US officer arrested in Japan’s Okinawa for drunk-driving

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TOKYO: A US naval officer was arrested Sunday for alleged drunk-driving on Okinawa, where military personnel are already under curfew after a suspected rape and murder by an employee of a military base.

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Naval officer Aimee Mejia, 21, who was arrested shortly after midnight, injured a local woman after driving the wrong way down a street, an Okinawa police spokesman said.

She hit an oncoming vehicle and bounced off it to collide with another, leaving the woman with a cracked breastbone, the spokesman added.

“She was arrested on the spot for driving while intoxicated,” he told Agence France-Presse.

Public anger against the heavy US military presence on Okinawa was rekindled last month with the arrest of a former US Marine, who at the time was a base employee, in connection with the death of a 20-year-old woman.

The arrest led to a month-long night-time curfew on US forces stationed on the island, as part of a “period of unity and mourning” over the killing.

Sunday’s arrest is expected to rekindle anger among Okinawans, who plan a major rally this month to protest against the military bases as well as the behavior of personnel.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida lodged a protest with US ambassador Caroline Kennedy about the driving incident and she apologized, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The island of Okinawa was the scene of a World War II battle and is now considered a strategic linchpin. But the heavy burden of hosting US bases and soldiers has long been an irritant in the two countries’ relations.

Okinawa hosts more than half the 47,000 American military personnel in Japan under a decades-long security alliance.

A series of crimes including rapes, assaults and hit-and-run accidents by US military personnel, dependents and civilians have long sparked protests on the crowded island. AFP

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