The confession and arrest of former American Marine, Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, for the murder of a 20-year-old Japanese woman on the island of Okinawa brings to mind (also linked in this NYT account) another imported American dose of mayhem that took place there in 1995, when 3 American servicemen brutally raped a 12-year-old girl.
In the current case, the victim, Rina Shimabukuro, was reported missing on April 29 after texting her boyfriend that she was going for a walk but never returned. Shinzato, the suspect, was arrested after he admitted to strangling the young girl and dumping her body in a vacant field near her home in a neighboring village. Shinzato (at first I presumed he might be Japanese) is/was currently employed in a civilian role at the Okinawan Kadena Air Base which belongs to the USAF. Surveillance footage placed his car in the area of the crime, and Shimabukuro’s matching DNA was found in his car.
Apparently, contrary to my assumptions, Shinzato is hardly Japanese.
The American’s arrest elicited the predictable round of hapless Japanese condemnations.
Japanese officials protested to the United States on Friday after the police arrested a man identified as a former American Marine in connection with the killing of a woman on the island of Okinawa.
“I am extremely upset. I have no words,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters at his residence on Friday morning. “I demand that the United States take strict measures to prevent something like this from happening again.”
Such typically reticent, restrained Japanese “reactions.”
The previous vicious American act alluded to in this story was the 1995 rape and brutalization of a 12-year-old girl at the hands of three American servicemen which likewise prompted howls of condemnation from the soft-spoken Japanese.
Most of the 18,000 United States marines in Okinawa held a “day of reflection” to contemplate the rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan schoolgirl, for which three American servicemen have been charged. Regular training was suspended on Thursday and the marines spent the day in lectures and discussion groups on topics like the “core values” of the Marine Corps, alcohol abuse and the customs and culture of Okinawa.
The day of reflection was part of an unusual outpouring of contrition by the United States military. But while the Pentagon could silence the guns and planes, it has not been able to silence the controversy generated by the rape and by the presence of so many American military bases, which take up 20 percent of the land on Okinawa’s main island.
The incident has added new strains to the relationship between the American military and the local people. And it is raising questions about the behavior and training of the American troops here.
The three men, who were indicted on Sept. 29 and could face up to a life term in a Japanese prison, were identified as Marine Pfc. Rodrico Harp, 21, of Griffin, Ga.; Marine Pfc. Kendrick M. Ledet, 20, of Waycross, Ga.; and Navy Seaman Marcus D. Gill, 22, of Woodville, Tex.
Harp, Ledet and Gill were turned in by a fourth man who bowed out gracefully after the three explicitly formulated a plan whose putative goal in fact included the act of abducting and raping a young native girl.
And who were these fine young American soldiers?
Diffuse and low-key Japanese anger at American military presence on the island ensued in 1995, and ensues now, in the aftermath of Shinzato’s arrest.
Japan’s foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, summoned Ambassador Caroline Kennedy on Friday to protest the killing on Okinawa, which he called “an extremely cruel and atrocious crime.” Okinawa’s governor, Takeshi Onaga, who has campaigned to reduce the American military presence on the island, told reporters on Thursday night that the crime had left him “speechless.”
“This incident has occurred precisely because the base is there,” Mr. Onaga was quoted by the local news media as saying. “I don’t know what to do with this anger.”
Perhaps the Japanese, too mannerly to openly express such reservations about American military presence (they are Japanese, after all), simply refuse to say they oppose “certain types” of military presence.