Japanese Police arrest U.S. Marine officer

A 24-year-old U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant is under arrest on charges of trespassing and breaking into an Okinawa apartment.

Police arrested 1st Lt. Tomas Chanquet Sunday on charges he made his way into an apartment room through an unlocked door, then fell asleep.  The incident quickly swept across the island, where Emperor Akihito is on a four-day visit.  Masahiko Gishi, an Okinawa police office, says Chanquet was apparently drunk at the time he entered the apartment.

The police investigation is under way to determine if Chanquet, who is assigned to Futenma Marine Corps Air Station in Ginowan, was breaking curfew, and if he’d been drinking off-base prior to the alleged incident.  This is the third incident involving U.S. military servicemen in just over a month, coming on the heels of a rape in Okinawa City by two U.S. Navy sailors, and an assault in a Yomitan apartment by a drunk airman.

According to the police, Chanquet entered the house from the unlocked entrance door and slept on a mattress in a bedroom.   A woman in her 20’s who was in a living room of the house noticed him and called the restaurant worker who was out. Police were called by the worker, and the woman was not injured, according to the police.  Police say neither the woman or the man is an acquaintance of the U.S. serviceman.

Chanquet was quoted by police as saying that he drank at several shops in Naha and was told by a Japanese woman who he got to know at a club that he can stay in that house.

The earlier crimes were enough to trigger an 11 p.m. ~ 5 a.m. curfew for all U.S. service personnel by U.S. Forces Japan.  That’s not enough, said the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly, which Friday passed a resolution covering the earlier rape and assault.  The Assembly is seeking revamping of legal procedures for handling military personnel involved in crimes by addressing the Status of Forces Agreement.  It also wants to have the U.S. military presence realigned.

Okinawa’s Governor, Hirokazu Nakaima, was angry.  “I’m too shocked to say anything,” he said. “It’s utterly ridiculous and extremely regrettable.”  He told reporters “I must lodge a strong protest to both the Japanese and U.S. governments.  They must do something more significant.”  The issue is certain to be raised on Tuesday when U.S. President Barack Obama and Japan’s Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, meet on the sidelines of the summit of Southeast Asian countries.  That meeting is to take place in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Japan has lodged a formal protest with the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo over Sunday’s incident.  It’s also protesting to the American military, demanding more efforts be made to enforce the curfew.