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SECURITY > Okinawa

If a person connected to U.S. military is involved in woman’s disappearance, it could affect Japan-U.S. relations

On May 18, the central and Okinawa governments were busy collecting information that the Okinawa police questioned a person connected to the U.S. military on a voluntary basis, suspecting he was involved in the disappearance of a 20-year-old female office worker in the city of Uruma.

 

A government source was troubled by the news, saying, “If it is true, I can’t deny there will be an impact on the Japan-U.S. relationship. We should first grasp the facts.”

 

The government has taken a hardline stance toward the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station, insisting that “Henoko is the only option to resolve” the issue. It has not responded to a request for a drastic review of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).

 

However, if a person connected to the U.S. military is involved in the disappearance of the woman, people in Okinawa are bound to react sharply. Elections for the prefectural assembly and the House of Councillors are drawing closer. Another government source said, “(If a person connected with the U.S. military is involved), the Okinawan people will probably stage a protest rally. It is hard to predict the extent of its impact.”

 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is on tenterhooks over the incident, with a senior official saying, “If it was crime committed by a U.S. service member, the Okinawan people will be angrier than they have ever been since 1995.” The ministry is closely watching developments, saying, “We wonder how people in Okinawa will react if a civilian employee of the U.S. military is involved.”

 

The prefectural government office in charge of U.S. bases informed its head, now visiting the United States with Gov. Takeshi Onaga, about the media reports on the incident. However, the office has received no communications from its head or other officials accompanying Onaga.

 

Asked by reporters how Okinawa will respond if a U.S. service member is involved in the disappearance, another Okinawa government official only said: “We cannot answer hypothetical questions.” (Slightly abridged)

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