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Marine curfew expanded in Okinawa

Now, all U.S. servicemen must be home by midnight

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OKINAWA CITY, Japan (AP) — The U.S. military imposed an indefinite late-night curfew and a drinking ban on all its service members in Okinawa on Monday after several of them allegedly committed crimes that have enraged Japan.

The order seemed aimed at calming the community ahead of President Clinton's visit to the island for an international summit July 21-23. He will be the first U.S. leader to go to Okinawa since the island, captured during World War II, was returned to Japan in 1972.

Last week, a 19-year-old U.S. Marine was arrested on charges of indecency and unlawful entry after he allegedly walked into an unlocked apartment in Okinawa City at night, crawled into the bed of a 14-year-old girl and fondled her. The unidentified Marine, who apparently was drunk, was arrested after the girl's mother discovered her daughter screaming and called police.

After local and national officials, including Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, complained about the attack, the U.S. military announced Friday that it would impose a drinking ban and a late-night curfew on the Marines. But on Monday, those restrictions were extended to the U.S. Navy, Army and Air Force, too, after another incident took place.

On Sunday, Okinawa police arrested U.S. Air Force Sgt. Johnny S. Miller, 21, on suspicion he drove through a red light in Naha city on Okinawa island, hit a 27-year-old civilian, Takeya Higa, and fled. Higa was slightly injured.

Last week, two other Marines were arrested after coming to the assistance of a third Marine who had allegedly kicked a Japanese taxi cab in Okinawa and scuffled with the driver. They, too, appeared to be drunk.

Beginning Monday night, all U.S. military personnel were required to remain on their bases, or in their off-base homes, in Okinawa from midnight until 7:30 a.m.

During curfew hours, liquor sales will be banned at all U.S. military facilities on the island, and military personnel will not be allowed to drink after midnight, on or off the bases.

That could quickly reduce the number of customers at the many nightclubs in Okinawa City that rely on the 26,000 U.S. service members based in the area.

It is the first indefinite late-night curfew imposed on U.S. military personnel in Okinawa since two Marines and a Navy seaman raped a 12-year-old girl there in 1995, setting off widespread anti-U.S. protests in the area. The 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. curfew that was imposed on the military after that crime was only lifted last fall.

"The goal of this policy is to enhance discipline among service members and prevent the recurrence of liberty incidents," Lt. Gen. Earl B. Hailston said.

"These policies will remain in effect until further notice," he said in a statement.

Nevertheless, anger appeared to remain high regarding the molestation case.

"I feel very angry about this incident as the political representative of the Okinawan people. I have expressed this anger to the U.S. military and other involved parties," Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine told reporters Monday.

He said he may attend a large protest planned for Saturday by private civic groups in the city of Ginowan, which is located near two major Marine facilities.

Hailston stressed that most of the Marines on Okinawa are good citizens and that just a small minority break the law.

"Every time something like this happens, the military assures us it will not happen again, but then it does," said Chiken Kakazu, one of seven members of Parliament who met with Hailston and other Marines officers on Monday.

Under a mutual security treaty between Japan and the United States, about 47,000 U.S. military service people are stationed in Japan, nearly two thirds of them in Okinawa, which is 1,000 miles southwest of Tokyo. Since World War II the U.S. military has played an important role in maintaining stability across Asia.