U.S. Forces Japan said the Naval Criminal Investigative Service was working with local police to look into the deaths of a U.S. Navy sailor assigned to a Marine unit and an Okinawa resident.
“This is an absolute tragedy and we are fully committed to supporting the investigation,” it said in a statement, adding that more information would be released later.
Japan’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Takeo Akiba telephoned U.S. Ambassador William Hagerty on Saturday, the foreign ministry said. Akiba "lodged a strong complaint," and asked for cooperation with the investigation and efforts to prevent a recurrence.
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Hagerty "expressed his deep regret," the foreign ministry said.
The 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force said in a statement: "We are aware of an incident resulting in the death of an apparent U.S. Navy Sailor with III Marine Division and a resident of Okinawa. This is an absolute tragedy and we are fully committed to supporting the investigation into the incident."
"At this time, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service is in support of the Okinawa Prefectural Police," the statement added. "More information will be forthcoming as the investigation progresses."
The Pentagon declined to comment.
Although Okinawa makes up less than 1 percent of Japan’s land space, it hosts about half of the 54,000 American troops stationed in Japan, and is home to 64 percent of the land used by the U.S. bases in the country under a bilateral security treaty.
People there have long complained about crime, noise and the destruction of the environment.
A plan to relocate a Marine Corps air station called Futenma to a less populated part of Okinawa has also been contentious.
Denny Tamaki, elected Okinawa’s governor in October, is pushing to have the base moved off the island.