National Police Agency – 15 U.S. military deserters from bases in Okinawa

August 19, 2011 Ryukyu Shimpo

United States military officials have reported to their Japanese counterparts that the number of deserters from U.S. military bases in Japan has increased to 47, thirteen of whom have still not yet been located since both countries agreed on May 2008 to arrest these people. Fifteen of the 47 deserters, about 30% of the total were from U.S. bases in Okinawa, with seven still at large. Eighteen soldiers have given themselves up, but none of those belong to bases on Okinawa.

Kantoku Teruya, a member of the House of Representatives, received an answer from the National Police Agency to his inquiry regarding deserters. Teruya said, “It is possible that U.S. military deserters will resort to crime in order to get money. There are risks involved with these people hiding among the local populace.”

Among the seven not yet taken into custody, a marine who deserted in Okinawa in January 2004, the longest period for someone to remain at large, may still be hiding in the prefecture.

Eight have been taken into custody, including six found by the U.S. military and two located by the Okinawa Prefectural Police.

Following a taxi driver murder-robbery committed by a U.S. soldier in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture in March 2008, the governments of Japan and the United States have agreed to notify each other regarding deserters from U.S. bases. If soldiers desert, U.S. military officials will immediately ask the Japanese police to assist in securing their arrest, and to report the situation to local governments through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Based on a special criminal law clause in the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement, Japanese authorities are required to hand over deserters to the United States if the Japanese investigative organizations apprehend the soldiers.

(English Translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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