Japan Bans All U.S. Troops in Okinawa from Drinking After Fatal Suspected DUI

A Japanese man's damaged vehicle at a police station in Naha, Okinawa, Japan, on Sunday. The driver was killed, and a U.S. Marine was injured when their vehicles collided Sunday. Kazuki Sawada/Kyodo News via AP
Kazuki Sawada/Kyodo News via AP

Japan has reportedly confined all U.S. troops in Okinawa to their base and off-base residences in addition to prohibiting them from purchasing or consuming alcohol after one of their fellow Marines allegedly killed a local man while believed to be intoxicated.

“When our service members fail to live up to the high standards we set for them, it damages the bonds between bases and local communities and makes it harder for us to accomplish our mission,” declared U.S. Forces Japan in a statement Sunday. “We are committed to being good neighbors with our host communities.”

Lt. Gen. Lawrence D. Nicholson, commanding general of Marine Forces Japan, expressed his “deepest regret and sincere condolences” to the Okinawan victim’s family, noting that the Marine Corps was cooperating fully with local law enforcement and would “take every possible step to keep this from happening again.

Military punishment for a DUI can range from “a court-martial” to “a letter of reprimand,” among other forms of reprimands, according to legal experts.

NBC News reports:

Alcohol may have been a factor in the crash, which occurred before dawn Sunday in Naha, in Okinawa prefecture, the U.S. military said. The U.S. government-funded Voice of America quoted local police as saying the Marine’s blood-alcohol level registered three times the legal limit during a breath test.

Police on the southern Japanese island reportedly arrested a 21-year-old Marine on suspicion of drunken driving, The Associated Press reported, citing Kazuhiko Miyagi of the Okinawa police. That information could not immediately be confirmed by NBC News.

The Marine allegedly destroyed the local victim’s small truck, smashing it into an unrecognizable heap of twisted metal, photos of the scene reportedly show.

Japan houses an estimated 50,000 U.S. forces, nearly half of them serving on Okinawa. Tensions between the American troops and the locals have been simmering for years.

A military order “directs commanders across Japan to immediately begin leading mandatory training in responsible alcohol use, risk management and acceptable behavior for all military members and U.S. government civilians in Japan,” reports NBC News. “It restricts all U.S. military personnel on Okinawa to their bases or their homes, and it prohibits alcohol consumption by all U.S. military personnel across the country at all times.”

When compared to civilians, the prevalence of heavy alcohol use is much greater among young service members, reported the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.


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