Okinawa and all of Japan has been on edge in recent months after a series of scandals and incidents cast the United States military presence there in a negative light. Most recently, Petty Officer Aimee Mejia injured one local after causing a car accident due to her intoxication behind the wheel. After a night of off-base drinking, Mejia collided with two other vehicles; authorities report her blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was six times Japan’s legal limit of 0.03%.
In response to the incident, the Navy has banned all personnel stationed in Japan, whether they are in Okinawa or elsewhere, from imbibing alcohol until further notice. The order includes off-base and on-base consumption and applies to all officers, regardless of rank. Heavy restrictions are being implemented as to where and why Navy personnel can travel, too; unless a trip off the base is necessary, such as buying groceries or getting children from school and daycare, officers are not permitted to leave. Additionally, personnel will be required to take courses on the importance of drinking responsibly and how their individual actions affect the way Japan views America as a whole.
The country-wide move may not be enough to calm Okinawan protestors, however. The car accident occurred during a 30-day curfew and mourning order after a civilian military member stationed in Okinawa was arrested for admitting to killing and raping a local woman earlier in the year. Anger and distrust of the American military seems to be prevalent throughout Japan, as even Prime Minister Shinzo Abe voiced his open concerns to President Barack Obama during the G7 summit.
As these stories play out, it is important to remember that investigations are still ongoing. Both the individual named in the murder case and Petty Officer Mejia should be granted the opportunity to defend themselves in military or criminal court. At McCormack & McCormack, our military lawyers provide legal protection for military members all across the world. No matter where you are stationed, if you are facing serious accusations like the ones going on in Okinawa, you can depend on us for reliable and responsive counsel. Call toschedule a free initial consultation today.
News update: Since the time of this writing, the Navy has actually lifted portions of the alcohol ban in Japan. Personnel will be permitted to imbibe alcohol before 10:00 PM and with an accompanying officer, if they are “low ranking.” Due to the expedience of the ban’s lift, Okinawans have expressed further agitation towards the military presence. The Navy also announced that July 4th celebrations on Japanese naval bases will not be conducted this year.