SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – After a U.S. naval lieutenant was imprisoned over a vehicle crash that killed two Japanese citizens, U.S. Sen Mike Lee has made demands of Japan’s prime minister to return the soldier to U.S. soil.
Lee said he will take to the Senate floor this afternoon, March 1, to call for a renegotiation of the U.S. – Japan Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) after Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida failed to meet Lee’s deadline to transfer Navy Lt. Ridge Alkonis to United States custody.
Alkonis was originally sentenced to three years in prison while serving in Japan after he was involved in a deadly car crash that resulted in the deaths of two Japanese citizens. Alkonis was determined by a judge in Japan to have been sleeping behind the wheel during the accident but U.S. Navy investigators determined Alkonis suffered from acute mountain sickness and loss of consciousness.
On Feb. 1, Lee tweeted at Kishida saying Lt. Alkonis needed to be back on U.S. soil no later than 11:59 p.m. EST on Feb. 28, 2023.
“You’ve made whatever point you wanted to make by imprisoning him and claiming (quite misleadingly) that you’re treating him the same as you would a Japanese national,” Lee said on Twitter. “You’ve made your point poorly and counterproductively, but whatever – it’s time to bring your standoff to an end.”
Since Lee’s initial tweet demanding for Alkonis released into U.S. custody, the Utah senator has threatened Kishida with the renegotiation of a long-standing military agreement.
Some of Lee’s follow-up tweets included the Japanese expressions “案ずるより産むが易し” and “自業自得” which roughly translate to English as “it’s easier to do something than worry about it” and “you reap what you sow,” respectively.
Lee’s Twitter account where he made these demands was briefly suspended, Wednesday morning with Lee posting on his official account that Twitter gave no explanation or warning of the suspension.
Lee’s personal Twitter account has since been reinstated, though the Senator says Twitter still has not given any explanation as to why it was briefly taken down.
Kishida has yet to offer a response to Lee’s demands, prompting the senator to raise his concerns about the military agreement on the Senate floor.
Navy Lt. Ridge Alkonis’ well-being has been a continued focus for Lee. In December 2022, Lee introduced an amendment to the Omnibus Appropriations bill which would direct the Secretary of the Navy to continue the pay and benefits to Alkonis and his family in Japan while he is imprisoned. The amendment was supported unanimously.