TOKYO - Japanese police Tuesday arrested two US servicemen on suspicion of raping a Japanese woman on the southern island of Okinawa amid mounting anti-US sentiment over the deployment of US Osprey aircraft, news reports said.
One of the two men, both 23, admitted the assault before dawn Tuesday, while the other denied it, Okinawa Times newspaper reported.
Japanese Senior Vice Foreign Minister Shuji Kira called US Ambassador to Japan John Roos, describing the arrests as deeply regrettable, the Kyodo News agency reported, citing foreign ministry officials.
Roos told Kira that the US government takes the incident very seriously and pledged full cooperation with the investigation, Kyodo said.
The incident came amid mounting opposition to the recent deployment of 12 MV-22 Osprey aircraft at Marine Corp Air Station Futenma, located in the middle of residential areas.
In mid-September, about 100,000 residents held a rally in Okinawa, opposing the deployment to the base because of safety concerns about the helicopter-plane hybrids.
In April, an Osprey crashed in Morocco, killing two, and a crash in Florida in June injured an entire crew.
On Tuesday, Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima met Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura in Tokyo, urging the central government to transfer the Osprey aircraft to other parts of Japan.
Okinawa has borne the brunt of the US-Japan Security Treaty as American military bases on the island make up about 20 per cent of its area. It is located some 1,600 kilometres south-west from Tokyo.
Residents say they have long smarted from troubles caused by the heavy military presence, including noises, occasional accidents and crimes committed by US military personnel.
The rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan school girl by US servicemen in 1995 angered residents and led to a US-Japan agreement to reduce the US military presence on the island.