On Sunday, Japanese law enforcement detained Lance Cpl. Nicholas James-McLean over a fatal road accident. The US marine is said to have ignored a red light, crashing his two-ton military truck into a vehicle driven by a 61-year-old local man, who was later pronounced dead in hospital. According to the results of a breath test, James-McLean’s blood alcohol level was three times over the limit allowed in Japan.
US military personnel and civilian contractors working for American forces have been accused of multiple crimes in Okinawa this year. From January to October 2017, two have been arrested on allegations of robbery, two on allegations of rape and six on allegations of violent offenses, according to the Okinawa Prefecture Police website. Last year, US sailors in Japan were banned from drinking for an 11-day period after a petty officer was accused of driving on the wrong side of the road, hitting two cars and injuring two people, while under the influence of alcohol. In 2016, two incidents in the space of three months prompted widespread public anger -- in March, a US service member was arrested on suspicion of raping a Japanese tourist, and in May, a civilian contractor at a US base in Okinawa was arrested in connection with the death of a 20-year-old woman.
The maximum penalty for driving while disqualified is 12 months in prison.
More than half of nearly 50,000 American troops stationed in Japan under the Japan-U.S. security treaty are on Okinawa. In terms of space, more than 70 percent of Japan-based U.S. military facilities are on the small island. In 1995, three U.S. servicemen on Okinawa abducted and raped a 12-year-old girl in a case that triggered mass protests and led to an agreement to relocate a key air station to another area of the island. The plan has since stalled because residents want the base removed completely from the island.
Critics of the deployment of US troops in Japan complain of the crimes committed by American personnel against local residents, environmental damage done by US bases and other negative sides. Okinawa Island hosts roughly half of all American troops in Japan, and sentiment against the arrangement are especially strong there.