U.S. sailor arrested over alleged robbery in Japan

By HIROKO TABUCHI | THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: January 24, 2006

TOKYO — A U.S. sailor was arrested on suspicion of robbing a woman in southwest Japan, police said Sunday, only weeks after another sailor was arrested on charges of fatally beating and robbing a woman near Tokyo.

The 23-year-old crew member of the USS Essex, based at Sasebo Naval Base, is suspected of snatching a bag from a woman in Sasebo city at about 11:20 p.m. Saturday, according to a local policeman who gave only his last name, Sasaki.

Police arrested him shortly after midnight Sunday elsewhere in the city, based on a physical description from the victim, Sasaki said.

No cash was in the stolen bag. The woman tripped when she chased her robber, but was unhurt, according to Sasaki.

The suspect has admitted to the robbery, telling investigators he threw the bag away at a nearby shrine, Sasaki said. Police later recovered the bag from the shrine, he said.

The suspect was to remain at Sasebo police station for further questioning. Repeated calls to the U.S. Naval command in Yokosuka and to the base in Sasebo went unanswered late Sunday.

The arrest follows the U.S. Navy’s handover of another sailor to face charges of robbery and murder several weeks ago.

Japanese authorities say William Oliver Reese, 21, fatally beat and robbed a Japanese woman of about 15,000 yen, the equivalent of $129, at Yokosuka Naval Base on Jan. 3.

The cases have come as Washington and Tokyo try to overcome local opposition to plans to realign the U.S. military in Japan.

About 50,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Japan under a bilateral security pact, 7,000 of whom are to move to the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam under an agreement reached last year.

The realignment also includes plans to base a U.S. nuclear-powered warship at Yokosuka for the first time, and to build an American military airstrip in Japan’s southern island of Okinawa — a proposal that has faced strong opposition from residents and local politicians.

Base-hosting communities across Japan have long protested crime, safety issues, noise and overcrowding associated with the U.S. military.

In 1995, the brutal rape of a 12-year-old girl by three U.S. servicemen in Okinawa triggered large anti-U.S. protests.

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