June 10, 2016 – (CNN)Just in time for the weekend, the U.S. Navy is allowing sailors to go off base in Japan — but they’re still not allowed to drink alcohol, on base or off.
The bans on alcohol consumption and off-base travel were put in place Monday after several recent alcohol-related incidents, which the Navy’s 7th Fleet said are harming U.S.-Japan relations.
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The travel restriction was lifted Friday after all sailors had meetings with commanders on the problems the misconduct caused for the U.S.-Japan alliance. In those meetings, sailors were told to watch out for each other, according to a press release from the U.S. Navy’s 7th fleet and Naval Forces Japan.
“Before any act of misconduct happens, anyone watching such events unfold has the power and responsibility to step in to keep something bad from happening,” Rear Adm. Matthew Carter, commander of Naval Forces Japan, said in a statement.
“I am entrusting all of you moving forward to take care of each other because it is the right thing to do,” Carter said.
Going off base still won’t be as easy as walking through a gate, however. Sailors must submit to commanders a written plan of what they’ll be doing and where for all time spent off base, the Navy said.
The Navy’s actions come after a traffic accident last Saturday on Okinawa in which a U.S. Navy petty officer was accused of driving under the influence of alcohol, driving on the wrong side of the road, hitting two cars and injuring two people, according to reports in Stars and Stripes and the Japan Times.
In March, a U.S. sailor on Okinawa was arrested on suspicion of rape.
In May, a civilian contractor at a U.S. base in Okinawa was arrested in connection with the death of a 20-year-old woman.
About 19,000 personnel are assigned to U.S. Navy bases in Japan and Navy ships and planes operating from those bases, according to U.S. Forces Japan.
While family members, civilian personnel and members of other services are not covered by the order, Navy officials are encouraging their participation.