U.S. envoy apologizes to families of missing people

Kyodo

–The U.S. Navy’s No. 2 officer apologized Thursday to the families of nine people who went missing after a U.S. nuclear-powered submarine sank a Japanese fisheries training ship off Hawaii on Feb. 9.

Adm. William Fallon, special U.S. envoy to Japan, expressed the apology and deep sorrow “on behalf of all U.S. citizens” when he met with about 60 people, including the families of the nine, at Uwajima Fisheries High School in Uwajima, Ehime Prefecture, a school official said.

The nine missing were among 35 people aboard the 499-ton Ehime Maru when it was struck and sunk by the 6,080-ton Greeneville during a rapid surfacing drill. The nine are four 17-year-old students of the high school, two of their teachers and three crew members.

Speaking slowly and clearly, Fallon told the people he appreciated the opportunity to spend time with them, the official said.

Ietaka Horita, principal of the high school, told the envoy he was glad to see the United States making sincere efforts to meet their requests.

Horita also asked Fallon to ensure the U.S. continues to extend support to deal with the accident.

The official said the 60 people listened to Fallon carefully, but some family members of the missing nine shed tears during the gathering.

Fallon earlier in the day met Ehime Gov. Moriyuki Kato at the Ehime Prefectural Government office in Matsuyama and apologized for the accident.

Kato told reporters after the meeting that he complained about the scarcity of information on the accident provided by the U.S. Navy to relatives of the missing people.

The envoy was quoted by Kato as responding that the navy had made relevant information available as soon as it could, while asking for the Japanese public’s understanding that the current situation is due to court-martial system procedures.

Kato also said Fallon mentioned letters from the Greeneville’s captain, Cmdr. Scott Waddle, sent to Kato, the relatives of the missing and others involved.

The letters thoroughly convey Waddle’s feelings to the relatives, Fallon was quoted as saying.

In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said the same day that he appreciates the apology by Waddle, who was relieved of duty after the accident.