US military vehicles & homes vandalized after drunk marine blamed for fatal Okinawa car crash

Dozens of vehicles and apartment buildings affiliated with the US military in Japan were vandalized in Okinawa, shortly after a local man was killed in car crash blamed by authorities on a drunken American marine.

A total of 29 civilian vehicles owned by US personnel in Japan were covered with paint early on Monday in the towns of Ginowan and Chatan in Okinawa, Stars and Stripes, the official US military newspaper, reported.

The cars had the blue-colored English letter ‘Y’ painted on them by unidentified perpetrators, the paper said. The marking may be explained by the fact that ‘Y’ is usually added to the license plates of vehicles owned by those who are covered by the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which provides a legal framework to the vast US military presence in Japan.

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 Marine arrested following fatal Okinawa truck crash

A US service member has been arrested following a deadly vehicle crash on the Japanese island of Okinawa early Sunday morning.

Marine Pvt. First Class Nicholas James-McLean was driving a truck when it collided with another vehicle at 5:25 a.m. in Okinawa's capital of Naha, killing the 61-year-old driver, according to Jun Tamanaha from the Naha police department.

Police said James-McLean's blood alcohol content was three times the legal limit.

Okinawa residents have protested the US military presence on the southern Japanese island for years, in large part due to violent and fatal incidents involving members of the US military.

The case will be sent to the Naha prosecutor's office Tuesday morning, which will investigate and decide whether or not to indict James-McLean, Tamanaha said.

"It is extremely regrettable that this accident happened even though Japanese government has repeatedly asked for the thorough implementation of preventive measures and enforcement of disciplines," Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference.

Japan is demanding that the US military "enforce the strict discipline and take preventive steps and give a sincere response to the bereaved family."

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.

Japan seeks to ground Osprey in wake of deadly Australia crash

he Japanese government has urged the U.S. military to ground all MV-22 Ospreys in Japan after one of the controversial tilt-rotor aircraft crashed off Australia’s eastern coast Saturday, presumably killing three Marines.

“I have requested that they refrain from all flight operations by MV-22 Ospreys in Japan,” newly appointed Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters Sunday.

Onodera – who took over last week for embattled former defense minister Tomomi Inada in the wake of a data cover-up scandal – also called on the Marines to provide information on the crash, to investigate its cause and to take preventative measures, a ministry spokeswoman said Monday.

As of Monday afternoon in Japan, Marine officials had not responded to Onodera’s request or to requests for comment from Stars and Stripes.

The helicopter-plane hybrid from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 crashed into the sea at around 4 p.m. Saturday after taking off from the USS Bonhomme Richard for regularly scheduled operations, Marine officials said in a series of statements over the weekend.

The aircraft – carrying 26 Marines at the time – was approaching the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay when it smashed into its deck and slid into the ocean, according to the Courier-Mail, a newspaper based in Brisbane, Australia.

All but three of the Marines were rescued after the Bonhomme Richard and Green Bay launched small boats and aircraft, the statements and media reports said.

After a shaky development history that included several deadly high-profile crashes, the Osprey became a symbol of the anti-base resistance on Okinawa in 2012 when it arrived on the island to replace the Marines’ aging fleet of Sea Knight helicopters. The aircraft has since been the focal point of near daily protests, and expelling it from the island was a major campaign promise of Gov. Takeshi Onaga’s during the 2014 election.

US Marines consider grounding Osprey fleet after deadly Australia crash

The US Marine Corps may ground its entire air fleet for a safety review following the crash of an Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft in Australia that killed three Marines, a defense official said Monday.

The Japan-based Marine MV-22 Osprey crashed Saturday during an exercise off the Australian coast, leaving three service members missing and presumed dead.

"We are looking at our options in terms of reviewing safety across the Marine Corps fleet at the moment ... pending an across-the-board safety review," a US defense official told AFP, noting that the grounding could affect all flying squads in the service.

US officials are also weighing a request by Japan's new defense minister, who told the US military on Monday of his "many concerns" after it flew an Osprey in Japan following the crash.

Itsunori Onodera, appointed Thursday as Japan's defense minister, asked the US to temporarily stop flying the aircraft in his country following the accident.

According to the US official, the Osprey crashed after clipping the back of the USS Green Bay while trying to land on the amphibious transport ship. The Okinawa-based aircraft which crashed was in Australia as part of a joint military exercise called Talisman Sabre, which has just ended in Queensland state.

Australian troops could soon fight extremists in Asia, USA Marine Corps general says

The commander of more than 80,000 US marines in the Pacific is urging Australia to join operations against Islamic State (IS) militants in South-East Asia.

Lieutenant General David Berger is visiting Australia to check on readiness for the Talisman Sabre military exercises off the Queensland and Northern Territory coasts.

He told the ABC the "movement of violent extremist organisations" was a "very real problem" for countries like the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The Hawaii-based commanding general of US Marine Corps Forces Pacific said he expected Australian forces could soon join American personnel fighting Islamic extremists in this region.

"Both of us have a long history of being an expeditionary force when needed, so we begin from a common point I think and we've operated alongside for 100 years," General Berger said.

"Regionally where you're looking for stability, where you're looking to reassure other countries that there will be a strong enough force in the region to deter bad behaviour, I think absolutely yes — we would go where asked."

The visiting US general warned that Australia's neighbours would need assistance if they were to successfully stop the threat posed by IS-inspired militants. "I think the potential for it to spread is there, we should not underestimate it," he cautioned. "It's a different kind of a threat than North Korea but it's also a threat that moves in order to survive — it doesn't own a state so it's mobile.