The US Navy on Monday banned its sailors stationed in Japan from drinking in response to the arrest of an American sailor in Okinawa on a suspected driving under the influence (DUI) charge. "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 US Japan alliance as a whole," Rear Admiral Matthew Carter, commander of US naval forces in Japan said in a press release on Monday.
All sailors will be confined to their bases unless they are billeted to in-town accommodation. Those who live off base will be allowed to travel to and from work, schools, gas stations, grocery stores and the gym. Other activities were prohibited by the order and subject to military law. The restrictions are some of the most sweeping affecting off-duty behaviour by US sailors in Japan in recent years.
The latest incident came as the US military observes a 30-day mourning period at bases on Okinawa after an American civilian working for the US military there was arrested on suspicion of dumping the body of a 20-year-old Japanese woman. Renewed anger among residents in Okinawa at the US military presence threatens a plan to relocate the US Marines' Futenma air base to a less populous part of Okinawa, which was agreed in 1995 after the rape of a Japanese schoolgirl by US military personnel sparked huge anti-base demonstrations. Okinawa's governor and many residents want the marines off the island.
All US Navy sailors in Japan will be kept on base and banned from drinking until "all personnel understand the impact of responsible behaviour on the US-Japan alliance," the press release said. "Sailors living off base will be allowed to travel to and from base and conduct only "essential activities". The restrictions do not apply to family members and civilian US contractors, which brings the total number of people to 35,000, but they are being encouraged to observe the rules "in a spirit of solidarity", a spokesman for the US Navy said.