United States Navy personnel posted in Japan are under a nationwide ban from drinking alcohol after a petty officer in Okinawa allegedly caused a drunk driving accident. The petty officer, Aimee Mejia, was seen driving down the wrong side of the road before colliding with two vehicles; the accident left one local resident with a broken bone. Authorities reported that Meija's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level was roughly six times the legal limit in Japan, which is only 0.03%.
In an attempt to prevent future incidents and calm the people of Okinawa, the United States Navy command ordered that all personnel in Japan be banned from drinking alcohol until further notice. Whether a soldier is on-base or off, they are not to drink any alcohol whatsoever. The order also barred where personnel may travel, limiting off-base excursions to only necessary commutes and errands, such as buying supplies or picking children up from school. Additional training courses about alcohol safety will be mandatory for all personnel in Japan as well.
Recent History of Unease
The accident, which occurred in early June 2016, has triggered additional protests from Okinawans. For years, the southern region of Japan has expressed its desires to have United States military personnel removed from the region due to controversies and crimes. At the time of the recent collision, protests were already underway after a civilian military employee in Okinawa was accused of murdering a young local woman.
With so many Okinawans concerned for their safety with American soldiers in their backyard, the incident has reached Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was openly upset about it. President Barack Obama apparently had a conversation with him during the G7 summit in Japan regarding what can be done about the American military presence in the country.
An ongoing investigation into the crash, and the alleged murder, is being conducted by Japanese and American officials. Both Petty Officer Meija and the personnel member tied to the murder case should be given the opportunity to defend themselves in criminal or military court.
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News update: The Navy has since lifted the complete ban of alcohol on and off base for personnel stationed in Japan, much earlier than Okinawan residents expected, further causing disagreements and public outrage. Navy officers are permitted to imbibe alcohol so long as it is not past 10:00 PM; any low ranking officers must be accompanied by another personnel member when off-base. July 4th celebrations on Japanese naval bases have been canceled, however.