US service member arrested in connection to fatal Okinawa road accident

Posted at 9:06 PM, Nov 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-19 23:06:16-05

By Joshua Berlinger and Junko Ogura, CNN

A US service member was involved in a collision that led to the death of an Okinawa man in the island’s capital of Naha, Sunday morning, US Forces Japan said in a news release Monday.

The unnamed individual was driving a truck and “alcohol may have been a factor,” the release said.

The driver is in Japanese custody, Maj. John Severns with USFJ told CNN. No details have yet to be released regarding the victim.

Due to the incident, USFJ is now restricting service members on the island to their bases and places of residence. Alcohol consumption has also been prohibited by all service members on or off bases across Japan.

Okinawan residents have protested the US military presence on the southern Japanese island for years, in large part due to violent and fatal incidents involving members of the US military.

Last year, US sailors in Japan were banned from drinking for an 11-day period after a petty officer was accused of driving on the wrong side of the road, hitting two cars and injuring two people, while under the influence of alcohol.

In 2016, two incidents in the space of three months prompted widespread public anger — in March, a US service member was arrested on suspicion of raping a Japanese tourist, and in May, a civilian contractor at a US base in Okinawa was arrested in connection with the death of a 20-year-old woman.

The US military has confirmed plans to reduce its footprint in Okinawa in the coming years.

It handed some land back to the Japanese last year, and plans to move about 4,000 of the 19,000 Marines from Okinawa to the US territory of Guam from 2024 to 2028.

Adm. Harry Harris, the head of the US Pacific Command, told Congress earlier this year the military hopes to reduce the number of Marines in Okinawa to 10,000.