TOKYO – Three US soldiers stationed in an American military base in Okinawa were arrested in separate incidents on assault and shoplifting charges, according to Japanese police. US news outlet Stars and Stripes, citing Deputy Police Chief Hirotoshi Iha’s statement, reported that Petty Officer Ricardo Alfre Monsalvogarza, 27, of US Naval Hospital Okinawa, is accused of punching his Japanese girlfriend in the face several times.
Prosecutors charged him with assault on Sunday after he was taken into custody on Saturday at his home in Yamazato, Okinawa City. Monsalvogarza admitted to the charge, Iha said. Lance Cpl. Jose Alejandro Araica, 20, of Camp Courtney, was arrested last Wednesday after being accused of choking a Japanese man at a bar in Matsuyama, Naha, said Naha Police Deputy Chief Shigenari Kinjo.
Araica, still in custody on Monday, was intoxicated and said he does not remember the incident, according to Kinjo. He was also charged with assault. Lance Cpl. Justin Delgado, 20-year-old Marine, of Camp Kinser, was arrested December 26 after stealing alcohol from a convenience store in Chatan’s Ihei neighborhood, Iha said. He is also accused of trespassing onto a private home and stealing a drink from the refrigerator.
“Delgado was heavily intoxicated when he was arrested,” Iha said.
In addition to shoplifting, there will be other charges once the investigation is complete, Iha said. Residents of Okinawa have protested the presence of American military on the island since the end of World War II. In June 2016, nearly 65,000 people gathered to slam the rape and killing of a local woman by an American contractor.
US administrations agreed to relocate the Marine Corps base to a sparsely populated part of the island off the coast of Henoko after years of accumulated public anger over multiple assaults, rapes and other crimes. US and Japan agreed in 1996 to close the Futenma Marines Air Base but plans for a replacement stalled in the face of fierce opposition from Okinawa residents, who associate US bases with crime, noise and pollution.
Construction of the new base was to cost 350 billion yen ($3.2 billion) and take five years, with completion expected in 2022, yet, officials on both sides now say the project will take more than twice as much money and time because of the need to stabilize reclaimed land it will be built on.
The US Defense Ministry last month said the relocation of US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from densely populated Ginowan to Henoko on Okinawa’s Eastern coast will cost 930 billion yen ($8.5 billion) and take 12 years, further pushing its launch into the 2030s.