Okinawa vice governor protests alleged sexual assault of minor by US airman

The vice governor of Japan's southern prefecture of Okinawa has expressed strong anger over the indictment of a US Air Force member for the alleged kidnap and sexual assault of a girl under 16.

Vice Governor Ikeda Takekuni met on Thursday with Brigadier General Nicholas Evans, commander of the 18th Wing at US Kadena Air Base, and other US officials at the prefectural government office.

Evans did not apologize for the incident, but said, "I'm deeply concerned by the severity of this allegation, and I regret any anxiety this has caused."

He promised the US military will fully cooperate with the investigation by local authorities and the legal process.

Ikeda said this is a serious and vicious incident that tramples on the rights of women, and is unforgivable.

He sought an apology and compensation for the victim, saying this is a worrying incident for people who are forced to live next to US bases in Okinawa.

Ikeda protested the fact the prefecture was not notified about the indictment that was made in March until it was contacted by the Foreign Ministry's Okinawa office on Tuesday.

Ikeda also demanded stricter implementation of curfew measures, a quick compilation and disclosure of preventive measures and thorough education and management of service personnel.

Also on Thursday, representatives from six civic groups in Okinawa called for the removal of all existing US bases and a ban on building new ones at a news conference at the prefectural government office.

Itokazu Keiko, who co-heads a group of women protesting bases and troops in Okinawa, said she feels heart-wrenching pain when she thinks about the terror and despair inflicted on the victim.

She criticized the Japanese and US governments, and the US forces in Okinawa, for promising to ease the burden of the bases while doing nothing about the actual situation, where the lives and livelihoods of the people in the prefecture are threatened by such serious and vicious crimes.

The representatives plan to soon ask Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and US President Joe Biden to take and disclose effective steps to address the issue of US bases in Okinawa, and to eliminate crimes by US military personnel and civilian employees.