Relatives oppose inquiry recommendations

Kyodo

Relatives of nine Japanese who remain missing after a ship they were on was struck and sunk by a U.S. submarine voiced anger Thursday over a recommendation by a U.S. Navy Court of Inquiry not to court-martial three of the sub’s officers.

Teruo Terata, 59, whose 18-year-old nephew was on board the fisheries training vessel Ehime Maru when it sank off Hawaii on Feb. 9, said that while he expected the decision, it was “most regrettable.”

“I cannot possibly accept this outcome,” Terata said, adding the case will be closed “without hurting the organization of the navy and without bringing out facts (of the crash) other than those disclosed at the court of inquiry.”

He added that even if the then skipper of the USS Greeneville, Cmdr. Scott Waddle, assumes responsibility by resigning, he would still be entitled to a pension.

Meanwhile, Kazuo Nakata, 55, father of missing teacher Jun Nakata, 33, called for courts-martial as a “show of good faith” by the navy.

“Time is not a problem. Why not take the time to probe into the truth?” he asked, urging that the relatives’ feelings be considered.

Nakata also voiced doubts that Japan would respond appropriately to the latest developments in the case, given that Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori is leaving his post and a new Cabinet is expected to be launched soon.

He said China has asserted itself over the recent midair collision between one of its interceptors and a U.S. spy plane, adding he wants Japan to address the Ehime Maru case “as firmly.”

Toshio Kamado, 50, whose son Atsushi Kamado, 17, was rescued after the incident, said the court’s “recommendation is too light” considering that nine people were lost at sea.

The 499-ton Ehime Maru, belonging to Uwajima Fisheries High School in Ehime Prefecture, sank after being hit by the 6,080-ton Greeneville, which was conducting a rapid-surfacing maneuver for civilian guests.

The nine Japanese included four teenage students on an expedition to learn to fish.