US military officials have reportedly cancelled all parties, festivals and celebrations after a former Marine was arrested on suspicion of murder a Japanese woman. Locals have been calling for greater disciplinary rules and supervision of the 30,000 US workers in Okinawa.
An American military base worker, Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, admitted to strangling a 20-year-old woman. He was arrested on 20 May and allegedly admitted to raping Rina Shimabukuro before strangling and stabbing her to death, according to the Japan Times.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with US President Obama ahead of the G7 Summit in Ise, central Japan. "As the incident has greatly shocked not only Okinawa but also the whole nation, I want President Obama to take it seriously," Abe said at a press conference.
"I feel profound resentment against this self-centred and absolutely despicable crime", he added.
Obama expressed his "sincere condolences and deepest regrets. I want to emphasise that the United States is appalled by any violent crime that may have occurred or been carried out by any US personnel or US contractors. We consider it inexcusable and we are committed to doing everything that we can to prevent any crimes taking place of this sort," he said.
After the arrest of Kenneth Franklin Gadson, who goes by his Japanese wife's name of Shinzato, around 2,000 people protested in front of a Marine base in central Okinawa on 22 May and called for the removal of US bases on the island.
Suzuyo Takazato, a representative of Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence, said the the rally was to mourn the death of Shimabukuro and to continue their fight to remove all the military bases from Okinawa. "This incident is a prime example of the violent nature of the military," Takazato told US military newspaper Stars and Stripes.
"The incident reminds us that it can happen to any women on Okinawa, us, our daughters or granddaughters. Reducing the presence of the military is not good enough. All the military bases must go."
Protesters waved signs that read "Never forgive Marine's rape", "You, Killer, Go Home", and "Withdraw all the US forces from Okinawa".
Another rally is set for 19 June, which locals hope will bring together more demonstrators than the 85,000 who gathered in 1995 to protest the abduction and rape of a girl aged 12 by three US servicemen.