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Marines Ease Drinking Restrictions on Okinawa

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa -- Marines on Okinawa said Monday they have eased alcohol restrictions that banned off-base drinking for six months on the island.

Now, Marines are allowed up to two drinks while eating dinner at an off-base restaurant between 6 and 10 p.m., but drinking in Japanese bars and clubs remains against the rules, according to spokesman 2nd Lt. Taylor Clark.

The U.S. military imposed a curfew throughout Japan in December following the gang-rape of an Okinawan woman by two sailors. Other rules on drinking followed amid a string of embarrassing off-base incidents that included drunken home invasions and public disturbances.

The Air Force, Navy and Army relaxed the rules in February, allowing their servicemembers to drink outside base gates except during a midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew.

The Marine Corps has remained tough on its drinking regulations, which have drastically curbed island nightlife and caused dozens of Japanese bars to fold.

The last incident of embarrassing off-base misbehavior came in February, when a 22-year-old private was arrested for jumping across residential rooftops near Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

It is unclear whether the tight restrictions and curfew have affected the overall number of crimes committed by U.S. military personnel on Okinawa, according to arrest statistics provided by prefectural police.

There were 12 criminal arrests of Americans connected to the military in the first four months of 2013 -- and nine were of minor dependents. The average number of such arrests over a four-month period is about 14, according to police data for 2008-12.

Americans connected to the military accounted for about 1 percent of the 969 criminal arrests on Okinawa so far this year.

Those statistics do not include drunken driving arrests and other traffic violations, which are not compiled by prefectural police for U.S. personnel.

-- Stars and Stripes reporter Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.

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Marine Corps Japan

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