Tokyo (AFP) - A former US military base employee has confessed to the deadly assault of a Japanese woman in Okinawa but denied murdering her, reports said as his trial opened on Thursday.
Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, 33, a former US Marine employed at the US Air Force's sprawling Kadena Air Base on the southern Japanese island, has been charged with the murder of 20-year-old Rina Shimabukuro in April last year.
The case has intensified longstanding local opposition to the American military presence on Okinawa -- a strategic island which reluctantly hosts nearly 75 percent of land allotted for US bases in Japan even though it accounts for a fraction of the country's total area.
Prosecutors told the Okinawa District Court that the accused choked Shimabukuro with his hands and stabbed her in the neck during an attempted sexual assault on a road in Uruma in central Okinawa, according to Jiji Press and public broadcaster NHK.
The indictment did not clarify if he raped her.
Shinzato, wearing a white T-shirt, admitted in court to assaulting the victim and abandoning her body but said he did not intend to kill her, the news reports said.
A ruling will be handed down on December 1.
Crimes by US personnel have long sparked protests on crowded Okinawa, and have been a frequent irritant in relations between close security allies Japan and the United States.
Then President Barack Obama expressed regret over the incident, vowing measures to prevent crime by Americans, while the military on Okinawa imposed restrictions including a curfew and temporary curbs on alcohol consumption.