Following a number of alcohol related incidents in Japan, the United States Navy has today banned all alcohol consumption in the country for US service personnel stationed there.
‘Prohibition in Japan’
All sailors working in ‘the land of the rising sun’ have had alcohol privileges revoked as the navy looks to restore relations with the Japanese public. As well as not being allowed a cold beer when off duty, serving men and women will not be permitted to leave base except for essential and authorized trips.
The release from the Navy stated, “Effective immediately, sailors are prohibited from drinking alcohol, on and off base. Additionally, all off-base liberty will be curtailed.”
The 7th fleet is stationed in Japan, and in a statement released today, Rear Admiral Matthew Carter, commander of Naval forces in Japan stated, “for decades, we have enjoyed a strong relationship with the people of Japan. It is imperative that each sailor understand how our actions affect that relationship, and the U.S.-Japan alliance as a whole.”
He explained that “these measures are not taken lightly,” as a sign of how seriously the armed forces are taking the public relations problems they have been suffering and attempts to win back ‘hearts and minds’ of their hosts.
The new rules will affect 18600 personnel that are currently situated in Japan, including sailors, pilots operating planes from the bases and other staff.
A US sailor was arrested on Sunday, charged with driving under the influence and causing a crash that left one woman in hospital and a man injured on the southern island of Okinawa. The suspect, a female naval officer, was driving the wrong way down a highway and hit two cars head on. She was found to be six times over the Japanese legal alcohol limit.
This followed an incident where a 20-year-old woman’s body was found dumped, and a US citizen, working for the military (but not a current serviceman), has been arrested. The man was a former marine and the lady’s body was found in a suitcase, left in a wood. This led to a 30 day mourning period where servicemen were banned from drinking alcohol off base when in Okinawa.
In April of this year a navy corpsman was arrested for the rape of a woman in a hotel in Naha, the capital of Okinawa. He admitted guilt but has yet to be sentenced.
The US has announced that they will offer their full cooperation with Japanese authorities in dealing with these recent crimes.
Approximately half of the US military presence in Japan is based in Okinawa and there is considerable local opposition to this, based on crimes that have been committed as well as regular complaints about noise and congestion.
These events are very inconvenient for the US military, as they have been looking to relocate an air base, US Marines’ Futenma, to the small island of Okinawa. This plan has been in the pipeline for many years, but events like the 1995 gang-rape of a Japanese schoolgirl by three military personnel meant the relocation has been a very sensitive issue.
Many locals, and even the governor of Okinawa are against the move and ideally want all military personnel removed from the island.
The new restrictions do not apply to non-military personnel including family and civilians contracting in the country, (which almost doubles the total number of people there), but they are being asked to try and follow the new rules in what the US Navy has called ” a spirit of solidarity.”