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May 30, 2017

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Japan lawmakers indignant at US rape case

TOKYO -- Local lawmakers in Okinawa passed a resolution Monday expressing "overwhelming indignation" at the alleged rape of a Japanese woman by two U.S. servicemen, as temperatures rose over the large U.S. presence.

The resolution, passed unanimously by the island chain's assembly, said U.S. military top brass were not doing enough to control their thousands of personnel.

"Yet another incident has taken place. In fact, the severity of the incidents is intensifying," it said. "With overwhelming indignation, we must question the present efforts of the U.S. Forces to prevent such incidents from happening."

The arrest last week of two 23-year-old sailors for the alleged rape of a local woman worsened already strained ties between the large U.S. military contingent and their reluctant island hosts.

The resolution said more than 5,700 crimes had been committed by U.S. military personnel, their family members or employees in the 40 years since the small tropical island chain was handed back to Japan in 1972.

Figures from the Okinawa prefectural police show the percentage of crimes committed by this group has fallen from a high in 1973 of 6.9 percent of all crimes to 0.8 percent in 2011. Last year, the group accounted for around three percent of Okinawa's total population.

In the resolution, the assembly demanded "a fundamental review of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement," which Okinawa governor Hirokazu Nakaima said effectively made the island an extraterritorial space for the U.S. military.

"We are so fed up with this because incidents like this have often occurred since before," Nakaima told reporters as he arrived in Washington on Sunday.

"I must let (Americans) know of such sentiment in Okinawa."

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