Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah) threatened to sabotage Japan’s security agreement with the United States unless the prime minister frees an imprisoned Navy officer by the end of February.
Lee took to Twitter to bash Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida for holding Lt. Ridge Alkonis, who was sentenced to three years in prison for a fatal car crash in Japan in 2021, which Alkonis says occurred after he lost consciousness due to altitude sickness.
"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 wrote.
The comments—which Lee made on Thursday from his personal Twitter account @BasedMikeLee—are a rare show of force for the senator, an isolationist-leaning Republican who earlier this week objected to the Pentagon’s defense spending and has opposed sanctions on Russia.
"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."
Lee added that if Alkonis is "not on U.S. soil by then, many of us will work equally hard to make sure America knows (1) what a good security arrangement you have with the U.S., (2) what you did to one of the best and brightest our military has to offer, and (3) what we should do about it."
Alkonis’s family has been lobbying the White House and Congress for his release. The Naval officer struck and killed two pedestrians after allegedly losing consciousness due to acute mountain sickness in 2021. But Japanese prosecutors claimed he fell asleep at the wheel and he was sentenced to three years in prison, which he started serving last summer.
"Out of respect for you and your relationship with the United States, there are a lot of us who have remained relatively quiet about all of this, hoping that it would give you the chance to do the right thing," warned Lee in a tweet to Kishida.
"I still hold out hope that you will. But my approach to all of this is about to change," added Lee. "And make no mistake, it will change if Lt. Alkonis isn’t back on U.S. soil by 11:59 pm EST on February 28, 2023."