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H-US-Japan 22 March 2001 H-NET FEATURE PUBLICATION Published by H-US-Japan@h-net.msu.edu (March, 2001) Yone Sugita Associate Professor of American History Osaka University of Foreign Studies March 2001 email@example.com Ehime Maru Incident and Japan-United States Relations On 9 February, the nuclear-powered submarine Greeneville of the U.S. Navy collided with a Japanese fisheries high school training ship, the Ehime Maru, about nine miles south of Diamond Head, Hawaii. The U.S. Coast Guard rescued twenty-six Japanese crew members after the vessel sank, but nine others are missing and presumed dead. The accident occurred when the submarine Greeneville surfaced. According to the ongoing U.S. investigation, the submarine's sonar detected noise from the Ehime Maru at least three times before it surfaced. The submarine's crew members should have paid closer attention to the position of the Ehime Maru, but failed to do so. One of the reasons behind this professional negligence was that the submarine control room was full of civilian guests when it struck the Ehime Maru. The Navy routinely welcomes "distinguished civilian guests" aboard its vessels. After all, American taxpayers support the Navy, and they have the right to observe how their taxes are spent. There is nothing wrong with the presence of civilians in a submarine per se. If, however, they played an important role in the accident, as Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda believes, it would be ''a serious problem.'' The Navy reluctantly revealed that not only were sixteen civilian guests on board the Greeneville, but two of them were sitting at steering positions while the submarine was practicing an emergency surfacing procedure. Indeed, the United States may have made a series of human errors, but the country seems to have responded appropriately after the accident occurred. The submarine directed U.S. Coast Guard ships and helicopters to the scene. The National Transportation Safety Board immediately began its own investigation. The Navy continues to search for the wreckage and for the missing. Anticipating negative impacts of this accident on Japan-United States relations, the Bush administration expressed its apologies to Japan through many channels. President George W. Bush not only offered an apology to Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori in person by phone, but called for a moment of silent prayer in memory of the victims. President Bush also delayed the departure of the U.S. ambassador to Japan, Thomas Foley, in order to manage this delicate matter. Ambassador Foley has apologized on many occasions. Ambassador Foley expressed regrets to the family members of the victims at the Kansai Airport just before they left for Honolulu. The Secretary of Defense personally accepted a list of Japan's demands with respect to the tragedy from Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Seishiro Eto. Secretary of State Colin Powell apologized to Japan's foreign minister. The Navy has decided to hold a court of inquiry, its highest-level administrative investigation, to determine whether the submarine's top officers should be court-martialed. The Navy has convened this inquiry only a few times in its history. The United States readily admitted its mistakes, is attempting to correct them, has sincerely conveyed its apologies and sorrow, and is determined to find out what really happened and who is responsible. What more can we ask for? This accident was not a product of American animosity toward Japan, but simply a result of a series of human errors. Sorrow, enmity, and indignation on the part of the victims' kin are certainly understandable, and I have great sympathy for them from the bottom of my heart. That said, their requests, complaints, and public statements have reached the point of generating a sense of disgust among the American as well as the Japanese people. It is quite regrettable that the Ehime Maru incident is becoming a serious diplomatic issue between Japan and the United States. The Japanese mass media is responsible for fomenting the increasingly tarnished image of the U.S. military and anti-American feeling among the Japanese people. Japan-United States relations are too important to be damaged by this tragic accident. The Japanese people, especially the Japanese mass media, should become mature enough to forgive human errors and to appreciate their close friend's sincere efforts to rectify these errors. Copyright (c) 2001 by Yone Sugita, all rights reserved. This work may be copied for non-profit educational use if proper credit is given to the author and the list. For other permission, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. ***********************Editor's Note******************************** http://www2.h-net.msu.edu/~usjp/commentary.html H-US-Japan is pleased to announce its new Commentary Project. Prominent scholars, journalists, and professionals contribute in-depth analysis of currnet Japanese affairs as well as US-Japan relations for H-US-Japan. The contributors retain their copyright and are free to use their commentaries for commercial purpose. If you wish to submit your commentary to H-US-Japan, please send it to us along with your brief CV. send to: Yone sugita email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org ***************************************************************