The commanders of the US Naval forces in Japan have loosened the temporary alcohol restriction put in place earlier in June, following a string of alcohol related incidents that wrought outrage from the indigenous community.
According to the US Navy, the Commanders of the US 7th fleet and US Naval Forces Japan have issued the following statement:
“Effective immediately, Sailors are permitted to consume alcohol on base or in their own personal off-base housing units. The temporary off-base alcohol restriction remains in effect. Personnel located in Okinawa will continue to follow the provisions of the Period of Unity and Mourning in effect there. Navy civilian employees, contractors and family members are asked to show solidarity with the uniformed component and refrain from consuming alcohol off-base at this time.”
According to RADM Matthew Carter of US Naval Forces Japan, “The temporary restriction on alcohol was not intended to be a punishment, nor was it ever intended to be permanent. We took this pause to train and reflect on the dangers of alcohol abuse. We must all be on the lookout to step in before alcohol-related incidents jeopardize our relationship with Japan.”
Carter says that sailors in pay grades below E-5 who wish to drink must do so with a “liberty buddy” and that liberty plans will still be required. The exchange will resume alcohol sales and those wishing to stay the night off post must not stay anywhere off-base other than their own residence or hotel room.
“We are taking this latest step because our Sailors have demonstrated that they understand the strategic impact of their performance on liberty,” said Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin of the 7th Fleet. “We can take further steps after our Sailors demonstrate the ability to drink responsibly. Responsible behavior by our Sailors in Japan is critical to our ability to provide security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.”
The restrictions were put in place following the arrest of a Navy Petty Officer was arrested for driving under the influence in Okinawa, resulting in her driving on the wrong side of the road, hitting two cars and injuring two people. Prior to the incident, a US Marine contractor stationed in Okinawa was arrested in connection with the death of a 20-year-old woman, while a US Sailor was arrested on the suspicion of rape in March.
Despite the joy likely felt by many service members under Navy command in the region, not everyone is content.
According to The Hill, tens of thousands are expected to rally outside the Okinawan capital, with demands of the removal of US Marines from the island as well as a review of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which sets guidelines for handling incidents involving American personnel.
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