Violations by US troops overseas arouse public outcry

China Military Online
Li Wei
2022-09-08 17:17:59
Okinawa residents protest outside the site where the ceremony celebrating the 50th anniversary of Okinawa's return to Japanese territory is held on May 15. They demand slashing the US troops stationed in Okinawa or removing them all. (Photo by Zhang Xiaoyu)

By Li Jiabao

For a long time, the American troops stationed overseas have claimed to maintain the so-called “order” and “rules” in the host countries under the pretext of “security cooperation”, while actually, they place themselves above the local laws under the protection of extraterritoriality. Their misconduct and violations have triggered a public outcry.

A long rap sheet

American soldiers’ drunk driving and provocations are no news in the ROK. In July 2022, a traffic accident happened in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, in which a drunk American soldier drove his motorcycle and crashed into a car, and fled afterward. In March, two other American soldiers played the same story. What was worse, after failing to escape, these two called their pals to beat the Korean taxi driver who was rightfully defending his right, infuriating the Korean public. Hankook Ilbo reported that from 2016 to 2021, American soldiers in ROK committed more than 400 crimes every year, almost averaging one crime per day at least.

The same happened in America’s other overseas military bases. Foreign media reported that a drunk driving American soldier hit a 15-year-old boy dead in Porcia, northeast Italy. The amount of alcohol in his blood was quadruple the legal maximum, reaching 2.09g/L. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) also reported that some American military personnel have secretly engaged in narcotic drugs trafficking to Australia.

In Japan, 70% of the American military bases are located in Okinawa. According to local police, American soldiers and related personnel stationed there committed more than 6,000 criminal cases from 1972 to 2020, including nearly 600 cases of homicide, robbery, arson, and rape, not to mention the more than 4,000 deaths and injuries involved in traffic accidents caused by them.

After the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, America’s military bases in Japan, ROK and other countries were seriously mismanaged and the soldiers there violated local pandemic prevention and control requirements, causing the pandemic to spread and leaving the local people living around the bases deeply afflicted.

Military bases beyond law

An investigative report issued by the US Department of Defense in March 2022 admitted the high risk of various misconducts at American military bases both at home and abroad, claiming that the leadership at those bases failed to prevent them as priorities, which resulted in the recurrence of violations.

Statistics collected by ROK scholars show that of all the American soldiers that committed violent crimes in ROK in 2017, only 18.7% were handed over to the ROK justice department, and only a small portion of those tried in the country were really brought to justice. The Korea Herald reported that nearly 70% of American soldiers responsible for criminal crimes in ROK have been acquitted.

Australian analysts pointed out that American troops stationed overseas can hardly respect the human rights, religious beliefs and customs of the local people, primarily because they are poorly managed and disciplined and reject any external investigation, leaving piles of cases unable to be handled in a just and fair way.

Professor Li Qingsi from the School of International Studies, Renmin University of China, said the so-called “extraterritoriality” for American troops stationed overseas is a poisonous legacy from the colonial age, which is a typical representation of double standards and Western supremacy and goes counter to the principle enshrined in the UN Charter that all countries are equal regardless of size. The US, however, driven by the hegemonistic logic and mindset, has kept such an unequal relationship with its allies. The violations of its soldiers overseas are a slap in the face of the much-touted American values.

Endless protests

While the American soldiers keep violating local laws and hurting local people, the ROK and Japan nevertheless have to bear a rising amount of their military expenses, adding yet another reason for public dissatisfaction. From 2020 to 2025, the share of American military spending borne by Seoul will be linked with its annual defense expenditure without a cap. According to the agreement on splitting American military expenses for the next five years, Tokyo will have to pay 1.055 trillion Japanese Yen (about 7.33 billion dollars) from 2022 to 2026.

For quite some time now, the ROK public has been staging constant protests against American troops for all kinds of bullying, including endangering local society, splitting military expenditure, and stirring up tension. In August, they rallied in front of the US military base in protest against the bilateral joint military exercises, asking the troops to leave the country. In April, a college professor in ROK submitted a petition letter to the president calling for shutting down the bio-labs at American military bases, revising the unequal Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), and addressing the heavy metal pollution at military bases returned by the US.

There is no less criticism for American troops stationed in Japan either. On May 15, 2022, crowds of Okinawa residents gathered for a demonstration, condemning how the American military bases have seriously affected their lives and local economic development in the past decades, and demanding a massive reduction or downright removal of the bases. A nationwide poll previously published by Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) showed that about 80% of the respondents didn’t think so many American military bases should be concentrated in Okinawa.

In recent years, stationed American troops have had sharper conflicts with the host countries like Japan and ROK regarding social security, environmental protection, military expenses, and pandemic prevention and control, exerting negative impacts on social stability and people’s lives. More and more people have realized that the so-called “security guarantee” promised by the American troops stationed in their countries is far outweighed by the security troubles they make, and that has also seriously discounted America’s international image and soft power.

Editor's note: This article is originally published on, and is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military Online. The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of


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