A U.S. serviceman fatally stabbed a Japanese woman and then killed himself in Okinawa on Saturday, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said, as local resentment over the presence of American troops in the southwestern Japanese region swelled.
U.S. Forces Japan said the Navy Criminal Investigative Service was working with local police to look into the deaths of a U.S. sailor assigned to a Marine unit living in Okinawa. “This is an absolute tragedy and we are fully committed to supporting the investigation,” it said in a statement, adding that more information would be released later.
Japan’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Takeo Akiba telephoned U.S. Ambassador William Hagerty, asking for cooperation with the investigation and efforts to prevent a recurrence, and expressed “extreme regrets,” the Foreign Ministry said.
Although Okinawa makes up less than 1% of Japan’s land space, it hosts about half of the 54,000 American troops stationed in Japan, and accounts for 64% of the land used by U.S. bases in the country under a bilateral security treaty.
Its inhabitants have long complained about crime, noise and the effects on the environment from the U.S. presence.
A plan to relocate a Marine Corps air station called Futenma to a less populated part of Okinawa has also been contentious. Denny Tamaki, who was elected Okinawa’s governor in October, is pushing to have the base moved off the island.