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Friday, 7 July, 2000, 13:26 GMT 14:26 UK
Okinawa curfew after sex charges
Protest against a US base
Protests against US bases in Japan are not uncommon
The US military said it would impose a midnight curfew and drinking ban on marines on the Japanese island of Okinawa after a serviceman was charged with sexually molesting a 14-year-old girl in her bedroom.

But the restrictions have prompted criticism as they will only apply for a few days before and during the summit of the Group of Eight (G8) countries, which is being held on the island in a fortnight's time.

While we demand and enforce a high level of conduct at all times, it is especially important during the summit

Lt Gen Hailston
The alleged molestation case has cast a shadow over President Clinton's plans to attend the 21-23 July summit and has prompted a flurry of activity from top officials.

On Friday, the chief aide of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori flew to Okinawa to soothe mounting local anger, while the top US military official on the island made an unprecedented apology on Thursday.

US troops
Just over half the 48,000 US troops in Japan are based in Okinawa
Okinawa's prefectural and city assembly, as well as the assembly of Nago City which will host the G8 summit, have passed resolutions demanding compensation and calling for measures to prevent such incidents.

The alcohol ban will be in force for four days as the summit takes place, while the late-night curfew is in force from July 14 until July 24.

'Indecent attack'

The 19-year-old marine is accused of unlawfully entering the girl's apartment - which was unlocked, as is common on the island - early on Monday morning.

The girl's screaming alerted her mother, who said she found the drunk, half-naked marine on top of her daughter, kissing and fondling her.

The woman took her daughter from the room and called the police, who charged the marine with indecency and unlawful entry.

The marine, from the Futenma Air Base in Ginowan could face up to seven years in prison if convicted.

Protests in Okinawa

The people of Okinawa, who have held protests and rallies over the incident this week, have long resented the presence of US troops on the island.

There have been numerous cases of US troops misbehaving sexually or violently.

Okinawa Governor Keiichi Inamine
Governor Keiichi Inamine received the unique military apology
In the most prominent case in 1995, which drew massive protests from local people, three US servicemen were convicted of raping a 12-year-old schoolgirl.

In the closing months of World War II, when Okinawa was the site of a fierce battle, American troops were reported to have raped thousands of local women.

The apology for Monday's incident by the marine commander, Lieutenant General Earl B Hailston, who visited the governor of Okinawa Keiichi Inamine and made a bow of contrition, underscores the seriousness of the incident.

The apology was the first from a senior US military official for such an incident and was also remarkable for the fact that it was made before the marine had been charged.

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See also:

16 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
US soldier guilty of sex killing
04 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan police probe US base attack
15 Nov 98 | Asia-Pacific
Anti-US governor loses Okinawa vote
15 Oct 98 | Asia-Pacific
Okinawa death strains US-Japan relations
23 Jun 00 | Media reports
Key Japan battle commemorated
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