Angry lawmakers on Japan's southern island of Okinawa called for progress on shrinking the US military presence and tighter discipline among US troops after the arrest of a Marine on suspicion of raping a schoolgirl.
The 38-year-old Marine, Tyrone Hadnott, based at Camp Courtney on the island, was arrested on Monday on suspicion of raping the 14-year-old Japanese girl when the two were in a car on Sunday. He has denied raping the girl but acknowledged forcing her to kiss him, an Okinawa police spokesman said.
"Considering the fact that such vicious, atrocious incidents have never ceased to occur, we must question the way the US military enforces discipline and educates its soldiers," the Okinawa assembly said in a resolution protesting the incident.
The lawmakers demanded an apology and compensation for the girl and her family, steps to prevent similar crimes in the future, and a reduction of US forces on the island, reluctant host to the bulk of the nearly 50,000 US troops in Japan.
The top commander of the US forces in Japan told reporters that the military had set up a task force to review and strengthen programs to prevent sexual harassment and assault.
The incident has triggered memories of the 1995 rape of a 12-year-old girl by three US servicemen that ignited huge protests on Okinawa.
Tokyo has been trying to persuade residents of Okinawa to accept a plan to move the Marines' Futenma air base from the crowded city of Ginowan to the coastal city of Nago, part of a broader plan to move about 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam.
The episode has sparked some calls for changes to the agreement governing the status of US military personnel in Japan, including the handling of criminal cases.