U.S. Military, Embroiled in Rape Scandal, Concerned by Threats
TOKYO (AP) _ U.S. military officials, embroiled in an uproar over the rape of a Japanese schoolgirl allegedly committed by three U.S. servicemen, said today they had received threats of violence against Americans.
The threats included at least one anonymous call last week claiming a bomb had been planted on a military school bus. No bomb was found, and no one was hurt.
``We have received threats because of recent misconduct, and the alleged rape would be a part of that,″ said Lt. Tania Dutko, a spokeswoman for Kadena Air Base on the island of Okinawa.
Dutko said the threats are being taken seriously, but no official warning for U.S. military personnel has been issued yet.
She refused to elaborate on the content of the threats.
Two U.S. Marines and a sailor are in military custody for allegedly raping a 12-year-old Okinawan girl on Sept. 4.
The suspects are Marine Pfc. Rodrico Harp, 21, of Griffin, Ga.; Pfc. Kendrick M. Ledet, 20, of Waycross, Ga., and Navy Seaman Marcus D. Gill, 22, of Jasper, Texas.
The case has focused nationwide attention on a bilateral agreement allowing the U.S. military to hold suspects on base until the Japanese authorities file formal charges.
Okinawan media and civic leaders have slammed the continued U.S. custody as insensitive, and the case has given strength to voices calling for the agreement to be scrapped.
Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama reportedly added his name today to the growing list of politicians urging that the suspects be turned over to local investigators.
``They should be handed over to us first of all,″ he was quoted as saying by Kyodo News Service. Murayama’s government, however, has expressed reluctance about actually amending the treaty.
The military says it will turn the suspects over when the charges are lodged. Formal charges were expected in the next week, police said.
Okinawa is the United States’ most important military outpost in the Pacific.
About 29,000 U.S. troops, most of them Marines, are stationed on the small island on Japan’s southern fringe. U.S. bases take up roughly one-fifth of the island, and 75 percent of all American bases in Japan are concentrated there.
Hoping to soothe Okinawans’ feelings, the U.S. ambassador and the top American military officers in Japan and Okinawa have offered strongly worded apologies over the past week. Japanese police have been given full access to question the suspects.
Tighter discipline and drinking restrictions also have been enforced since the rape.