Battleland

Troops in Japan Told to Put A Cork In It

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TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA / AFP / Getty Images

U.S. troops on Japanese streets, like these at this bar on Goza street in Okinawa city, are rarer since American commanders imposed a tighter curfew.

TOKYO – Don’t leave the base, don’t take a drink and for God’s sake, don’t break the law.

That’s what commanders are telling U.S. troops in Japan after a series of arrests and embarrassing incidents have heightened tensions with base communities, provided an unwelcome distraction from territorial disputes with China, and intruded on an election campaign in which a long-overdue debate on Japan’s defense establishment is finally emerging.

Alcohol has taken much of the blame for the incidents and commanders have responded by imposing an 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew for all U.S. troops in Japan. The Navy has banned drinking after 10 p.m., even at clubs and restaurants on base, and sailors involved in previous alcohol-related incidents are not allowed to leave their bases without specific permission.

U.S. and Japanese military and diplomatic leaders were scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss additional ways to reduce troop misbehavior that in recent weeks has ranged from heinous to farcical:

- Two Navy reservists were arrested in mid-October and charged with stalking and raping a Japanese woman they had met at a bar.

- A drunken airman was accused of breaking into a home and striking a 13-year-old boy (before falling out a third-story window and breaking his ribs).

- A Marine lieutenant was charged with barging into an apartment and falling asleep on a stranger’s sofa after a night of drinking, while another Marine was detained for climbing a drainpipe onto the roof of an office building (to practice “back flips,” he said).

- A sailor was arrested after wandering naked around an Internet café and urinating on the floor, while another sailor was found dead on a train station platform, surrounded by empty alcohol containers, apparently having electrocuted himself by climbing on the roof an idled train.

Japan has a crime rate well below most developed nations, and the recent incidents, no surprise, set off a wave of protests. The local assembly in Okinawa expressed “outrage” at “dysfunctional” American troops and warned that all U.S. bases could be ordered off the island.  Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto complained that U.S. commanders were “having trouble teaching discipline to their soldiers.”

The head of U.S. naval forces in Japan traveled to Okinawa to apologize in person to the vice governor, and the commander of U.S. Marine forces traveled to all 10 Marine bases on Okinawa to tell the troops to behave, or else. The U.S. ambassador expressed his personal anger at the incidents.

The bulk of U.S. forces in Japan are based in Okinawa and that’s where most of the recent incidents occurred. A particularly monstrous crime in Okinawa in 1995 – a 12-year-old girl was raped by three American servicemen on her way home from school – galvanized local opposition and led to an agreement to reduce the U.S. military presence there. The reductions have yet to take place, further fueling local resentment.

“People are disappointed and upset because the Americans say they are enforcing curfews and imposing discipline, but these incidents keep happening. It can have long-term consequences,” says Narushige Michishita, director of the Security and International Studies Program at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo.

It’s already had consequences for the Marines. Deployment of the V-22 Osprey to Okinawa was held up for nearly a year because of local protests, and plans to relocate the aging and over-crowded Futenma air base have been delayed for a decade or more.  Opponents cited the Osprey’s spotty safety record, and environmental concerns over the Futenma replacement facility – but mostly they just want the Marines to go.

The storm comes as U.S. and Japanese leaders are watching warily China’s efforts to back up its claims in the Senkaku Islands, which it calls Diaoyu. Chinese patrol boats have sailing into or near Japanese territorial waters around the islands almost daily for more than a month and the crisis is far from resolved.

The issue could intrude on Japan’s parliamentary elections, scheduled for next month, as well. The candidate most likely to become the next prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has called for building up Japan’s self-defense forces, easing constitutional restrictions and tightening relations with U.S. forces, but controversy over crime and misbehavior by U.S. servicemen could help sway opponents.

All valid reasons to tell the troops, “Put a cork in it.”

30 comments
sachi_bbsr
sachi_bbsr


Bravo to the urinating sailor ...


Redmond_R
Redmond_R

The crime rate for Okinawan men age 18-27 has historically been higher than that of US servicemen.  That being said having lived in Japan near Atsugi Naval Air station I can only endorse the 11 p.m. curfew.  Our local "Gaijin" bar really changed character when military kids showed up.  They mixed with the local English teacher crowd like oil and water, let alone the Japanese.  There are great men in the military, I was a reserve officer myself at the time and two of my former enlisted friends also married Japanese.  One drunken bat to the head that knocked me off my barstool has also poisoned me the way it has the folks in Okinawa - all statistics aside. 

ggb667
ggb667

Our troops should be restricted to base, and drinking should be prohibited.  We're guests in their country now, and need to act like it.

bnazty8732
bnazty8732

Two reasons why us is in japan #1 China. #2 North Korea.. and if you want to go more in detail some treaty bull shit whenever they feel threatened... 

M81
M81

U.S. will never leave Japan alone because they know better than anyone else that it won't take so long for the Japanese to become their rival in the region and emerging as the super power not only in this region but also whole of the worls alike prior to WWII.Besides just think Japan is rich,have high tech.have nuclear facility that could yield bomb in one month short notice,what else they need from the west?

