No Fireworks at US Bases in Japan

TOKYO (AP) -- There will be no Fourth of July fireworks for American troops in Japan this year because of restrictions imposed after a former U.S. Marine was accused of raping and murdering a woman on Okinawa.

U.S. Forces Japan said Thursday that "no U.S. installations in Japan will celebrate the Fourth of July holiday with fireworks displays or concerts" to demonstrate respect for Okinawan residents.

The killing of the woman, whose body was found in May, triggered outrage on the southern Japanese island, where tensions frequently rise over crime linked to U.S. military bases there.

The suspect, a U.S. military contractor and former Marine, is charged with abandoning the woman's body, and murder and rape charges are pending.

Maj. John Severns, deputy director of public affairs at U.S. Forces Japan, said in an email that barbecues, sporting events and other community activities are still being planned at bases in the country to share the traditions with Japanese neighbors.

The murder case has rekindled anger in Okinawa over the burden of the heavy U.S. troop presence there.

After the suspect's arrest, the U.S. Marine Corps and Navy imposed restrictions on their personnel, including prohibitions on alcohol consumption and off-base activities, though some limits by the Navy have since been eased.

Okinawa was already in the spotlight because of a contentious plan to relocate a Marine Corps air station to a less-populated part of the island. The plan developed after the 1995 rape of a girl by three American servicemen enraged Okinawans. Critics want the air station completely removed from the island.

Half of about 50,000 American troops stationed in Japan under a bilateral security agreement are based on the island.

The U.S. military says the crime rate among its ranks in Japan is lower than among the general public.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government, which wants Japan to play a bigger military role internationally, backs the Japan-U.S. security alliance.