The head of the U.S. Forces in Japan apologized Wednesday to Japanese defense officials over an American sailor's alleged slaying of a Japanese woman earlier this month, the Defense Agency said.
Japanese investigators allege sailor William Oliver Reese fatally beat and robbed Yoshie Sato, 56, of about $130 on Jan 3. The attack took place near a U.S. Naval base in Yokosuka, about 28 miles southwest of Tokyo.
Lt. Gen. Bruce Wright, commander of U.S. Forces in Japan, visited the Japanese defense agency office in Tokyo and conveyed his "deep apologies" to administrative deputy director Takemasa Moriya over the killing, said a defense official who was not allowed to be identified under agency policy.
Wright was accompanied by Rear Adm. James Kelly, commander of U.S. naval forces in Japan. Kelly later attended the victim's wake in Yokosuka, the official said.
The U.S. Navy handed Reese, 21, over to Japanese authorities Saturday. The U.S. military has pledged to cooperate fully with the investigation.
The case comes as Washington and Tokyo are working to overcome local opposition to plans to realign the American military in Japan.
In 1995, the rape of a 12-year-old girl by three U.S. servicemen in Okinawa set off large anti-U.S. military protests, and led to the relocation of an air base to a less densely populated part of the island.
The rape case also resulted in an agreement that the U.S. military would hand over American suspects in serious crimes to Japanese authorities for pre-indictment investigation.
About 50,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Japan under a bilateral security pact. Under an agreement reached last year, 7,000 of them would be moved to the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam, the AP reports.