exercises, Wright said.
As part of that, Wright referred to a new bilateral coordination center at Yokota Air Base, which will be the forerunner of a more advanced, bilateral-joint operations and coordination center.
In response to questions about noise complaints outside U.S. bases and accidents such as the recent F-15 crash off the coast of Okinawa, Wright reiterated that everything the military does here serves the alliance.
The decision, for example, to resume flights after the F-15 accident despite local opposition was necessary to maintain readiness, he said, adding the same applies to making noise.
“I understand that noise can be a problem. So we try to balance our flight operations and needs of the community,” he said. “So we can have good relations in the community and also carry out the responsibilities and requirements of the Japan-U.S. security alliance.”