U.S. serviceman admits to Okinawa hit-and-run

Kyodo

The U.S. Army serviceman suspected of hitting a Japanese man with a car and killing him earlier this month in Okinawa has effectively admitted his involvement in the accident and is willing to apologize to the relatives of the victim, his lawyer said Friday.

The U.S. military is holding the 27-year-old staff sergeant, who works at the Torii Communication Station, a U.S. Army garrison in the village of Yomitan, over the suspected hit-and-run, which happened in the village.

The serviceman’s lawyer, Toshimori Takaesu, quoted his client as saying he thinks he hit the man after being informed by Japanese police investigators that traces of the victim’s blood and hair were found on the vehicle.

The serviceman has begun preparing to pay damages to the victim’s family, the lawyer said.

But he has denied allegations that he fled the scene after the accident, telling his lawyer that he thought he had run into a tree as he found nothing unusual when he got out of the car to look around in the early hours of Nov. 7 after hearing a crashing sound.

The body of the victim was found in a forest along a road in Yomitan on Nov. 7. The serviceman later brought the car to a garage near the scene of the accident to repair a broken windshield.

He has responded to voluntary questioning by Japanese investigators but has refused turn himself in to Japanese police.

Roos to visit Okinawa

NAHA , Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos plans to visit Okinawa on Nov. 30 for talks with Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima on the relocation of a U.S. Marine Corps airfield, sources said Friday.

Roos is expected to stay in Okinawa through Dec. 2 and inspect U.S. bases, they said. He had expressed his intention to visit Okinawa in a meeting with Social Democratic Party leader Mizuho Fukushima in October.

Roos’ itinerary is being arranged at a time when Japan and the United States are working to find a solution to the relocation issue regarding the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma at a high-level working group set up by the two governments.

Under a 2006 bilateral accord, the Futenma facility in the crowded residential area of Ginowan, central Okinawa, will be moved to Camp Schwab in the less densely populated area of Nago, farther north on Okinawa Island, by 2014.

But Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has promoted the idea of moving the air station out of Okinawa or abroad to ease base-hosting burdens on the people of Okinawa. As a result, the Futenma relocation has emerged as a major sticking point in Japan-U.S. security ties.