Lt. Gen. Wallace Gregson, the top commander of the U.S. forces in Okinawa, departs with a bow after reporting the latest development on the case to Deputy Okinawa Gov. Shigemasa Higa.
Top U.S. Marine faces arrest over sex attack
NAHA -- A warrant has been issued for the arrest of a United States Marine Corps major accused of trying to rape a Filipina here, police said Wednesday.
Major Michael Brown, facing the prospect of being the highest-ranking officer from the U.S. military to be arrested in Okinawa for over a decade, is accused of molesting the Filipina in her car in Gushikawa, Okinawa Prefecture, on Nov. 2.
Procedures to transfer Brown to Japanese authorities so that he can be arrested have already begun and his handover is expected to come shortly.
Brown, 39, who is stationed at the U.S. Marine base Camp Courtney, denies the accusations against him.
Okinawa Prefectural Police said Brown approached the woman in her car early on the morning of Nov. 2. Though he had only met her for the first time earlier in the day, Brown beat the Filipina and tried to rape her, police said.
However, the woman fought back fiercely and fled the scene as the Marine officer had snatched her mobile phone and thrown it away.
She reached Camp Courtney and reported the alleged attack to U.S. Military Police, who guaranteed her safety and reported the incident to the Okinawa Prefectural Police as required by law because it purportedly occurred off base.
Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine called the incident "unforgivable."
"This is a heinous crime trampling on female human rights. Moreover, this is a crime committed by a Marine Corps major, a person who should be in a leadership position," Inamine said a statement.
No U.S. officers ranking above second lieutenant have been arrested in Okinawa in the past 10 years, according to the police.
Under the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, the U.S. military is not required to hand over suspects in criminal cases before they are indicted by Japanese authorities.
The rape of a 12-year-old Okinawa girl by three U.S. servicemen in 1995 prompted a review of the status-of-forces agreement and Washington agreed to give "sympathetic consideration" to the handover of suspects in serious crimes, such as murder and rape, and in other specific cases.
In Tokyo, Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi released a statement saying the case is "highly regrettable."
The Foreign Ministry telephoned U.S. Ambassador to Japan Howard Baker and asked for cooperation in the investigation and urged U.S. authorities to prevent a recurrence of similar incidents.
Baker promised to cooperate fully with the probe, Foreign Ministry officials said.
Hiroshi Hashimoto, the top Okinawa-based Foreign Ministry official, made a similar representation with Brig Gen Timothy Larsen, commanding general of U.S. Marine Corps bases in Okinawa, officials said.
Larsen promised "full cooperation" with Japanese authorities, Foreign Ministry officials said.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said Tokyo will demand Brown's immediate transfer to the Okinawa police. (Combined from Mainichi and wire reports, Dec. 4, 2002)