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​U.S. sailors in Japan banned from drinking alcohol, leaving base

U.S. Navy bans booze for sailors in Japan 00:40

The U.S. Navy's 18,600 sailors stationed in Japan are grounded. They're also banned from drinking alcohol. The temporary restrictions come after a sailor was arrested Sunday for drunk-driving.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Aimee Mejia, 21,crashed into two cars after driving the wrong way on a highway. According to police, two people had minor injuries, but Mejia was unharmed. She's assigned to the Kadena base in Okinawa.

"Effective immediately, Sailors are prohibited from drinking alcohol, on and off base," says a Navy statement. "Additionally, all off-base liberty will be curtailed. Sailors who live off-base will be permitted to travel to and from work and engage in official actions such as childcare drop-off and pickup, trips to the grocery store, gas stations or the gym."

The lockdown comes amid high anti-U.S. military sentiment in Japan, after a string of crimes allegedly committed by American servicemen based there.

U.S. forces in Japan were already under a midnight curfew with off-base drinking banned. The initial restrictions were implemented after the May arrest of a former U.S. Marine linked to the death of a 20-year-old Japanese woman. The ex-Marine Kenneth Shinzato, 32, worked on an Okinawa base.

In March, another sailor was arrested for allegedly raping a Japanese tourist visiting Okinawa. Roughly half of U.S. servicemen in Japan are based on the southern island of Okinawa.

Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga told reporters that "there needs to be a fundamental resolution." He said that American measures to keep Japanese-based troops in line have not gone far enough.

The bad behavior has sparked protests and public outcry in Okinawa. A large rally against the U.S. military is planned for June 19.

In 1995, 85,000 protestors gathered there after three American servicemen were charged with abducting and raping a 12-year-old Japanese school girl.

The attack led to an agreement to move the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station to a less-populated part of Okinawa, but the relocation has stalled. Many residents want the U.S. military off the island completely.

"We will not condone misconduct that impacts our ability to conduct our mission or which jeopardizes our critical alliance with Japan," said Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin in the Navy's statement.

All sailors will be required to take in-person training. Per the statement, the alcohol and movement restrictions will remain in effect until leadership is "comfortable that all personnel understand the impact of responsible behavior."

"These measures are not taken lightly," said Rear Adm. Matthew Carter. "For decades, we have enjoyed a strong relationship with the people of Japan. It is imperative that each sailor understands how our actions affect that relationship, and the U.S.-Japan alliance as a whole."

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