US Ought to Press Tokyo to Free Jailed Navy Lieutenant

U.S. and Japanese diplomatic and navy leaders on Wednesday will meet for the annual “2+2” dialogue.

Formally often known as the U.S.-Japan Safety Consultative Committee, the assembly brings collectively protection and diplomatic ministers and secretaries of the 2 international locations.

This 12 months’s dialogue is meant to give attention to modernizing the alliance to fulfill 21st-century challenges, however the talks ought to first deal with the unlucky case of U.S. Navy Lt. Ridge Alkonis.

A religious Mormon who doesn’t drink, Alkonis inadvertently killed two Japanese nationals Might 29, 2021, when he handed out on account of altitude illness whereas driving his spouse and youngsters again from a visit to Mt. Fuji.

In a Japanese court docket, he pleaded responsible to negligent driving within the hope of receiving a suspended sentence. Moreover, as is customary in Japan, Alkonis paid $1.65 million in restitution or “gomen” (“I’m sorry”) cash to the victims’ households.

That was not legally required, however Alkonis, who did missionary work in Japan earlier than becoming a member of the Navy, understood the significance of doing the suitable factor culturally in Japan.

However as a substitute of receiving a suspended sentence, a Japanese court docket sentenced Alkonis to a few years in jail final 12 months.

Below the Standing of Forces Settlement between the U.S. and Japan, Japanese authorities had the suitable to train jurisdiction over Alkonis and check out him of their courts, and the sentence handed down by the choose was lawful below Japanese regulation. Nonetheless, the U.S. ought to press for his launch.

The case is a tragedy. Harmless Japanese residents died within the accident. However Alkonis handed out on account of altitude illness, accepted duty, paid restitution, and has most certainly come to the top of his naval service due to this tragic occasion.

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But it surely’s laborious to think about most Japanese supporting the continued imprisonment of an in any other case honorable U.S. naval officer who was attuned to Japanese tradition and who adopted norms anticipated in such circumstances.

The U.S. aspect ought to press for reciprocity on this case. Alkonis has been held in solitary confinement. Why?

Japanese officers performed no medical exams or blood exams instantly following the accident to rule out any potential medical or different protection for the accident. Why?

Given the distinctive nature of this case, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who visited Alkonis in jail, pushed the Navy after which the Senate to proceed his pay and advantages whereas he served out his sentence. His pay and advantages would have expired on the finish of 2022, as is the case for all service personnel sentenced to jail.

When the Navy indicated that until Congress acted, Alkonis’ pay and advantages would expire on the finish of 2022, the Senate handed, by voice vote, a provision that requires the Navy to proceed his pay and advantages until and till the secretary of the Navy decides whether or not he will probably be faraway from additional naval service.

As retired Navy captains with mixed service of greater than 50 years and quite a few abroad postings below our belts, we predict this can be a case that deserves the eye of senior leaders from each international locations.

Justice has already been served on this case. Additional incarceration is unwarranted and unfair, given the unintentional nature of the incident and the contrition demonstrated by Alkonis.

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Alkonis’ story is tragic, however given the significance of the alliance with Japan, extra details have to be delivered to gentle, each in Japan and right here.

This week’s “2+2” assembly is the most effective venue to resolve the matter and convey Alkonis dwelling. Such a transfer will, the truth is, strengthen the U.S.-Japanese alliance.

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