US sailor arrested on suspicion of drunken driving in Okinawa
TOKYO -- An American sailor was arrested Sunday on suspicion of drunken driving causing an accident on Japan's southern island of Okinawa, where public anger has run high over crimes by U.S. military personnel.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Aimee Mejia, 21, assigned to Kadena base in Okinawa, was arrested after driving the wrong way on a freeway and smashing head-on into two vehicles late Saturday, police spokesman Takashi Shirado. She was not injured but two people in the other cars were injured, one in the arm and the other in the chest, he said.
The U.S. military did not immediately respond to email requesting comment.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida spoke with U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy about the arrest, with Kishida asking the U.S. do more to prevent a recurrence, the ministry said in a statement.
Kennedy offered her regrets to the family of those injured, the ministry said. The U.S. Embassy did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
American military personnel are under a midnight curfew and off-base drinking is banned through later this month in Okinawa after an American, a former Marine who worked on a U.S. military base, was arrested after he led police to a woman's body. He is being held on suspicion of abandoning the body, while police investigate.
Okinawa is home to more than half of about 50,000 American troops based in Japan. Protests are common on the island, where residents feel they are being forced with an unfair burden of housing the U.S. troops under a bilateral security agreement.
The suspected murder of the woman was such a critical issue it came up during President Barack Obama's recent visit to Japan. Obama offered his condolences and promised the U.S. would fully cooperate to have the man prosecuted under Japanese law.
Japan and the U.S. have been working together to relocate a U.S. Marine Corps air station from a densely populated neighborhood in central Okinawa to another part of the island, but the project has repeatedly been delayed. Protesters are demanding that the facility be moved off Okinawa.
In March, a sailor was arrested on charges of raping a Japanese woman. A 1995 rape of a schoolgirl in which three U.S. servicemen were convicted set off widespread outrage. Although sexual crimes are especially sensitive, people in Okinawa say car accidents are also a problem, because sometimes the driver will flee back into the base grounds in a hit-and-run, making prosecution difficult.