Japanese prosecutors have charged a former U.S. Marine with the murder and rape of a 20-year-old woman on Okinawa.
Kenneth Shinzato, 32, formerly known as Kenneth Gadson, was initially charged with illegally disposing of Rina Shimabukuro’s body. The additional rape and murder charges were brought on Thursday, according to NBC News.
In May, Gadson reportedly admitted to the charges and told investigators he cruised around for several hours “looking for a potential rape victim.” He also allegedly bought salt at a convenience store soon to sprinkle over the blood stains in his car.
The case that could adversely impact Japan-U.S. diplomatic relations has rallied Okinawa locals against American military presence on the island.
Gadson is not the first U.S. official who has been accused and/or charged with rape in Okinawa, where around 75 percent of all American military personnel in Japan are located.
In fact, his is the third major case involving sexual assault by a U.S. officer just this year.
In the third week of March, a 24-year-old U.S. Navy sailor was arrested in Okinawa on suspicion of rape. Almost a week later, a U.S. serviceman was arrested after he reportedly groped and punched a 19-year-old Japanese college student on a commercial flight from the U.S. to Japan.
The most high-profile case, however, in this regard was the 1995 rape of a 12-year-old school girl by three U.S. servicemen. Around 85,000 outraged residents came out on the streets, demanding the complete removal of U.S. bases from the island.
The demonstrations forced Tokyo and Washington to come up with a way to reduce U.S. military presence on the island. After years of negotiations, both reached an agreement to relocate the most problematic base, Futenma, to a location in the Henoko district of Nago city, a less populated area. But local residents, as well as the governor of Nago, protested the plan, citing environmental concerns for the new location, which would be built in the pristine waters of Ooura Bay.
There’s been a deadlock over the plan for a couple of years now.
And the chances of local residents’ demands being fulfilled look grim. China’s increasingly aggressive territorial activities in the region have spurred the need for Japanese governments over the years, including the current one headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to staunchly support a Japan-U.S. security alliance.
But protesters have also vowed to continue their struggle.
"We will by no means allow any more construction of new bases," protester Kishimoto told NBC News last year. "We will not let them dirty this beautiful Ooura Bay.”