WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Colin Powell called the Japanese foreign minister yesterday morning to express regret on behalf of the Bush administration for Fridays deadly collision at sea between a U.S. submarine and a Japanese training vessel.
The USS Greeneville, a Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarine, rammed the Ehime Maru, a 174-foot training ship for commercial fishermen, while the sub was surfacing south of Diamond Head. The Japanese vessel with 35 people aboard sank almost immediately. Rescuers pulled 26 people from the sea, but nine, including four high school students and two teachers, were still missing and presumed dead yesterday.
Top officials of the State and Defense departments also called the Japanese ambassador in Washington with the same message of apology Friday night.
Powell called Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono before 9 a.m. to convey his regrets and apologies and also President Bushs regrets and condolences, said David Denny, a State Department spokesman.
A spokeswoman at the Japanese Embassy in Washington said Franklin D. Kramer, the acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, called Ambassador Shunji Yanai Friday night.
Yanai said he wanted the Americans to work closely with Japanese officials to try to find the missing victims and share information as soon as possible.
No one at the embassy could comment yesterday about the implications for U.S.-Japan relations and the U.S. military presence in the region.
About 47,000 members of the U.S. military are stationed in Japan, nearly two-thirds of them in Okinawa, 1,000 miles southwest of Tokyo.
National security adviser Condoleezza Rice told Bush about the collision at sea Friday night while he was at Camp David in Maryland, spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
Bush did not make a statement or call Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori. Instead, he sent his message of condolence through the State Department and had the State and Defense departments handle the administrations response.