Okinawa police to consider sharing US sexual assault info with local authorities

A senior police officer in Okinawa Prefecture says the police will consider how to share information with prefectural officials regarding sexual assault cases involving US military personnel stationed there.

Asato Hitoshi, the chief of criminal investigations of the Okinawa police headquarters, made the remarks at a special committee meeting of the prefectural assembly on Monday.

The meeting comes after two cases of suspected sexual assault involving US military personnel -- one last December and the other in May -- were revealed last week.

Information related to the cases had been shared with the central government, but not with the local government.

Asato said that given the sexual nature of the cases, police neither made public statements nor shared information with Okinawa officials to protect the privacy of the victims.

But he said it is very important to inform Okinawa residents about the arrests of US military personnel suspected of crimes.

Asato also said the number of criminal cases and arrests are posted on the police headquarters' website and updated monthly. He added that the police provide relevant information to the governor when asked for it.

An assembly member asked Asato whose decision it was not to provide information to the prefectural government. Asato replied that the chief of the police headquarters and its senior officers made the decision.

Asato said he wants to discuss with local government officials how to share information on sexual assault cases, while taking measures to prevent the privacy of victims from being violated.

Attendees of the meeting included the head of the governor's office, Tamari Masahito. He said the Okinawa government wants to have further discussions with the police about the circumstances under which they can provide information to the prefecture.

The police side also said there have been several cases of suspected sexual assault involving US military personnel since last year. In response, the local government side said it did not receive any information on the cases.

Members of the assembly committee confirmed that they will draft letters of protest and opinions about the recently revealed sexual assault cases.