A special committee of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly on July 4, 2024, drafted a protest letter to U.S. authorities regarding recent arrests of U.S. service members.

A special committee of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly on July 4, 2024, drafted a protest letter to U.S. authorities regarding recent arrests of U.S. service members. (Okinawa Prefectural Assembly)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A special committee of Okinawa legislators has drafted a letter of protest to U.S. authorities over a growing list of allegations of sexual crimes committed by U.S. service members since 2023.

In addition to two indictments disclosed recently, including one alleging the kidnap and sexual assault of an underaged girl, the committee heard Monday of three arrests on similar allegations going back to February 2023.

As the committee met Thursday to draft its protest, a sixth service member, a U.S. Marine, was arrested that morning on suspicion of touching a woman’s breast, according to a spokesman for Okinawa Prefectural Police.

The statement goes to the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly on Wednesday for its consideration, a spokesman for the prefecture’s Political Affairs Research Division told Stars and Stripes by phone Friday.

If approved, the letter will go to several U.S. officials, including U.S. Forces Japan commander Lt. Gen. Ricky Rupp and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel, the spokesman said.

‘Infringes the dignity’

Particularly troubling, according to the letter, is the case against an Air Force member accused of picking up a girl under age 16 and taking her to his home and sexually assaulting her Dec. 24. The airman, Brennon R. E. Washington, 25, of Kadena Air Base, was indicted March 27 and is scheduled to appear July 12 in Naha District Court. His case came to light June 24.

The December incident is causing “anxiety and shock to the local community since the victim was a minor,” according to a draft of the letter. “A sexual assault to a woman not only causes strong mental and physical distress, but also is an extremely malicious crime that infringes the dignity as a human.”

In the second case, Lance Cpl. Jamel Clayton of the III Marine Expeditionary Force was indicted June 17 on charges that he attempted to sexually assault a woman May 26 in Yomitan village. His case came to light a week after Washington’s was reported in local media.

Disclosure of both cases, withheld by law enforcement authorities from public release until court dates were scheduled, prompted expressions of outrage by Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki.

The committee’s draft calls on the U.S. government to take measures to prevent further incidents, and to apologize to and compensate the girl and the woman identified by police as victims.

The committee also requested that Japan and the U.S. “drastically revise” the status of forces agreement, saying that it privileges U.S. military members. SOFA establishes the rights and responsibilities of military and civilian personnel in Japan with the U.S. armed forces.

Hitoshi Asato, director of the prefectural police criminal affairs division, on Monday told the special committee of the three prior arrests of U.S. military members on suspicion of sexual crimes. Police had not previously released information about those arrests.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi at a press conference Wednesday said the government was aware of the three incidents and that none of the three suspects were indicted, but he refrained from providing details.

‘Urging arrangements’

A prefectural police spokesman by phone Friday provided basic information about the three. He said police arrested a Marine, age 21, in February 2023 on suspicion of forcible sexual intercourse; a U.S. civilian employee in August 2023 on suspicion of nonconsensual sexual intercourse; and a Marine, 31, in January on suspicion of nonconsensual sexual intercourse. The spokesman declined to provide further details. 

A spokesman for the Naha Public Prosecutors’ Office also declined to provide details of the three arrests. Some government officials in Japan may speak to the media only on condition of anonymity.

Tamaki met Wednesday in Tokyo to file protests with State Minister of Defense Makoto Oniki, Minister of Foreign Affairs Yoko Kamikawa and Shunichi Kuryu, the deputy chief cabinet secretary.

Kamikawa at a press conference Thursday promised to consider requests from Tamaki, including better information sharing between jurisdictions and tighter liberty restrictions on U.S. service members.

“As the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we are considering cooperating with related ministries,” Kamikawa said. “We are urging arrangements to be able to release something soon.”

On Thursday, police arrested a Marine private first class from Camp Kinser on suspicion that he touched a woman’s breast over her clothing at 8:29 a.m. that day. Police said the incident occurred at a commercial building in Naha and the woman is in her 20s.

The Marine was in police custody and his case was scheduled to go to prosecutors Friday, the spokesman said.

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Keishi Koja is an Okinawa-based reporter/translator who joined Stars and Stripes in August 2022. He studied International Communication at the University of Okinawa and previously worked in education.

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