The U.S. military is investigating another allegation that a soldier sexually assaulted a woman on the southern island of Okinawa, as Washington and Tokyo strive to keep anger over crimes by U.S. troops from damaging broader ties.
In the latest incident, Kyodo news agency reported on Thursday that the U.S. military had taken a soldier into custody earlier this month over an alleged sexual assault on a Philippine woman in Okinawa, home to the bulk of U.S. forces in Japan.
"We know about this allegation and are in full cooperation with host nation authorities," said U.S. Forces Japan spokesman Colonel Eric Schnaible in an email. "We take this allegation very seriously and the Army does not tolerate sexual assault."
Okinawa police declined to comment on Kyodo's report that they planned to seek an arrest warrant for the soldier soon.
Last week, a 38-year-old Marine, Tyrone Hadnott, was arrested on suspicion of raping a 14-year-old girl on Okinawa, an incident that has rekindled memories of the 1995 rape of a 12-year-old girl on the island.
That episode sparked huge protests against the U.S. bases on the island, where residents have long worried about crime associated with the American military presence.
Hadnott has denied rape but admitted forcing her to kiss him.
Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has said he will raise the issue of slack military discipline with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her visit to Tokyo next week.
In the latest show of U.S. concern, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill met a senior Japanese diplomat and expressed "great regret" over the suspected schoolgirl rape.
"I expressed my great regret of the situation that has developed in Okinawa, my great concern about the feelings of the people of Okinawa and the fact that this is a very difficult time," Hill told reporters after the meeting.
The U.S. military on Wednesday slapped a 24-hour curfew on troops on the island and at another Marine base in Iwakuni, southwestern Japan, that bans them from leaving their homes or bases except to go to school, to worship or visit a doctor.
The move followed the arrest of two Marines on Okinawa at the weekend, one accused of trespassing and the other of drink driving.
Four Marines at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station are also being investigated for allegedly raping a young woman last October and could face court martial for the crime.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 21 Şubat 2008, 11:54