Security forces have apprehended a suspect who got onto a U.S. air base in Japan “with a suspicious package” on Saturday, according to CNN. Fears that the suspect may have been involved in illegal, violent or dangerous activities prompted a temporary lockdown and investigation.
According to a post published on the base’s Facebook page on Saturday,
“[Officials] apprehended [the] suspect who gained unauthorized entry into at Yokota Air Base.”
A variety of personnel including officers from U.S. Forces Japan, the Fifth Air Force and the 374th Airlift Wing are stationed at the Yokota Air Base, which is about 35 miles northwest of Tokyo.
“Ensuring the safety and security of Team Yokota is always our top priority. Our security forces’ professionalism and immediate response to this potential threat was outstanding.”
— Ray Lawson (@Lawsonbulk) December 26, 2015
Yokota was locked down for a total of around four hours after the person was arrested. An all clear was given just before 9 p.m. on Saturday. An investigation is ongoing.
The man was not identified, and the nature of the “suspicious package” has not been revealed, nor have authorities revealed how they were led to believe that the package contained questionable or dangerous contents. It is believed that the man was carrying the package in a backpack, and that he came to the attention of authorities because he appeared to have trespassed. The base has reported that the suspect’s entry to the base was “unauthorized.”
Yokota security forces handed the entrant’s backpack to Explosive Ordinance Disposal technicians stationed at U.S. Fleet Activities Yokosuka. Those personnel “searched [the individual] and verified the backpack did not contain explosives and posed no threat to the installation.”
The all-clear was then given and then man was turned over to Japanese National Police.
— updates (@ti_updates) December 26, 2015
Relations between Japan and the U.S. are not particularly fraught at the moment, with Japan more concerned about countering the aggressive territorial claims of China as it overhauls its military, as reported by RT.
“The increase in Japan’s fiscal 2016 spending appears to be mainly due to equipment purchases intended to counter China’s maritime activities related to territorial claims. Since the start of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s second administration in 2012, it will be the fourth consecutive annual increase in Japanese defense spending.”
The presence of U.S. bases on Japanese soil has been a matter of controversy. Protests over the U.S. presence have sprung up, but the Japanese government has not been deterred from inviting the Americans in.
In fact, despite protests, the U.S. military presence in Japan is set to increase. Japan has committed a generous budget to this expansion over the next 12 months, beginning in April 2016.
Funding for a controversial U.S. military base on the southern island of Okinawa will be part of the package. The island base will be located in a strategic position that will give American troops and aircraft widespread access to East Asia.
Some reshuffles will also occur as Japan seeks to refine the bases and maximize the reach and effectiveness of troops placed at sites around the Japanese islands. The current Futenma U.S. Marine Corps air station in Ginowan City will be shut down. A new base in the center of the southern Japanese island will open.
The Futenma air base is probably being shut down due to safety fears raised over the years — the base is surrounded by homes, schools and other civilian structures.
The controversy over the presence of U.S. officers in Japan has been around for years, flaring repeatedly and giving rise to occasional protests among the local population. Much of the anger was fanned by a crime committed by three U.S. officers in 1995 — the Americans reportedly kidnapped and raped a 12-year-old Japanese schoolgirl.
Alleged Rape By U.S. Servicemen Handled Better than 1995 Sexual Assault (The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan) http://t.co/QkAxFs8D
— Worldmeets.US (@worldmeetsus) October 21, 2012
— Antar Bin Shaddad (@AntarBinShaddad) July 12, 2012
(Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images)