- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2008

BEIJING — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today offered her deep regrets to Japan over the arrest of a U.S. Marine on suspicion of raping a 14-year-old Japanese girl and expressed hope that the incident will not damage the alliance between Washington and Tokyo.

The Feb. 11 arrest of Staff Sgt. Tyrone Luther Hadnott, 38, as well as other recent criminal accusations, have angered the population of the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, which blames the large American military presence there for crime, noise and pollution.

We just regret deeply that this happened, Miss Rice told reporters during a visit to Tokyo. Our concern right now is to see that justice is done, to get to the bottom if it, and our concern is for the girl and her family.

Staff Sgt. Hadnott has admitted to trying to forcibly kiss the teenager but denies raping her.

We certainly hope that there will not be lasting effects on U.S.-Japan relations, Miss Rice said. Its a long-standing and strong alliance.

The case was raised during all of the secretarys meetings today, including those with Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumura and Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba.

The U.S. military in Okinawa has already ordered the troops and their families not to leave their bases, but the Japanese government has demanded further measures to control the Americans.

Mr. Koumura has said that security cameras will be installed around U.S. bases in Japan in a broad effort to curb crime, and Mr. Ishiba warned the United States that future crime can shake the foundation of the alliance.

Its unforgivable, Mr. Fukuda said the day after Sgt. Hadnotts arrest. It has happened over and over again in the past, and I take it as a grave case.

In 1995, three U.S. servicemen gang-raped a 12-year-old girl, sparking major protests that led to the withdrawal of thousands of troops from Okinawa, a strategic U.S. military hub close to the Taiwan Strait. It hosts more than half of the 50,000 American troops in Japan.

The men, two of whom were Marines and the third was in the Navy, were sentenced to up to seven years in a Japanese prison.

Miss Rice is on the last leg of a three-nation Northeast Asian tour, during which she is trying to end an impasse in six-party negotiations aimed at dismantling North Koreas nuclear weapons programs.

She asked the chief U.S. envoy to the talks, Christopher R. Hill, to remain in Beijing after she left this morning and work with China on getting Pyongyang to provide a promised declaration of its nuclear programs.

Hes continuing the discussions that we had with the Chinese on how to make progress in the six-party talks, how to get to a place where everyone is executing the obligations that they have undertaken, Miss Rice said.

She also said the plight of more than a dozen Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s is of deep concern to the United States and need to be investigated.

The kidnapping row has been a major problem to normalizing relations between Tokyo and Pyongyang, which like improving U.S.-North Korea ties, is part of the six-party process.

The six countries are the United States, China, Japan, South and North Korea and Russia.

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