Ryukyu Shimpo and Okinawa Times both reported heavily on the latest developments concerning Sunday’s fatal traffic accident involving a Marine who was driving under the influence of alcohol, including Okinawa Area Coordinator Nicholson’s apology to Governor Onaga yesterday and the U.S. military’s decision to implement a stricter liberty policy not only for personnel in the island prefecture but for all service members in Japan.
Okinawa Times wrote that the U.S. military authorities in Okinawa reacted quickly to the latest incident, explaining that Nicholson phoned a senior prefectural government official only five hours after the accident to explain the circumstances and issued a statement expressing condolences to the victim’s family on the same day. Pointing out that the top Marine in Okinawa chose to visit the prefectural government the next day and offer an apology to the governor in front of the press, the article said this swift response marked a sharp contrast to the U.S. military’s “slow” handling of the CH-53E helicopter accident in October. The central government also responded quickly, with Foreign Minister Kono, who was overseas at the time, instructing Vice Minister Sugiyama to file a protest with Ambassador Hagerty without delay. The daily emphasized, however, that Okinawa’s distrust of the U.S. military still runs deep, highlighting the governor’s remarks to Nicholson: “The U.S. military cannot be called a ‘good neighbor. The people of Okinawa are fed up…. No more. No more.”
Ryukyu Shimpo wrote that although Brig. Gen. Paul Rock, the U.S. military’s No. 2 official in Okinawa, had initially planned to visit the prefectural government on Monday, Lt. Gen. Nicholson decided to meet with the governor instead and apologized repeatedly together with Naha Consul General Ehrendreich. However, local officials are reportedly very skeptical about the effectiveness of the stricter liberty policy focusing on a ban on alcohol, with one of them saying: “It will end eventually…. We would like to tell U.S. military personnel never to leave base!’”