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U.S. apologetic over Okinawa rape

Two sailors, one Marine accused

September 19, 1995
Web posted at: 4:30 p.m. EDT (2030 GMT)

May Lee From Correspondent May Lee

TOKYO (CNN) -- The United States military is struggling to redeem itself after the alleged abduction and rape of a 12- year-old girl by three U.S. servicemen in Okinawa on September 4.

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In a private meeting with Gov. Masahide Ota of Okinawa, U.S. Ambassador Walter Mondale expressed regret. The U.S. Embassy issued a statement saying Mondale offered, "on behalf of the U.S. government, sincere apologies for the suffering this crime has brought to the child, her family and the people of Okinawa Prefecture."

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The governor, responding in public, said he "felt clearly the United States' intention to apologize because of the ambassador's kind treatment."

More apologies were made by the commander of the U.S. forces in Japan, who was attending a "friendship dinner" co-hosted by U.S. and Japanese military forces. "As the U.S. has always had friendly relations with Japan, they should know that this criminal act does not stand for America and will not be tolerated by us," Gen. Richard Myers said.

But for the people of Okinawa, who have always felt uneasy about the strong U.S. military presence, apologies aren't enough. "I can't even begin to imagine how much pain and anger the young girl is feeling," one woman said.

suspects held here

Suspects Rodrico Harp, Kendrick Ledet and Marcus Gill are being detained at the military base in Okinawa, where they will remain until they are indicted. Okinawans want them turned over to Japanese police, but U.S. officials say the bilateral Status of Forces Agreement and other documents prohibit doing so until a formal indictment is handed down by Japanese prosecutors.

"The fact that these men have not been turned over to Japanese authorities does not mean there hasn't been any Japanese investigation," said Aloysius O'Neill, the U.S. consul general in Okinawa.

But angry local politicians say that's not enough. On Tuesday, the Okinawa assembly unanimously voted to call for a revision in the bilateral agreement, which governs legal matters relating to U.S. military personnel in Japan and their dependents. Members of the assembly plan to come to Tokyo on Wednesday to submit their recommendation to the prime minister. But it's not likely to go far. The Japanese cabinet has already agreed not to propose any revisions to the agreement.


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