ISE-SHIMA, Japan: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President Barack Obama discussed Wednesday evening the suspected rape and murder of a 20-year-old woman in Okinawa Prefecture by a former marine. During the talk, Obama expressed regret for the tragedy and pledged cooperation for the investigation.
The bilateral meeting came ahead of the Group of Seven summit, which kicks off Thursday in Mie Prefecture’s Ise-Shima resort.
Abe had initially hoped to use the bilateral meeting to reaffirm the strength of the Japan-U.S. alliance ahead of Obama’s historic visit Friday to Hiroshima—the first for a sitting U.S. president. Yet that opportunity was overshadowed by the murder, allegedly by Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, a 32-year-old marine veteran and civilian contractor at Kadena Air Base.
Prior to the talks, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday that Tokyo was fully aware of the gravity of the incident, and that Abe would demand that the US side take effective and stringent measures.
Yet it was unclear what kind of specific measures Abe was considering. US forces in Japan have at times imposed curfews after service members committed felonies, though this did little to prevent a repeat of such crimes.
On Monday, Abe and Suga met with Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga, who called on Tokyo to renegotiate the US-Japan Status of Forces Agreement. That pact gives the US side the right of jurisdiction over US military service members and civilians working for them if they violate Japanese laws while engaged in official duties.
Yet Tokyo has been on the fence about reviewing the agreement, arguing that by changing the way it’s implemented, things have improved.
Before the Japan-US talk, British Prime Minister David Cameron also spoke with Abe.