Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Japan to allow female sailors to serve aboard destroyers

The Defense Ministry decided Monday to allow female members of the Maritime Self-Defense Force to serve aboard destroyers from fiscal 2009, lifting a restriction that had been in place since the force’s establishment in 1954, ministry officials said. The MSDF hopes the decision, which will also apply to minesweeper tenders and antisubmarine helicopters in the fiscal year starting April 2009, will help alleviate the chronic personnel shortages that most units of the force face, the officials said.

The MSDF has some 45,000 members, 2,000 of whom are women, the officials said. Details of the measure have yet to be decided, but the ministry envisages an unspecified number of female MSDF members will serve aboard the new destroyer Hyuga, which will be commissioned next spring, they said. The Hyuga has separate quarters for women.

Investigators try to track last 30 minutes of murdered girl in Chiba

A 5-year-old girl, who died after being found unconscious and naked on a roadside in Togane, Chiba Prefecture, on Sunday afternoon, was spotted by several people around the crime scene prior to her death, police said Tuesday.

Yukimaro Narita, 5, was found on the street around 12:26 p.m. She was naked and her clothes were found at a car park about 100 meters from the crime scene.

According to police investigations, Yukimaro went missing after she left her mother’s workplace, a hospital, for her friend’s home Sunday morning around 10:30. Her mother had taken Yukimaro to the hospital on Saturday as she was on the night shift, police said. She was seen walking along the street near the hospital shortly after 10:30, but police said she never visited her friend who wasn’t at home that morning.

Yukimaro came back to the hospital around 11 a.m., asking a hospital staff member when her mother would finish work. She was last seen leaving the hospital around noon, according to police.

The next time Yukimaro was seen was when her body was found on the street about 300 meters from the hospital.

Police said that Yukimaro was strangled and that she had a bruise on her arm, indicating that she may have been held in a tight grip. Police believe she may have been grabbed by somebody, forced into a car and taken away before being brought back.

Police are appealing to the public for any information and on Tuesday released photos of Yukimaro and the clothes she was wearing.

According to police, there have been several reports about suspicious individuals in the area so far. A naked man was spotted at a nearby park in April, while another man chased female staff leaving a dental clinic.