WASHINGTON – The former captain of the USS Greeneville said Thursday that he wants to visit Japan next month to personally apologize to relatives of victims of the Feb. 9 collision between his sub and a Japanese fisheries training ship.
In an interview with CNN, Cmdr. Scott Waddle said the navy has approved his visit to meet the victims’ relatives in Uwajima, Ehime Prefecture.
In a separate TV interview, he described as “fair” the administrative punishment he received for the sinking of the training ship that left nine people lost at sea, saying a court-martial would have been futile.
In the interview with U.S. television network NBC, Waddle admitted that while he and his crew “made mistakes” resulting in the surfacing sub’s collision with the Ehime Maru, a court-martial would probably have resulted in his acquittal.
“What the Japanese culture doesn’t understand (is) had this gone to a court-martial, the rules of evidence are such that it more than likely would have resulted in an acquittal and that would have further enraged the Japanese population,” he said.
Waddle made the remarks in his first television interview since Adm. Thomas Fargo, commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, handed down the nonjudicial punishment Monday.
The punishment, an admiral’s mast, consists of a letter of reprimand to be placed in Waddle’s military record, forfeiture of half a month’s pay for two months and his formal removal as skipper of the Greeneville.
Acting on a recommendation by three admirals who sat on the U.S. Navy Court of Inquiry, Fargo decided not to court-martial Waddle.
Relatives of the nine Japanese killed in the collision off Hawaii attacked the navy decision not to recommend a court-martial.
In the interview, Waddle also sought the understanding of the Japanese public, saying his punishment and upcoming retirement are far harsher than being court-martialed. He retires from the navy on Oct. 1.
Meanwhile, in a news conference Thursday, Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Shunji Yanai suggested that the decision not to hold a court-martial would not directly affect bilateral relations.
“Holding a court-martial is a matter of the U.S. system. The responsibility of Waddle had been made clear through (such) U.S. procedures,” Yanai said.
The 6,080-ton Greeneville hit and sank the 499-ton Ehime Maru, carrying 35 people, while conducting an emergency surfacing drill for its civilian guests on board.
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