Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) is requesting the urgent release of an imprisoned Navy officer in Japan. And in what is seen as a rare move, the senator threatened to sabotage the country’s security agreement with the United States if it refuses to release Lt. Ridge Alkonis by the end of February.
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. You’ve made your point poorly and counterproductively, but whatever—it’s time to bring your standoff to an end.
— Mike Lee (@BasedMikeLee) February 2, 2023
Alkonis was sentenced to three years in a Japanese prison for a fatal crash that left two pedestrians dead in 2021. While he explained that he had acute mountain sickness, which caused him to lose consciousness behind the wheel, his explanation did not hold water with Japanese authorities as the court sided with the prosecutor’s argument that he fell asleep at the wheel.
According to Lee, he and many leaders have kept quiet about Japan’s disrespect, hoping the country would do the right thing with time. Now, Lee said in a tweet that the time of grace is over and the country’s security arrangement with the U.S. is at stake. He added that while Japan has made its point “poorly and counterproductively,” it is time for the show to come to an end.
“Let’s face it, @kishida230, you’ve got a really good security arrangement with the United States, and you’ve had the luxury of not having that arrangement discussed or seriously questioned in Congress for a long time. That’s about to change,” Lee’s tweet read.
“If you transfer Lt. Alkonis back to the U.S. before midnight on February 28, 2023, we will do our best to forget that this whole thing never happened. It will be hard, but we will try,” the tweet read further.
If Alkonis is not on U.S. soil by February 28, Lee said he and other lawmakers would ensure the full scope of Japan’s security arrangement with the U.S. is revealed to all citizens. America will also know what Japan did to one of “the best and brightest” in the country’s military as well as what the next course of action should be.
This would not be Lee’s first comment against the unfair imprisonment as many leaders and citizens have been calling for his release.
Since Alkonis began serving his sentence last summer, Alkonis’ family members have been asking the White House and Congress to help secure his release. They have consistently argued that his sentencing was unfair based on the circumstances of the accident.
Alkonis also tried to abide by Japan’s law and offered the victims’ families over $1 million in settlement. Settlements are seen as an essential part of the Japanese judicial system, hence, the family’s disappointment when he was handed three years in prison.
According to his wife Britanny Alkonis, his Japanese lawyer told her that none of the “people that have been in situations like his that have made a complete settlement” have gone to prison.