The U.S. Navy instituted a drinking ban on all 18,600 personnel stationed in Japan and halted all off-base leave, following a reported DUI crash by a suspected drunken sailor, which injured two people.
The incident follows the homicide and body dump of a 20-year-old Japanese woman by a U.S. military contractor in late May. “We urge the U.S. side to take thorough measures to prevent the recurrence of such events,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters.
Relations with the Japanese public over the large U.S. troop presence have been tenuous since the 1995 gang-rape of a 12-year-old girl by three U.S. service members.
“I don’t know what to do with this anger” Okinawan Governor Takeshi Onaga told the Japan Times following the discovery of the young woman’s body May 20. Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida reportedly summoned U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy to submit a formal protest.
In the wake of both incidents, Rear Admiral Matthew Carter, commander of U.S. naval forces in Japan, stressed in a press release Monday, “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.”
The U.S. Navy issued a statement clarifying that all personnel will be kept on base and banned from drinking until they “understand the impact of responsible behavior on the U.S.-Japan alliance.” Even soldiers living off base will be restricted to travel to and from bases and may only conduct “essential activities.”
The drinking ban does not apply to the families of U.S. military personnel nor to the additional 16,400 U.S. civilian contractors stationed in Japan. A U.S. Navy spokesman told Reuters the civilian contractors will be encouraged to participate in the ban “in a spirit of solidarity.”
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