Thousands of Japanese women and girls have been sexually assaulted or raped by US military personnel since American forces invaded Japan in 1945. On the island of Okinawa, rape of Okinawan girls has happened so frequently and has precipitated massive citizen protests that that the US military is being forced to reduce its presence on the island.
Sixty years after the end of World War II, 19,000 Marines still are located on Okinawa. Between 4,700 and 5,000 Marines will relocate from Okinawa to Guam, The remainder of the 9,000 who are to relocate from Okinawa will move to Hawaii or be part of a rotational presence in Australia and elsewhere in the region.
The first 200 US Marines arrived in Darwin, Australia in April, 2012 on a six-month deployment. The Marine force will grow to 2,500 but the Australian government is stating that there is no permanent US military base on Australian soil.
Highest number of rapes in 2011 by US Marines worldwide was committed in Japan
In its new "battle plan" to prevent sexual assault in the US Marine Corps, Marine officials finally provided statistics of the number of sexual assaults and rapes committed by US Marines in Japan in 2011, although the statistics do not reflect whether the victim was civilian or military. Seventy-four rapes were committed by US Marines in Japan, 67 by Marines on Okinawa and seven at Iwakuni, Japan. The next highest number of rapes by Marines was 70, committed at the large Marine base at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, followed by Camp Pendleton, California with 64.
According to the Department of Defense, 3,192 sexual assaults or rapes were reported in 2011. But so many sexual assaults go unreported that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta estimated earlier this year that the total number is closer to 19,000.
Neither the US Army, Navy, Air Force nor Coast Guard has provided rape statistics by military base, so we do not know the full range of reported rapes by US military in Japan. Only the Marine Corps has done so.
Rape by US Military Affects US Foreign Policy
In an attempt to quell massive Okinawan protests, on February 13, 2008 Lieutenant General Wright, commander of all US military forces in Japan; U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer and Lt. Gen. Richard Zilmer, commander of U.S. Marines in Japan, met with Okinawa Governor Nakaima to express their concern. They promised steps will be taken to prevent future incidents.
On February 28, 2008 on an official visit to Japan, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also expressed her regrets to Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and Foreign Minister Mashiko Komura. "I earlier had had a chance to express the regret to the prime minister on behalf of President (George W.) Bush, on behalf of myself and the people of the United States for the terrible incident that happened in Okinawa," Rice said at a joint news conference held after she spoke with Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura. "We are concerned for the well-being of the young girl and her family."
In a press conference with Komura, Rice said the United States will try to prevent such incidents from recurring and said the U.S. Forces in Japan and the U.S. Embassy would be reinforcing military discipline. Rice also said that Okinawa is "extremely important" for the security of the Asia-Pacific region and it is important for the U.S. and Japan to go ahead with the U.S. forces reorganization.
Rice did not mention publicly the Bush administration's push for Japanese participation in the Iraq war by providing more refueling ships and logistics aircraft, which has sparked outrage in the Japanese public as it violates the renunciation of war Article 9 of their constitution.
Lt. General Zilmer, commander of U.S. Marines in Japan, ordered a two-day stand-down for all Marines in Japan for "ethics and leadership" training. The incident also led to tight restrictions, for a time, for American troops and their families at the U.S. base on Okinawa. The U.S. military in Japan also formed a sexual assault prevention task force after the incident.
Meeting Jane in Japan
In 2008, I met Jane in Japan when I was there on a 30-day speaking tour. We participated on a panel in Yokohama on the issue of rape in Japan by US military personnel.
I had previously been on Okinawa where I met with members of Okinawan Women Act Against Military Violence who have tracked the thousands of Okinawan and Japanese women who have been sexually assaulted and raped by US military since 1945.