Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why the US Navy Banned Drinking on Okinawa

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why the US Navy Banned Drinking on Okinawa

Article excerpt

The US Navy has banned drinking and restricted off-base activities for its personnel in Japan, after an American sailor was arrested Sunday on suspicion of driving drunk and crashing head-on with two other vehicles on the Japanese island of Okinawa.

The arrest of Petty Officer 2nd Class Aimee Mejia comes just a month after a former US Marine was charged with the brutal slaying of an Okinawa woman, and is the latest in a series of crimes involving American service members on the southern Japanese island. Locals and politicians have insisted Americans leave the island. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been torn over meeting these demands, as Japan and the United States strengthen their military ties to combat Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.

Ms. Mejia was arrested Sunday after she drove the wrong way on a freeway, colliding head-on with two other vehicles. Two people in the other cars were slightly injured, according Takashi Shirado, a police spokesman.

The next day, the Navy banned all its personnel in Japan from drinking, and restricted them from leaving the base unless to commute from an off-base home to work or for errands. US personnel were already banned from drinking off-base and were required to abide by a midnight curfew, after a former Marine was arrested in May in relation to the abduction of an Okinawa woman who was later found dead. Sunday's crash occurred within the 30-day mourning period for the the woman's death.

"For decades, we have enjoyed a strong relationship with the people of Japan. It is imperative that each sailor understand how our actions affect that relationship, and the U.S.-Japan alliance as a whole," Rear Adm. Matthew Carter told Retuers. "These measures are not taken lightly."

Only after the military carries out training and feels soldiers understand "responsible behavior" will the orders be lifted, the Navy said in a statement. …

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