The U.S. government is refusing Japanese demands to pay compensation to the bereaved family of a Japanese woman in Okinawa Prefecture who was killed in 2016 by an American man working in a U.S. military base.

It declined on the grounds that the man, Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, 34, was not employed by the U.S. forces but by a private company that was doing business in the U.S. Kadena Air Base in the prefecture, said several Japanese government sources.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry are demanding that the U.S. government pay the compensation as he is financially unable despite being ordered by the Naha District Court to do so, they added.

On the night of April 28, 2016, the former U.S. Marine killed a 20-year-old Japanese woman in Uruma, Okinawa Prefecture, by clubbing her in the back of her head, suffocating her and stabbing her around the neck with a knife.

On Dec. 1, 2017, the Naha District Court sentenced him to life imprisonment for raping and murdering the woman.

Following the ruling, the court ordered Shinzato to pay compensation to her bereaved family based on the “damage compensation order system,” which is aimed at supporting crime victims. The amount of compensation was not made public as the order was a closed-door procedure.

Under the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), victims in cases where U.S. military members or related people committed illegal acts outside their official duties can demand compensation from the U.S. government if the perpetrators are unable to pay it.

Based on the system, the bereaved family is preparing to ask the U.S. government for compensation as Shinzato said that he lacked the financial capability.

The SOFA stipulates that the U.S. government is obliged to pay compensation to victims if crimes were committed by members of the U.S. forces or people employed by the forces.

When Shinzato killed her, he was not a member of or an employee of the U.S. forces but employed by a private company doing business in the Kadena base.

In the talks with the Japanese Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry, the U.S. forces in Japan explained about the interpretation of the “people employed by the U.S. forces.”

According to the explanation, workers meeting that description are directly employed by U.S. forces.

As Shinzato was an employee of a private company, he does not fall under that definition. Therefore, the U.S. government is not obligated to pay compensation in the case.

The U.S. forces thus rejected compensation payments even over the demands of the woman's family.

Meanwhile, there is a different system in which if the amount of compensation actually paid by the U.S. side is smaller than that ordered in a civil lawsuit, the Japanese government will cover the difference.

In that system, however, the Japanese government’s payment is made only when the U.S. side has agreed to pay compensation.