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Curfew Sought on U.S. Soldiers

July 5, 2000

OKINAWA CITY, Japan (AP) _ Police in Okinawa urged the U.S. military on Wednesday to reimpose a late-night curfew on soldiers after three Marines were arrested, including one who allegedly entered the home of a 14-year-old girl and fondled her as she slept.

The arrests and complaints by Okinawa officials and police come two weeks before leaders of the Group of Eight industrial nations are to meet in Okinawa _ a summit that is expected to draw protests by opponents of the U.S. military bases on the island.

Police Superintendent Keishi Shinjo said the arrests of the three Marines, who all appeared to be drunk at the time, renewed public calls for the U.S. military to reimpose a curfew barring American soldiers from nightclubs in the city’s entertainment district late at night.

``The timing of these arrests so close to the G-8 summit has left many people shocked. These incidents all happened around midnight,″ Shinjo said. ``The military must do a better job ... to keep control over military personnel during these hours.″

Shinjo said one Marine was arrested Monday after being found fondling a teen-age girl in her home. Two other Marines were arrested last week after a scuffle with a taxi driver.

Last October, the U.S. military lifted a 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. curfew imposed on its soldiers in Okinawa City’s entertainment district after three servicemen were convicted of raping a 12-year-old girl in 1995 on the island 1,000 miles southwest of Tokyo.

Lt. Gen. Earl B. Hailston, commander of Marine forces in Okinawa, said he met Wednesday with Hideo Ishikawa, the deputy governor of Okinawa prefecture, and the Okinawa City mayor, Masakazu Nakasone, to hear their complaints about the three Marines.

Hailston issued a statement apologizing to Okinawans and promising to do everything he can to make Marines abide by Japanese law when they are off their military bases.

``These Marines are my sons and daughters. That is why it hurts me deeply when any of my Marines appear to fall short of the standard I have set and demand,″ he said. ``It hurts me, as it hurts you, my neighbors.″

Okinawa police spokesmen Jun Yogi said the prefecture’s police asked Hailston on Wednesday to bar service members from leaving their bases after midnight.

A Marines spokesman, Capt. J.M. Plenzler, denied that the corps had received such a request. Plenzler said the Marines once again asked local police for permission to have uniformed, unarmed Marines patrol the entertainment district of Okinawa City at night to watch for misbehavior by soldiers. Police have refused similar offers.

Also Wednesday, a 48-member Okinawa Prefectural assembly unanimously adopted a resolution urging the Japanese and the U.S. governments to prevent assaults by American soldiers on Japanese citizens, said assembly spokesman Tadashi Higa.

On Monday, a 19-year-old Marine was arrested on suspicion of entering a first-floor apartment in Okinawa City late at night, lying down beside a female junior high school student while she slept and fondling her, Shinjo said.

``The girl’s mother discovered the Marine and ran next door to a neighbor’s house. The neighbor called police, who arrested the Marine,″ Shinjo said.

Last week, two Marines _ one age 19 and one age 23 _ were arrested for allegedly helping another Marine escape when he got into a confrontation with a taxi driver on Okinawa. Police the Marine who fled had scuffled with the taxi driver.

Under a mutual security treaty between Japan and the United States, about 47,000 U.S. military service people are stationed in Japan, nearly two-thirds of them in Okinawa.

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