Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met today in Japan with the prime minister and other top officials and expressed regret for the alleged rape of a 14-year-old girl by a US Marine stationed on Okinawa. "We just regret deeply that it happened," said Rice, who added that she hopes the "long-standing and strong alliance" between the world's two richest countries would not be damaged, Reuters reports.
The alleged rape has sparked outrage across Japan, and Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda called the incident "unforgivable." But both Fukuda's government and the Americans hope public anger over the arrest will not jeopardize the future of 50,000 US troops stationed on Okinawa. A similar incident in 1995 sparked massive protests again the military bases and damaged the US-Japan alliance.