Mikeinshanghai
Mikeinshanghai

A few incidents over the years - big deal.  NOTHING the Americans do in Japan even remotely compares to the ATROCITIES committed by Jap forces (animals) during the war.

US forces should get a free pass for ANYTHING they do in Japan - the Japs need to be reminded who is responsible for their so-called post-war 'miracle'.

That said, I believe all US forces should withdraw immediately and let the Japs (and Koreans for that matter) fend for themselves against China - let's see how they'll fare....

bobrebob
bobrebob

To wrongs do not make a right. It shocks me that you are this ignorant! Our service men are a reflection of us and of American morals. Our armed service should be held to a higher standard. We are suposed to be the "good guys" not a bunch of thugs.

sandifjm
sandifjm

@Mikeinshanghai Did you actually use the term "Japs"? In 2012?  Newsflash: the war's been over for nearly 70 years now, it's time to move on. Do you still refer to Germans as "Jerries" or "Krauts"? And did you know that we have color televisions now too?

majisamor
majisamor

How ridiculous.  That's like saying Blacks and Native Americans should have a free pass for anything they do to whites in this country because they've been shat upon in the past. . . You can't base your present actions on things that happended decades ago.  IT WAS WARTIME.   Atrocities happen (I'm not saying it's right, but war isn't fair as far as anyone in history has been able to tell).  Get a grip man . . .

JerryHowe
JerryHowe

I spent a year in Japan in the 1970's with my American girlfriend. I did not know any expatriates there then that drank a lot and were crazy about Japanese girls.  American military personnel tend to be pretty naive about the world outside of the "world" (the base). Japan is also very homogeneous and has a very strong cultural identity. Perhaps it is the people who enlist in the military ( not always that culturally evolved) and Japan's proud insular culture, where there is a lot of drinking on the part of the men, that collide with one another.

smedleybutlersociety
smedleybutlersociety

@JerryHowe People who enlist in the military are "not always that culturally evolved?" Actually, they are still immature and a long long way from being culturally involved. That's why the military takes them -- and uses them -- and complains when they act immature.

Recent scientific evidence shows that the human brain matures later than previously believed, at about thirty. That explains some of my early behavior. How about you?

JerryHowe
JerryHowe

@smedleybutlersociety @JerryHowe I think that the  scientific evidence is correct, however I do believe that some people  develop cultural sensitivity at a faster pace than others due to life experiences.

JerryHowe
JerryHowe

@smedleybutlersociety @JerryHowe  I also agree that the military uses young people in this way to do to do the dirty work of  promoting and enforcing  imperialism. It is a selling out and betrayal  of one's soul and identity.  Patriotism is noble. but blind patriotism is shear gross ignorance. Unfortunately, most patriotic people in this country are of the later.

lutzeddie
lutzeddie

Just relocate the bases to the Senkaku islands. All problems solved.

slick1ru2
slick1ru2 like.author.displayName 1 Like

US troops are stationed in Japan to make surrounding nations feel safe that Japan won't attack them. That is the original idea behind US forces in Japan after WWII. US forces in Europe are there to guard the then weak European countries from Communism after WWII. The Soviet Union is gone and the US isn't needed in Japan either. Imagine the money saved by cutting out bases in Europe and Japan.

planetocean
planetocean

@slick1ru2 US troops are stationed in Japan not only to make surrounding nations feel safe, but also this is an effective way to hinder other country's development.

MrAndre76
MrAndre76 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

Let's see, WWII has been over for sixty or so years.  The cold war has been over for thirty or so years.  Japan's "guard" forces are the most powerful in the region.  South Korea can take care of itself.  So except for "gunboat diplomacy" that went out with Teddy Roosevelt, what the hell are we doing there?  Wasting taxpayer money and supporting the military industrial complex.  Like everything American,  follow the money and you'll get the answer.  Bring the troops home! 

sandifjm
sandifjm

@MrAndre76 The U.S. is in the region more because of China, than Japan. If they abandon the Japanese bases, they will be relinquishing their dominance in the region. Their presence is a hedge against the rapidly modernizing Chinese military.

GaryRMcCray
GaryRMcCray

The US is getting ready to ramp up its presence in this area due to Chinese land (and sea) grabbing belligerence.

The Japanese are the recipients of a lot of that belligerence and need us.

So we both need to get a handle on it and provide adequate solutions.

We are committed to protecting the Japanese and this is a potential flash point.

My guess is that the chain of command is not properly handling the troops it has stationed there.

mux
mux like.author.displayName 1 Like

@GaryRMcCray 

The Japanese were vicious aggressors that never fully resolved their wrongs. Don't blame this on Chinese aggression. The Koreans will easily fill that role whenever the Japanese conveniently forget their past. Okinawa was actually it's own separate nation, a nation that even old imperial China did not absorb but Japanese aggression sure did. And the secondary status treatment Okinawans get from the Japanese is evident as they try to move unwanted US soldiers as much as possible onto Okinawa and not the main Japanese islands. 

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