TOKYO -- Until Japanese authorities issue an indictment, the United States said Thursday it would not surrender a U.S. Marine major accused of trying to rape a woman on the southern island of Okinawa.
An Okinawa court issued an arrest warrant for Maj. Michael J. Brown earlier this week and Japanese authorities had formally requested he be turned over. Police allege Brown tried to rape a woman inside a car on Nov. 2, but the woman resisted and fled. Brown has not been formally charged with a crime.
"The government of the United States is unable to agree to transfer custody in this case prior to indictment," the U.S. Embassy said in a statement. "The circumstances do not warrant departure" from the standard policy, it said.
"We will continue to cooperate in the conduct of the investigation," the statement said.
Okinawan police refused to disclose the woman's nationality, but Japanese media reported she was from the Philippines.
The Japanese Foreign Ministry issued a statement Thursday that called the U.S. position "extremely regrettable" and declared, "We will continue seeking U.S. cooperation and give the matter firm treatment."
Under a mutual security pact, American authorities can retain custody over U.S. military personnel until they are indicted by Japanese prosecutors, but the U.S. agreed to be more flexible in exercising this rule after the rape of a local schoolgirl by three U.S. servicemen in 1995 caused an uproar.
Brown, who is assigned to Camp Courtney on the southern island of Okinawa, has already agreed to be questioned by Japanese police.
The Marine Corps has declined to release Brown's hometown.
If indicted, Brown could be tried in a Japanese court because the alleged crime occurred off base.
Okinawa, home to more than half of the 47,000 U.S. troops in Japan, is located 1,000 miles southwest of Tokyo.