By Larry Shaughnessy
U.S. troops in Japan will soon be placed under more restrictive rules when they leave base after the arrests earlier this week of two U.S. sailors accused of raping a local woman in Okinawa.
The incident has created growing concern for the American military.
U.S. military sources tell CNN the commander of all U.S. troops in Japan is looking at possibly issuing more restrictive rules about what they can and cannot do when they leave base during off-duty hours. The Navy had just announced it was creating less restrictive rules for sailors behave off-duty. The new restrictions would apply not just to the Navy but to all U.S. military in Japan.
A statement from the spokesman for Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issued said the measures will "ensure responsible behavior and to demonstrate our commitment to maintaining positive relationships with the local communities that host our forces."
Lt. Theresa Donnelly, a public affairs officer for U.S. Pacific Command, told CNN that the details on what those measures will be should be announced by early Friday.
Police in Okinawa identified the detained sailors as U.S. Navy Seaman Christopher Daniel Browning and Petty Officer Skyler Dozierwalker of Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth in Texas. The two men, both 23, are alleged to have raped a Japanese woman in the early hours of Tuesday morning, leaving her with an injury to her neck, police said. They were taken into custody later that day.
The incident has prompted a woman's group in Okinawa to call for more restrictions on what U.S. military personnel can do when off-base.
The issue of violent crimes, especially rapes, by U.S. troops in Japan has been a divisive issue between the two countries for decades. It came to a peak in 1995 when a U.S. sailor and two U.S. Marines were convicted of raping a 12-year-old girl. Tens of thousands of Okinawans took to the streets at the time demanding that the United States leave the island south of Japan's main islands.
In that case, the U.S. military at first refused to turn the suspects over to Japanese authorities. But in this most recent case, the suspects were in Japanese custody almost immediately.
The alleged attack took place two months after a U.S. Marine was arrested over accusations he assaulted and molested a woman in Naha, the capital of Okinawa.
Relations between the U.S. military and the people of Okinawa have already been stressed in recent months over the U.S. Marine Corps' deployment of MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft to a base on the island. Some citizens on Okinawa are concerned because the Osprey has had a reputation for crashing. The Okinawan community has long been against the presence of the U.S. military, which recently announced that thousands of Marines will be moved to a base in Guam.