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Okinawa rape, murder case advances

By Agence France-Presse in Tokyo | China Daily | Updated: 2016-06-10 07:32

Japan on Thursday moved closer to charging a US military base employee with the rape and murder of a local woman on the southern island of Okinawa.

Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, 32, a former US Marine employed at the US Air Force's sprawling Kadena Air Base, was first arrested last month for allegedly disposing of the body of the victim, identified by local media as Rina Shimabukuro.

On Thursday, as is common practice in Japanese law, he was again arrested, this time for the separate crime of the alleged rape and murder of the 20-year-old woman, said an Okinawa police spokesman.

Japan's Jiji Press reported that Shinzato was formally charged on Thursday for abandoning the body. Prosecutors, however, said they could not comment.

The case has intensified long-standing local opposition to the US military presence on the strategic island, which reluctantly hosts about 75 percent of US bases in Japan by land area.

Crimes by US personnel have long sparked protests on crowded Okinawa, and have been a frequent irritant in relations between close security allies Japan and the US.

The woman's remains were found after investigators conducted a search in a weed-covered area based on Shinzato's deposition, while police found DNA matching Shimabukuro's in his car, news reports said.

His arrest last month sparked fresh anger among Okinawans as well as a harsh public rebuke by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to US President Barack Obama when he visited Japan for a Group of Seven summit.

Obama expressed regret over the incident while vowing measures to prevent crime by Americans. The military on Okinawa, meanwhile, imposed restrictions including a curfew.

But last weekend a 21-year-old US sailor on the island was arrested on a charge of allegedly driving while intoxicated and injuring two people, one seriously, prompting the US Navy to impose an alcohol ban on its personnel throughout Japan.

More than half the 47,000 US troops in Japan under a decades-long security alliance are stationed on Okinawa, the site of a major World War II battle that was followed by a 27-year US occupation of the island.

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