Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, left, called his Japanese counterpart Saturday to apologize after a U.S. military contractor and former Marine was arrested and confessed to raping and killing a 20-year-old Japanese woman in Okinawa. The incident has inflamed already difficult relations between the U.S. military and Okinawa residents. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI. | License Photo
OKINAWA, Japan, May 21 (UPI) -- Defense Secretary Ashton Carter called his Japanese counterpart Gen Nakatani on Saturday to apologize and offer condolences after an Okinawa woman was allegedly killed by a U.S. contractor and former Marine.
The incident inflamed the already tense feelings many Okinawans have toward the heavy U.S. military presence on the island.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said Carter reassured the Japanese the U.S. military is cooperating fully with the local police investigation and wants to see the suspect held fully responsible for the crime under Japanese law.
"Despite this shocking and tragic incident," Cook said, the two defense leaders "reaffirmed that the U.S.-Japan alliance remains steadfast and continues to serve as the cornerstone of peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region."
Nakatani told Carter and other U.S. officials the involvement of a former Marine in the incident is "inexcusable ... outrageous and unforgivable," according to Japan Today.
Nakatani also met with Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, the top military commander in Okinawa, and demanded the United States increase soldier training and discipline to prevent future crimes by Americans from taking place.
The incident, which has garnered mass media attention in Japan, occurred Thursday when police said the suspect, Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, 32, abducted the woman near her apartment. Police say Shinzato confessed to raping Rina Shimabukuro, 20, then strangling and stabbing her and stuffing her body in a suitcase.
Police used security footage from the area where the woman's cellphone last was used. The footage enabled police to identify the suspect's car and he subsequently confessed and led investigators to the wooded area where he dumped the body.
Shinzato has been charged with illegally dumping a body, a common first step in Japanese homicide investigations. Under Japanese law, suspects can be held for weeks before the formal charges are filed.
High-ranking Japanese officials attended Shimabukuro's funeral, reflecting the seriousness of the situation for the Japanese. Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga and Aiko Shimajiri, a cabinet minister, were both in attendance at the funeral Saturday.
The incident comes just days before Japan hosts a Group of Seven summit that will be attended by President Barack Obama and the leaders of six other nations. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has vowed to bring up the woman's killing to Obama in person.
U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy pledged to "cooperate fully with the Okinawa police and Japanese government and redouble our efforts to make sure that this never happens again."