At least 12 US military personnel have deserted their bases in Japan over the past year and six of them remain at large, a Japanese foreign ministry official said Friday.
“Local police departments are still searching for six of them who are unaccounted for” after leaving their bases since July 2008, the official said.
The United States agreed with Japan last year to disclose information on deserters and has asked Japanese authorities to detain them and hand them over, following a series of crimes involving US military personnel.
On Thursday, a Japanese court sentenced a 23-year-old Nigerian man who served with the US Navy to life in prison for killing a taxi driver last year in Yokosuka, the site of the largest US naval base in Japan, near Tokyo.
The crime was the latest to strain relations between the US military and the communities that host them. The United States has about 47,000 military service members stationed in Japan, and almost as many of their family members.
“The Japanese government is requesting (the United States) to prevent desertions,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura told a news conference.