NAHA, Okinawa — The commander of U.S. naval forces in Japan visited Okinawa on Tuesday to apologize for the alleged assault and rape of a Japanese woman by two visiting American sailors last week, which led to a curfew for all U.S. forces in the country.
“On behalf of the United States Navy and all forces in Japan, please accept my deepest, most sincere and most heartfelt apologies,” Rear Adm. Dan Cloyd said during a meeting with Vice Gov. Kanetoshi Yoseda, giving Okinawa, where about half of all U.S. military personnel in Japan are stationed, an assurance of the military’s efforts to prevent a similar incident from happening.
Seaman Christopher Browning and Petty Officer 3rd Class Skyler Dozierwalker, both 23, of Fort Worth Naval Air Base, Texas, remained in Japanese custody Tuesday. The two reservists are suspected of attacking and raping a woman who was walking home from work in central Okinawa at about 4 a.m. Oct. 16.
Cloyd promised the military’s full cooperation of the investigation.
Last Friday, the commander of U.S. Forces Japan imposed an 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. off-base curfew for all U.S. military personnel in Japan.
Yoseda welcomed the commander’s 15-minute visit but wondered how effective the curfew will be.
“We take the curfew order as a sign that the military takes the incident seriously,” he said. “However, the military already has a program called the Liberty Card, yet the incident did happen.”
He said the most effective solution would be to reduce the number of servicemembers stationed on Okinawa by closing Futenma air station, as has been agreed upon between by both countries’ governments.
Opposition to the U.S. presence has been ratcheted up recently by the Marines’ deployment of MV-22 Osprey aircraft to the island despite public protests.
Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima is in Washington this week to make Okinawa’s voice heard directly. On Tuesday, he separately visited Mark Lippert, assistant secretary of defense for Asia and Pacific security affairs, and Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, calling for their assistance in resolving various military-related issues on Okinawa.
On Monday, the Okinawa prefectural assembly unanimously adopted a protest resolution, condemning the alleged sexual assault.
“The incident took place on Okinawa, where the deployment of the Ospreys was forcefully carried out by ignoring deep concern and protest voice of people of Okinawa,” the resolution said. “The situation surrounding the military here is far beyond our endurance.”