An American man working at a US military base in Okinawa was arrested by local police on Thursday on suspicion of dumping the body of a 20-year-old Japanese woman. The incident is expected to aggravate anti-US sentiment ahead of a visit to Japan by President Barack Obama later this month.
Japan’s Jiji news service reported that the 32-year-old suspect, Shinzato Kenneth Franklin, had provided Okinawa prefectural police with information that led them to the body of the woman, Rina Shimabukuro, in the village of Onna in Okinawa.
Sources say Franklin made remarks under questioning that hinted that he had murdered Shimabukuro. The suspect reportedly admitted to the charges against him, saying that he has abandoned the woman’s body in a woody area, according to the police.
Shimabukuro, a company worker, was earlier reported missing in the city of Uruma. Police say an autopsy is being conducted on Shimabukuro’s body to determine cause of death. They also are investigating how the suspect dumped her body.
Obama, who is due to attend a Group of Seven summit in Mie, Japan next week, will become the first US president to visit the city of Hiroshima, destroyed by a US atomic bomb 71 years ago.
Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida reportedly summoned Caroline Kennedy, US ambassador to Japan, to lodge a protest about Shimabukuro’s death. “I expressed a strong regret to Ambassador Kennedy and lodged a stern protest. I told her an incident like this is inexcusable and that I feel strong indignation,” Kishida told reporters after the meeting, according to Reuters.
Anti-US sentiment was stoked earlier this year after a US sailor was arrested on suspicion of raping a woman at a hotel in Naha in the south of Okinawa.
Huge protests swept Okinawa in 1995 after a 12-year-old Japanese school girl was sexually assaulted by three US servicemen. The girl, who was on her way to a store to buy notebooks, was abducted, beaten and raped. It was the first major outpouring of anger by local residents who associate US bases on the island with noise, pollution and crime. US installations take up about 18% of Okinawa’s land.
US Navy Admiral Richard C. Macke, the chief of the US Pacific Command at the time of the 1995 attack, further inflamed local sentiment by remarks he made about the incident. At a press conference in November 1995, Macke said of the men’s actions: “I think it was absolutely stupid. I have said several times: for the price they paid to rent the car [used in the crime], they could have had a girl (prostitute).” His comments were widely condemned, and Macke was reduced in rank, removed from his post and forced into early retirement.