The Pentagon said on Thursday that it is working closely with the Japanese government and local authorities in Okinawa on investigating the alleged sexual assault of a Japanese woman by two U.S. servicemen earlier the week.
"The Department of Defense takes all incidents and allegations involving misconduct by service members seriously and pledges its continued cooperation. We deeply regret any grief and trauma the victim may have endured," Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement.
"U.S. Forces in Japan is actively engaged with the Government of Japan and the U.S. Navy is fully cooperating with authorities in Okinawa as they continue their investigation," Little said.
The Pentagon will soon announce "a package of measures to ensure responsible behavior and to demonstrate our commitment to maintaining positive relationships with the local communities that host our forces," he added.
Two U.S. sailors based in Okinawa have been arrested by Japanese police after allegedly raping a Japanese woman who was walking home early Tuesday morning, and one of them has confessed to committing the crime, media reports said.
The case has reignited the tensions over the U.S. longstanding military presence on the southern Japanese island, where more than half of the 47,000 U.S. troops in Japan are deployed.
Misconducts by U.S. soldiers, especially sexual assaults of Japanese women in Okinawa, have long been a source of the growing resentment and protests by local residents toward the U.S. military presence.
So far a total of seven U.S. service members have been arrested for allegedly raping local Japanese women since 1972, including the 1995 case involving three U.S. soldiers who raped a 12-year old Japanese girl and triggered off mass anti-U.S. demonstrations that forced the U.S. to agree to reduce its military presence there.
Before the Tuesday incident, Okinawa residents had been protesting the U.S. deployment of the accident-prone Osprey transport aircraft, which use tilt rotors for taking off and vertical landing, since earlier this month.
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