Off-base drinking ban for U.S. soldiers in Okinawa to be eased

November 27, 2014 Ryukyu Shimpo

The U.S. forces in Japan will revise its ‘liberty policy’, the code of conduct for the U.S. service members and civilian employees in Okinawa. This will allow them to stay out and drink off base during off-duty hours from December 9. Responding to requests from restaurant business owners in Okinawa City and other towns near the bases, the military authority made the decision to relax its policy. U.S. service members will be allowed to drink off base for the first time in two years, but are still banned from drinking in public off base between midnight and 5 a.m. A limit on the amount of drinking will also be eased. The U.S. forces, including marines, navy, air force and army in Okinawa, reported this measure to the Okinawa Prefectural Government on November 26.

The updated rules require service members who are E5 (sergeant rank or equivalent) and below, and those who are on temporary duty in Okinawa to be accompanied by superiors.

A spokesman for the US forces in Japan Lt. Col. Kenneth Hoffman said the forces have set up a new standard rather than abolishing the ban. He said any delinquency and illegal acts by U.S. military members and civilian employees should not be permitted.

The U.S. Forces in Japan has implemented measures such as restricting off-base movements during a nighttime curfew for the service members, including those in Okinawa, after two U.S. soldiers assaulted an Okinawan woman in October 2012. In February 2013, the service members, who were high-ranking, were allowed to be outside at nighttime but banned from drinking. From May 20, 2013, the military allowed the service members to drink about two canned beers at off-base restaurants between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.

In 2013, the food and beverage industry associations in Kin Town and Okinawa City requested the U.S. forces to ease the ban. They have expressed to the U.S forces that as a result of restaurants being shut-down or suspended, they are in a difficult economic situation.

Between November 2012, when the U.S. force in Japan started the curfew and off-base drinking ban, and August 2013, 15 crimes involving drinking were investigated, and 13 service members were arrested. The figure had decreased by 18 and 17 respectively from the same period the previous year. There were 8 cases of accidents causing injury or death involving drinking by service members. The figure is the same as the same period the previous year. However, the number of drink-driving cases involving service members was 25 cases, 20 less than the period before the curfew started.

(English translation by T&CT)

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