ATHENS, TX —
UPDATE (Thursday): Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs George Little provided the following statement regarding the arrest of two Navy sailors, including one from Athens, TX:
"We are working closely with the Government of Japan and relevant local authorities in their investigation of an alleged assault of a female Japanese citizen in Okinawa Oct. 16 by two U.S. service members.
The Department of Defense takes all incidents and allegations involving misconduct by service members seriously and pledges its continued cooperation.
We deeply regret any grief and trauma the victim may have endured. U.S. Forces Japan is actively engaged with the Government of Japan and the U.S. Navy is fully cooperating with authorities in Okinawa as they continue their investigation.
We are also examining and will soon announce a package of measures to ensure responsible behavior and to demonstrate our commitment to maintaining positive relationships with the local communities that host our forces."
ORIGINAL STORY (Wednesday): Japanese officials expressed outrage after two U.S. sailors were arrested over accusations that they raped a woman on the island of Okinawa, where the American military presence has generated long-simmering resentment.
Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto on Wednesday called the alleged rape "vicious and mean" and said Japanese authorities were lodging protests with the U.S. government and military, as well as demands for better preventive measures.
Police in Okinawa identified the detained sailors as U.S. Navy Seaman Christopher Daniel Browning and Petty Officer Skyler Dozierwalker of Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth in Texas.
Authorities with the naval base in Fort Worth confirm to KETK that 23 year old Christopher Daniel Browning is from Athens, TX.
Dozierwalker, also 23, is from Muskogee, Oklahoma.
Both men are signed to fleet logistics support squadran 59, which is based in Fort Worth.
The two men are alleged to have raped a Japanese woman in the early hours of Tuesday morning, leaving her with an injury to her neck, police said. They were taken into custody later that day.
Tensions over the American military presence on Okinawa have boiled over before. Many residents were incensed by the rape of a 12-year-old Japanese girl in 1995 by three U.S. military personnel. And allegations that a Marine raped a 14-year-old girl caused a furor in 2008, although the girl decided not to pursue charges.
About half of all U.S. military personnel in Japan are stationed in Okinawa.
The U.S. government is "extremely concerned" by the allegations against the two service members, U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos said in a statement Tuesday.
"We are committed to cooperating fully with the Japanese authorities in their investigation," he said.
Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Shuji Kira on Wednesday summoned Roos over the case, urging the enforcement of stricter discipline and preventive measures.
Morimoto, the defense minister, suggested that if the Japanese protests about the matter didn't prove effective enough, he could raise the issue with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
Opposition to the presence of U.S. troops in Okinawa runs so deeply that it contributed to the resignation of former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama in 2010. He had promised to move a U.S. base but later announced that it would stay. His critics said at the time that he gave in to U.S. pressure, and his governing coalition broke up.
As well as the cases of misconduct by U.S. troops, some Okinawan residents have complained about issues such as environmental and noise pollution from the American presence.
There is also concern in Okinawa about the U.S. deployment of the Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey, a controversial tilt-rotor aircraft that can take off and land like a helicopter but fly like an airplane.
Doubts about the Osprey's safety have been fueled by two crashes -- one in Morocco and one in Florida -- earlier this year.
The United States and Japan announced in April that nearly half the 19,000 U.S. Marines on Okinawa would leave soon and relocate to other areas in the Asia-Pacific region, including Guam, Hawaii and Australia.
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