Officials in Japan are expressing shock and anger at the United States after it emerged that there had been a large scale coronavirus outbreak among Marines stationed in the country’s southernmost island of Okinawa.
According to The Guardian, 61 Marines have tested positive for COVID-19 over the past couple of days. Worse still, the troops tested positive on two separate bases located on the island.
Thirty-eight of the positive cases were reported to have come from Marines stationed at Futenma Marine Air Station. The other 23 infections were from troops stationed at Camp Hansen.
The exact number of positive cases was only released after mounting pressure from Japanese officials persuaded the U.S. government to be open about the scale of the outbreak. Previously, the U.S. Marine Corps had only used vague references to two “localized clusters” of positive cases.
The news that 61 Marines had tested positive has caused outrage on both the island of Okinawa and Japan as a whole. Gov. Denny Tamaki — who has an American father and was the first Japanese-American to be elected to the Japanese House of Representatives — has been particularly vocal in his criticism for the United States.
“It is extremely regrettable that the infections are rapidly spreading among US personnel when we Okinawans are doing our utmost to contain the infections,” Tamaki said.
“We now have strong doubts that the US military has taken adequate disease prevention measures,” he continued, adding that residents of the island were “shocked” by the outbreak (via The South China Morning Post).
Tamaki noted that many of the troops had attended social gatherings at bars and beaches on the island, particularly around the Fourth of July, and expressed his fear that COVID-19 positive soldiers might have started a chain reaction of infections on the island.
Presently, the small island has only seen 148 cases of the virus and seven deaths.
As a result of the cluster, Major Ken Kunze said the Marine Corps has enacted a number of actions designed to stem any spread, including closing all nonessential facilities, having the mess hall switch to takeout food, and banned off-base activities.
“Thorough contact tracing is ongoing to identify and isolate those who may have come in contact with infected personnel,” Maj. Kunze said, per The Wall Street Journal.
However, the crisis could have negative consequences for Okinawa and U.S. relations, which have long been complicated by local opposition to the large American naval presence.
That said, the relationship between Japan and the United States as a whole is unlikely to take a major hit from the crisis, particularly as the two countries grow close in due to their opposition to China.
As was previously reported by The Inquisitr, the Middle Kingdom has become more territorially aggressive over recent months, even firing on Indian troops on the Himalayan border to teach its southern Asian neighbor a “lesson.”