U.S. Navy sailors are banned from drinking alcohol in Japan, beginning June 6, after a string of incidents.
The move comes after an American sailor was arrested on June 5 for suspicion of drunk driving that caused an accident injuring two people on Japan’s southern island of Okinawa. The sailor, Petty Officer 2nd Class Aimee Mejia, 21, assigned to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, was apprehended after driving the wrong way on a freeway and colliding head-on into two vehicles the night before.
The alcohol ban will remain in effect until the commanders of the U.S.-Japan naval forces “are comfortable that all personnel understand the impact of responsible behavior on the U.S.-Japan Alliance and the United States’ ability to provide security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific,” the U.S. Naval Forces Japan announced in a press release.
“These measures are not taken lightly,” said Rear Adm. Matthew Carter, U.S. Naval Forces Japan (CNFJ).
“For decades, we have enjoyed a strong relationship with the people of Japan. It is imperative that each sailor understand how our actions affect that relationship, and the U.S.-Japan alliance as a whole.”
The ban will not be lifted until face-to-face training is conducted by unit commanding officers to all personnel.
“The overwhelming majority of our sailors are doing an outstanding job every single day,” said Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, U.S. 7th Fleet (C7F).
“But that same majority—at every paygrade—is also responsible for providing leadership on all levels. We will not condone misconduct that impacts our ability to conduct our mission or which jeopardizes our critical alliance with Japan,” Aucoin said.
Another alcohol-related incident involved a former Marine who worked on a U.S. military base in Okinawa. Kenneth Shinzato was arrested on May 19 in connection with the murder of a 20-year-old woman. Shinzato led authorities to the woman’s body abandoned in a forest.
The murder of the woman came up during President Barack Obama’s recent trip to Japan. Obama offered his condolences and promised that the United States will fully cooperate in the prosecution of Shinzato under Japanese law.
Another sailor was arrested in March on charges of rape.
More than half of about 50,000 naval staff in Japan are based in Okinawa. Protests are common in the area, as residents feel they are forced to bear the burden of housing the U.S. troops under a bilateral security agreement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.