TOKYO — Two US Navy sailors were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of raping a woman in Okinawa, local news reports said, an episode likely to further fan anger on an island increasingly outraged over the presence of a large US base.
The news agency Jiji Press said that the two sailors, both 23, were arrested before dawn Tuesday. One has admitted to the rape, the agency said, while the other denied involvement. The Okinawan police refused to comment on the report, but the US ambassador to Japan, John V. Roos, said the US government was ‘‘extremely concerned.’’
“These allegations, given their seriousness, will continue to command my full personal attention,’’ Roos said in a statement.
The case comes two weeks after the arrival of 12 new Marine Corps transport aircraft touched off huge protests among islanders. The aircraft, the MV-22 Osprey, has experienced crashes in development, and islanders fear for the packed city where the US base is located. The small tropical island hosts more than half of the roughly 50,000 US military personnel stationed in Japan.
Crimes by US servicemen have been a longstanding complaint in Okinawa, where crime rates are far below those in the United States. The gang rape of an elementary school girl by three Americans in 1995 set off mass protests.
NHK, Japan’s national broadcaster, said the woman was attacked on a roadside as she was walking home, resulting in injuries to her neck. It said that she later identified the two Americans when the police took her to an off-base housing area.