Amid restrictions, new sex abuse allegations emerge

Japan lauded the military’s tight restrictions on personnel in Okinawa as a “first step.”

.TOKYO (AP) – New allegations of sex abuse by a U.S. Army serviceman emerged Thursday as the U.S. military pressed forward with tight new restrictions on its troops in Japan following a furor over another rape accusation that surfaced last week.

Japanese officials welcomed the restrictions when they went into effect Wednesday, but said they were not sufficient.

U.S. forces limited some 45,000 troops, civilian employees and their families to bases, workplaces or off-base homes indefinitely to quell the anger over allegations that a 14-year-old Japanese girl was raped by a U.S. serviceman and other military-linked crimes.

The restrictions went beyond a midnight curfew already in place for enlisted Marines on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, where the rape of the 14-year-old allegedly occurred and where most of the 50,000 U.S. troops in the country are based.

An Army serviceman, meanwhile, was under investigation for allegedly sexually assaulting a Philippine woman in Okinawa, the U.S. military and Japanese officials said Thursday.

Details in the latest case were hazy, but it involved an alleged attack at an Okinawa hotel earlier this month, officials said. A report by Japan’s Kyodo News agency said American military authorities had taken the servicemen into custody.

The U.S. Army released a brief statement pledging full cooperation with Japanese authorities, but did not disclose any details of the case or whether the serviceman was in U.S. custody.

“We take this allegation very seriously, and the Army does not tolerate sexual assault,” said the statement, read over the phone by Major James Crawford, Army spokesman in Japan.

The woman, also unidentified, was taken to a hospital after the alleged attack after meeting with a serviceman in a hotel, said Takashi Ariyoshi of the Japanese Foreign Ministry. Okinawa police refused to provide further details.

The restriction order, which focused on Okinawa but also affected Marines throughout Japan, was issued after a string of crimes blamed on American servicemen stoked long-simmering sentiment against the U.S. military presence.

“We need further concrete measures to prevent a recurrence. The restrictions are worthwhile as the first step of earnest discussions,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura, who has sharply criticized U.S. forces in recent days.

Yoshihiko Fukuda, the newly elected mayor of Iwakuni, which hosts a Marine base, said the step was unlikely to make much of a difference until anti-crime education programs for American servicemen are strengthened, the Asahi newspaper reported.

U.S. military officials said the new restrictions, along with a review of anti-sexual assault guidelines, would reinforce the long-standing message that service personnel should uphold high standards of conduct.

“The U.S. military and its commanders take very seriously all incidents and allegations involving misconduct by service members, especially those that impact the host nation community,” U.S. forces said in a statement.

The latest furor began with the arrest last week of 38-year-old Staff Sgt. Tyrone Luther Hadnott in the alleged rape of a 14-year-old girl in Okinawa. Hadnott told investigators he forced the girl down and kissed her, but said he did not rape her, police say.

Okinawa is considered a linchpin in the U.S. military posture in Asia, and Washington is eager to quell rising negative sentiment against American troops.

Okinawans have complained about crime, crowding and noise brought by U.S. troops for many years. Protests in the 1990s forced the closing of a Marine air station, and a plan to build a new airstrip on the island has stirred persistent opposition.