Advertisement - Click to support our sponsors.

Wednesday, February 21, 2001

U.S. envoy apologizes
to emporer Akihito

Bullet Prime minister denies
he was betting on golf

Bullet Mori's meeting with
Bush will be delayed

Star-Bulletin news services

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

TOKYO -- Outgoing U.S. Ambassador Thomas Foley made a personal apology today to the emperor and empress of Japan for the accidental sinking of a Japanese fishing vessel by a U.S. submarine off Hawaii.

Nine of the 35 people who were on board the Ehime Maru are still missing and presumed dead after the vessel was rammed by the surfacing USS Greeneville south of Oahu on Feb. 9.

Anger has been mounting in Japan following revelations that civilian guests were at the controls of the sub at the time.

Foley offered an apology for the incident during a 15-minute farewell meeting with Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko at the Imperial Palace, said a palace spokesman.

The spokesman quoted Foley as saying that the United States will make every possible effort to determine the causes of the accident and search for the missing.

Akihito was quoted as telling the U.S. ambassador that the accident was "truly unfortunate" and expressed his deep concern.

The Ehime Maru was operated by a high school for aspiring commercial fishermen in Japan's southwestern Ehime Prefecture.

Prefectural spokesman Katsuya Okuno said government officials there were not immediately able to comment on news that sonar operators on board the Greenville detected the Ehime Maru more than an hour before the sub started an emergency rapid-ascent drill that led to the collision.

Associated Press
Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori loves to play golf, but
denies that he was wagering on a game the day
the Ehime Maru sank.

Prime minister denies
he was betting on golf

Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori today denied his office's comment that he had "chocolate" -- slang for cash -- riding on the golf game he continued after learning of the collision between a U.S. submarine and a Japanese school fishing vessel earlier this month.

"We were not in such a situation," Mori said of his game with three friends at the golf course in Yokohama on Feb. 10.

His comment came after an official of Mori's office said he could have been betting "what is the equivalent of a bar of chocolate" following some previous practices. The official said Mori and the three others did the same at the beginning of the game.

When told that his office said he played golf for "chocolate," Mori only said, "Could be, generally speaking."

Earlier in the day, Mori said, "It is hardly possible that I would play golf for stakes," following a media report that he is believed to have been betting money on the outcome of the golf game.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said he was not aware of what transpired at the golf course that day, but said it is common to play golf for bars of chocolate.

"The intention is to make the game more interesting," the top government spokesman said at a news conference. "It's not as if we're thinking about winning a large number of games and making a business out of it."

Mori is under fire for continuing to play golf for two hours after being informed about the collision Feb. 9, which sank the Ehime Maru.

Mori’s meeting with
Bush will be delayed

Mori said today he would delay a visit to Washington to meet President Bush, losing a chance to repair ties frayed by the sinking of a Japanese trawler by a U.S. submarine.

The unpopular Mori, under pressure to resign ahead of a tough Upper House election in July, told reporters that an early March visit was difficult as it would conflict with the expected passage of next year's budget through parliament's Lower House.

"How would I be able to leave (the country) when we must do everything to have the budget pass?" Mori said.

The budget for the fiscal year starting on April 1 is expected to be approved by the Lower House in early March, a move analysts say could clear the way for Mori to resign.

Japanese media said Tokyo and Washington had hoped to arrange a meeting of the leaders of the world's two biggest economies on the first weekend in March, before a March 7 meeting between Bush and South Korean President Kim Dae-jung.

Analysts said a summit was needed to discuss not only the accident, but the future of the bilateral relationship.

"We're at a turning point in how to manage U.S.-Japan relations," Takehiko Yamamoto, a political science professor at Waseda University, said.

The opposition was quick to make use of the change in schedule to lampoon Mori, saying the political turmoil in Japan had made Bush unwilling to meet him.

"It is natural that (President Bush) should not feel like meeting prime minister Mori under these circumstances," Democratic Party leader Yukio Hatoyama told reporters.

Ties between the two allies have been strained by Japanese ire at America's handling of the sinking of the Ehime Maru and by a series of incidents involving U.S. military forces on Japan's southern island of Okinawa.

Okinawa is home to 26,000 of 48,000 U.S. military based in Japan, and local residents have long resented bearing what they see as an unfair share of the burden for the defense alliance.

The Okinawa city assembly today adopted a resolution demanding a reduction of U.S. forces stationed in the prefecture as well as the revision of a key pact concerning the status of U.S. forces in Japan.

A U.S. Marine based on Okinawa was indicted last week on charges of setting fire to several local restaurants.

Earlier this month the chief of the U.S. forces on the island sparked outrage when he referred to his hosts as "nuts and wimps" in an internal e-mail leaked to the media.

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin