USCG Continues Search For Missing

Friday, February 16, 2001
Following objections from the Japanese government, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy announced they will continue searching through Friday for nine people missing from a Japanese fishing vessel sunk by a U.S. submarine last week. The Japanese government objected when the Coast Guard announced on Wednesday it intended to end the search for the missing students, teachers and crew members from the teaching vessel, said Japanese Consul General Minoru Shibuya. Earlier on Thursday, the Coast Guard said it intended to call off the search for survivors from the wreck, which occurred when the USS Greenville surfaced into the Ehime Maru, a high school's training trawler, about nine miles off the coast of Oahu. The vessel carried 35 people; 26 were rescued. Choppy seas and windy conditions prevented the Navy from sending its submersible robot to investigate the sunken trawler on Thursday, a Navy spokesman said. "We searched about 500 sq. mi. today with one surface ship and one helicopter," said U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Jack Laufer of Thursday's activity. "We have searched about 21,000 sq. mi. total," he said. President George W. Bush ordered a review of all policies on civilian activity during military exercises after the Greeneville, with two civilians sitting at control positions, surfaced rapidly, hitting and sinking the trawler. Those missing, including four 17-year-old students, are presumed dead, entombed in their training trawler at the bottom of the sea. The navy's preliminary investigation into the tragedy could be completed by the end of this week, the Pentagon said on Thursday. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said there was no evidence that the presence of civilians aboard the USS Greeneville may have contributed to the collision. However, Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono said Tokyo would continue to urge Washington to keep up its search for the nine missing and to salvage the Japanese fishing vessel. "We are earnestly asking the United States to continue its efforts to rescue or find the nine missing Japanese," Kono told parliament. Analysts have said the submarine accident could prompt the mistrust and resentment of U.S. troops stationed in Japan to spread beyond Okinawa, home to 26,000 of the 48,000 U.S. troops on Japanese soil, and to mainland Japan. The conservative Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper lashed out at the U.S. Navy for a "series of careless and inappropriate actions." "We cannot bear to hear such revelations, and, at the same time, we feel strong anger," the Yomiuri said in an editorial. "Many Japanese might have felt a sense of impropriety in allowing civilians to operate a submarine." -- (Reuters)
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