An American sailor was arrested on Sunday, under the suspicion of drunken driving and causing an accident on Japan’s southern island of Okinawa, where public anger has run high over crimes by US military personnel.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Aimee Mejia, 21, assigned to Kadena base in Okinawa, was arrested after driving the wrong way on a freeway and smashing head-on into two vehicles late yesterday, said police spokesman Takashi Shirado. She was not injured but two people in the other cars were injured, one in the arm and the other in the chest, he said.
The US military did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment. Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida spoke with U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy about the arrest, with Kishida asking the US do more to prevent a recurrence, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Kennedy offered her regrets to the family of those injured, the ministry said. The US Embassy did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Okinawa is home to more than half of about 50,000 American troops based in Japan. Protests are common on the island, where residents feel they are being forced with an unfair burden of housing the US troops under a bilateral security agreement.
American military personnel are under a midnight curfew and off-base drinking is banned through later this month in Okinawa after a former US Marine who worked on an American military base was arrested after he led police to a woman’s body. He is being held on suspicion of abandoning the body, while police investigate.
The suspected murder of the woman was such a critical issue it came up during President Barack Obama’s recent visit to Japan. Obama offered his condolences and promised that the US would fully cooperate to have the man prosecuted under Japanese law.
Japan and the US have been working together to relocate a US Marine Corps air station from a densely populated neighborhood in central Okinawa to another part of the island, but the project has repeatedly been delayed. Protesters are demanding that the facility be moved off Okinawa.
In March, a sailor was arrested on charges of raping a Japanese woman. A 1995 rape of a schoolgirl in which three US servicemen were convicted set off widespread outrage.