Clinton, military leaders and Japan's foreign minister gather


POSTED: Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton took a barge tour of Pearl Harbor yesterday, stopping briefly to lay a wreath in the shrine room of the USS Arizona Memorial.

She was joined by Lt. Gen. Daniel Darnell, U.S. Pacific Command deputy commander, and other leaders of the military's various components on the Pacific Fleet's admiral's barge.

Before the barge tour Clinton received an overall briefing on the military situation in the Pacific-Asia area by the leaders of various military service commanders at Halawa Heights' Pacific Command. The briefing was led by Adm. Robert Willard, Pacific Command leader, who left after the meetings for conferences at the Pentagon.

Earlier in the day, Clinton met with Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada to discuss the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps airfield at Futenma on Okinawa. The U.S. and Japan agreed in 2006 to move Futenma to another part of Okinawa, but Okinawa residents oppose the move and want the airfield shut down.

After the meeting Clinton said the Obama administration feels assured of Japan's commitment to a continuing security alliance with the United States, even as Tokyo weighs abandoning a 2006 deal on a U.S. Marine air base.

Pearl Harbor survivors Sterling Cale, 88, and Al Rodrigues; and Paul Deprey, National Park superintendent of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, greeted Clinton at the Arizona Memorial.

Rodrigues was stationed at Bishop Point when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He was issued a .30-caliber rifle and shot at the planes as they passed overhead. Cale was a pharmacist's mate at the Naval Hospital at Pearl Harbor and helped pick up 46 people in the water.

On Dec. 7, 1941, nearly 2,400 Americans were killed and almost 1,180 injured when Japanese fighters bombed and sank 12 naval vessels, including the battleship Arizona, and heavily damaged nine others. The Arizona lost 1,177 sailors and Marines. About 340 of its crew members survived.

Besides laying a wreath, Clinton also dropped an orchid into the well of the white memorial, which spans the sunken battleship that rests off Ford Island.

This is the first stop of a 10-day trip that will take Clinton to Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. In Australia she will be joined by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who was to stop here briefly today, for talks with their foreign affairs and defense counterparts.

Clinton's first overseas trip as secretary of state, last February, was to Asia. She returned to the region last July and again in November.