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U.S. military "Reflection" in Japan amid rape claims

  • Story Highlights
  • U.S. military observes "Day of Reflection" amid sexual assault allegations
  • Marine arrested for the alleged rape of a 14-year-old Japanese girl
  • Japanese PM Yasuo Fukuda condemns the incident as "unforgivable"
  • Separate claim that an employee of the U.S. Army raped a Filipino woman
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TOKYO (CNN) -- The U.S. military held a "Day of Reflection" on Friday for troops in Japan after allegations that two U.S. service members committed sexual assaults on the southern island of Okinawa.

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Protestors in Okinawa express anger at claims two U.S. service members committed sexual assaults

The goal is to emphasize professionalism and core military values, the U.S. military said. Service members will meet in small groups to discuss topics such as personal values, responsible alcohol consumption, and understanding ethnic differences between the United States and Japan, the military said.

The "Day of Reflection" follows the arrest last week of a U.S. Marine for the alleged rape of a 14-year-old Japanese girl and allegations Thursday that an employee of the U.S. Army raped a Filipino woman. Both incidents allegedly happened on Okinawa, where people have long resented the presence of the U.S. military.

"As responsible members of the Japanese community, and consistent with the values of our military, we will continue to do everything possible to prevent incidents," said Lt. Gen. Bruce A. Wright, commander of the U.S. forces in Japan.

"Every service member is expected to take personal responsibility for his or her off-duty conduct and we will continue to be unwavering in our commitment to maintain exemplary, high standards of professionalism," he said.

The Okinawa prosecutor extended custody Friday for Tyrone Hadnott, the 38-year-old Marine accused in the rape of the teenager. That gives Japanese authorities until March 3 to file charges against him.

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has condemned the incident as "unforgivable," and the allegation prompted the U.S. military in Japan to form a sexual assault prevention task force.

The episode echoes an incident more than a decade ago that strained relations between the United States and Japan, and similar cases have further fueled resentment of the U.S. military presence.

Police in Okinawa said Thursday they were investigating a second reported sexual assault involving an employee of the U.S. Army. It was not clear whether the suspect in the case is a soldier or a civilian employee at the military's base in Japan.

The U.S. Army in Japan said it was aware of the incident but did not give further details.

"We are in full cooperation with host nation authorities," the Army said in a statement. "We take this allegation very seriously and the Army does not tolerate sexual assault."

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill met Thursday with Japan's foreign minister and expressed regret over the recent incidents.

"I just want to make very clear the great regret that we feel about this, the concern that we feel for the Okinawa people," Hill said.

The U.S. military announced Wednesday that it was restricting the movements of all American troops and their families in Okinawa because of the allegation involving the Japanese girl.

The restrictions are in place "indefinitely" to allow troops and their families to reflect on discipline and conduct, the military said. It means troops and their families cannot leave their bases or off-base residences except for work, worship, school or medical needs.

Friday's day of reflection was a more focused part of those restrictions. It was taking part in more than 23 locations on Okinawa and mainland Japan, the military said.

"As a practical matter, we need to reel it in here and make sure we are on our best, best behavior," said Col. Jeff Newell, commander of the 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base.

Newell spoke to his airmen at the base as part of the day of reflection, speaking about topics like responsible drinking and sexual assault prevention.

"The point we want to make here is the strategic impact of any American serviceman's behavior when they're off-base," Newell said.

More than 40,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Japan, most of them on Okinawa. They were placed there under a security alliance after Japan was defeated in World War II.

Locals have long complained about crime, noise, and accidents by the U.S. military, but resentment boiled over in 1995 after a 12-year-old Okinawan schoolgirl was gang-raped by three American servicemen.

The military observed a similar "Day of Reflection" after that incident.

Women's rights activist Mina Watanabe said Friday's day of reflection is just lip service. She said reported sexual assaults committed by U.S. servicemen on Okinawa have continued despite years of promises to prevent them.

"The U.S. military bases in Okinawa and Japan are not welcome," Watanabe said. "They don't protect the safety of the local community. It's more danger for the community." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Kyung Lah contributed to this report.

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