U.S. Marine Accused in Drink Drive Case as Japanese Man Dies

By Reuters
November 20, 2017 Updated: November 20, 2017

TOKYO–A Japanese man was killed in a truck collision involving a 21-year-old U.S. marine who was well over the legal alcohol limit for driving, police said of a case that was likely to stoke resentment over the U.S. military presence on the southern island of Okinawa.

In response to the Sunday’s fatal accident, U.S. forces in Japan banned, until further notice, all personnel in the country from drinking of alcohol.

“The Defence and Foreign Ministries have lodged a stern representation to the U.S. forces in Japan and the U.S. embassy in Japan, asking for the enforcement of discipline, prevention of recurrence and sincere response to the bereaved,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular news conference on Monday, Nov. 20.

U.S. Ambassador to Japan William Hagerty expressed his condolences and offered an apology, Suga said.

The accident occurred at an intersection in the city of Naha early Sunday morning. The marine was driving a military truck, and the 61-year-old crash victim was in a light truck.

The Japanese man was later pronounced dead, while the U.S. serviceman, who was arrested for the fatal accident and driving under the influence of alcohol, suffered scratches, a police official in Naha said.

The official said a breath test showed the marine was as much as three times over the legal limit for alcohol.

“When our service members fail to live up to the high standards we set for them, it damages the bonds between bases and local communities and make it harder for us to accomplish our mission,” a statement from the U.S. forces in Japan said.

Last year, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe protested to then-U.S. President Barack Obama about the killing of a young woman in Okinawa, for which a U.S. base worker had been charged.

Obama, who was visiting Japan for a Group of Seven summit, expressed “deepest regrets.”

The case is under trial.

Residents in Okinawa, a reluctant host to the bulk of U.S. bases in Japan, believe that they shoulder an unfair burden in supporting the U.S. military presence in Japan.

By Kiyoshi Takenaka