Govt. starts info-sharing scheme with Okinawa over US military sexual crimes

Japan's government says it has started operating a new scheme to share with local governments in Okinawa Prefecture information possessed by investigative authorities but not made public. The move follows alleged sexual assaults by US military personnel in Okinawa that were not reported to the prefecture.

The series of alleged incidents in Okinawa came to light last week. Neither the central government nor police had reported them to the prefecture.

The government says it was protecting the victims' privacy. The decision not to report to the prefecture caused a backlash by local residents.

On Friday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hayashi Yoshimasa told reporters that the government reviewed the practice and began operating the new scheme that day.

The government says information on alleged sexual crimes in Okinawa involving US military personnel will now be shared with the local governments as much as possible, regardless of whether investigative authorities have made it public.

The government is to share such information with the Defense Ministry via the Foreign Ministry after investigative authorities complete their handling of incidents. The defense ministry will then provide the information to local governments in Okinawa.

Hayashi, meanwhile, stressed the need to pay attention to protecting victims' privacy. He said if there is inappropriate handling of information, the government will consider measures to prevent a recurrence and may stop providing such information.

Hayashi said it is necessary to swiftly consider measures from the viewpoint of preventing crimes by US service personnel in Okinawa. He also said he will convey information to the local governments as much as possible.

In response, Okinawa Governor Tamaki Denny told reporters that the central government's review of information sharing is a step forward.

He added that the quick work on the review has great significance.