A U.S. sailor has pleaded guilty in the slaying of a Japanese woman near Tokyo, a news report said Friday.
Authorities have charged William Reese, 21, with robbing and fatally beating the 56-year-old woman near the U.S. Navy base in Yokosuka, southwest of Tokyo, on Jan. 3.
Reese pleaded guilty but said he had not intended to kill the woman, Kyodo News agency reported.
A court official, who refused to be identified, citing court policy, confirmed that Reese's trial had begun but would not say anything about a plea or give further details.
The U.S. Navy in Japan has not disclosed the man's hometown, according to Mito Iinuma, a spokeswoman for the Navy in Yokosuka.
The killing rekindled lingering concerns over crimes related to the roughly 50,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan under a mutual security pact.
Such concerns boiled over into large protests after three U.S. servicemen raped a schoolgirl on the southern island of Okinawa in 1995, but tensions have cooled in recent years.
The latest case also comes at a crucial time for the Japan-U.S. alliance.
Tokyo and Washington have agreed on a realignment of American troops in Japan, including the transfer of 7,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa to the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam. The plan also would station a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in Japan for the first time.
Officials say the changes will streamline and strengthen the alliance. However, talks continue over many of the details.
In particular, the possibility of shutting down a Marine air station and building a new airstrip elsewhere on Okinawa has sparked strong opposition on the island, where many believe the facility should be moved outside the country, reports the AP.
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