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Wednesday, February 21, 2001

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Relatives of victims of the Ehime Maru's collision with the
USS Greeneville shook hands with Navy personnel today at
Honolulu International Airport before they flew back to Japan.

Families leave
to meet with
Japan’s leader

Some of them will return for
the Navy's inquiry into the
sinking of the Ehime Maru

Staff and wire reports

Bullet Families leave isles
Bullet Civilians interfered
Bullet Court to Monday
Bullet Apology to Akihito
Bullet Prime minister's golf
Bullet Joyrides curtailed

Relatives of the nine missing high school students, teachers and crew members of the Japanese fisheries training ship Ehime Maru left Honolulu airport this morning for meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and U.S. Ambassador Tom Foley in Tokyo.

The relatives are angry at the way the U.S. Navy has handled the investigation into the sinking of the Ehime Maru by a nuclear submarine and are expected to urge the 449-ton vessel be raised from the seabed.

"They want missing people's bodies, a piece of hair, a chip of the nail, or shoes or anything that reminds (them) of the missing people," said Moriyuki Kato, the governor of the Ehime Prefecture where the ship was from. Kato is accompanying the 10 relatives back to Japan.

Commenting on a National Transportation Safety Board report that civilians on board the submarine USS Greeneville may have distracted a crew member who was plotting sonar contacts, Kato said at an airport press conference, "If the report is correct, I think it's regrettable and it's unpermittable."

Ryosuke Terata, whose 17-year-old son is among the nine Japanese feared dead, said the relatives will meet with Mori tomorrow evening.

"If we think about to whom we should speak, it can only be the prime minister," said Terata.

In Tokyo, Foreign Ministry officials said the relatives are scheduled to meet separately with Ambassador Foley at the premier's official residence.

Some of the relatives will then return to Hawaii to attend a U.S. Navy inquiry on Monday, Terata said.

Those returning to Tokyo are four relatives of student Yusuke Terata, two relatives of instructor Jun Nakata, two relatives of crew member Toshimichi Furuya, and two relatives of crew member Hiroshi Makizawa.

At about the same time at Honolulu airport this morning, the first of a group of six government and private salvage experts arrived in an attempt to assist the Navy with possible salvage operations.

The experts include two specialists on ship design and salvage.

Among them was Haruo Kawakami, a representative of Fukada Salvage and Construction Co.

Yesterday, Kato apologized to the relatives of the missing, saying he regretted the lack of results in negotiating with U.S. officials over the accident.

Kato said the relatives are still hoping for an apology from the Greeneville's captain, Cmdr. Scott Waddle.

A Japanese person would apologize to the victims' families even if he had no responsibility or no fault, Kato said.

"That's the key to the Japanese people's mind. But in the United States, if he apologizes, it means he acknowledges guilt. That's the difference of the ... legal systems," he said.

"Last night I talked to the families and I explained the different systems in the U.S. and Japan and I think the families understood half," he said.

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