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U.S. Navy Probes Suspected Drug Selling, Use Among Sailors in Japan

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WASHINGTON—The U.S. Navy is investigating at least a dozen U.S. sailors based in Japan, some serving aboard the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, for suspicion of buying, selling, and using LSD, ecstasy and other drugs, U.S. Navy officials said Friday.

The Navy also is probing whether U.S. sailors were using the internet to buy or sell drugs or were distributing them to local Japanese residents.

The Navy first learned about allegations of widespread drug sales on Feb. 6, when it received a tip about a petty officer third class using drugs, the officials said. He was subsequently detained and released, they said.

That sailor pointed investigators to others aboard the ship who the sailor said were distributing or using drugs, a U.S. military official said. The official said that others could be detained or charged in the continuing probe.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service confirmed it was conducting an investigation. Among questions are whether the drug use and distribution reached other parts of Seventh Fleet, which operates in the Pacific, the officials said.

“The Navy has zero tolerance for drug abuse and takes all allegations involving misconduct of our sailors, Navy civilians and family members very seriously,” NCIS said in a statement. “These allegations are still under investigation and it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

Japanese authorities also have been brought into the investigation, two Navy officials said, because of suspicions that drugs were sold to Japanese residents. In addition, a suspicious package related to one of the sailors was intercepted by a local postal service, a Navy official said.

The USS Reagan currently is stationed at its home port, in Yokosuka, Japan, headquarters of the Navy’s Seventh Fleet. Seventh Fleet officials said they couldn’t immediately comment.

The Seventh Fleet has been plagued by problems over the past year. In 2017, two ships—the USS John S. McCain and the USS Fitzgerald—were involved in separate collisions with commercial vessels, killing 17 sailors.

Last month, the Navy charged five sailors in the collisions and the commanders of the ships each face charges of negligent homicide. A sixth sailor was charged last year. After the collisions, a series of reports and investigations revealed failures in training and readiness throughout Seventh Fleet.

The drug investigation comes as the Navy announced leadership shifts affecting the Seventh Fleet.

On Friday, the Navy named Vice Adm. John John C. Aquilino as commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, which is responsible for U.S. naval operations within the Seventh Fleet area. Adm. Aquilino’s promotion was unusual in that he has only been in his current assignment since last fall. He currently is commander of naval forces in the U.S. Central Command area, which is the responsible for the Middle East. Naval commanders generally stay two years or more in a given post.

Also, President Donald Trump on Friday nominated Adm. Harry Harris to become ambassador to Australia. Adm. Harris is current head of U.S. Pacific Command, which oversees all U.S. forces in the Pacific. The Pentagon hasn’t named his replacement.

Write to Nancy A. Youssef at Nancy.Youssef@wsj.com



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