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From the April 2001 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 48, No. 04)

Viewpoints

Sinking of the Ehime Maru

comments and analyses from Tokyo, Vancouver, Singapore,London and Paris

TOKYO The Japan Times (independent), Feb. 15: The incident is a tragic reminder that the improvement of accident-prevention rules for open-seas training ships is an urgent necessity. The tragedy is also a wake-up call for the U.S. navy. Thoroughly investigating the cause and disclosing the results is urgently required to prevent this tragic incident from affecting overall bilateral relations. This should accompany extensive efforts to search for the nine missing members of the Ehime Maru.

VANCOUVER The Vancouver Sun (centrist), Feb. 15: The Ehime Maru incident may be a turning point that triggers a whole sequence of realignments of relations and at titudes in the Far East. Japanese society is at perhaps its most delicately balanced point since the Second World War. It is poised for propulsion down one of several paths, and the Ehime Maru incident could be the spark that determines the choice. There is growing support for the departure of the Americans and for Japan to take overt responsibility for its own defense....Japanese sensitivities about the ugly behavior of some of their American protectors were already raw before the Ehime Maru was sunk.
—Jonathan Manthorpe

SINGAPORE The Straits Times (independent), Feb. 13: Japan is doing its best to prevent the incident involving the sinking of a Japanese training ship by a U.S. sub marine from fanning anti-American sentiments, because it still hopes to enhance security ties with the new U.S. administration. In particular, Tokyo has been quick to stress to its citizens that the U.S., beginning with President George W. Bush, has been prompt in apologizing to Japan for the incident, in which nine people are still missing….Editorials in major Japanese dailies have taken a coolheaded view of the crisis....Still, the Japanese government has good reason to be concerned.
—Kwan Weng Kin

TOKYO Yomiuri Shimbun (centrist), Feb. 11: The biggest question is, why did the submarine, which is equipped with a variety of detection equipment such as sonar and radars, fail to detect the Ehime Maru? Moreover, the submarine crew should have made a visual check through the periscope before surfacing. Indeed, some suspect human error was behind the accident....Rules for safe passage of vessels should be reestablished following this tragedy.

LONDON The Daily Telegraph (conservative), Feb. 21: Who is the most unpopular head of government in the history of the world? Possibly Yoshiro Mori, the prime minister of Japan. His approval rating fell last weekend to 9 percent, while his disapproval rating leaped to 79 percent. These are remarkable figures. True, he is perceived as guilty of incompetence, influence-peddling, and cronyism. But what really seems to have made his resignation now inevitable was his decision to continue a game of golf after learning of the collision off Hawaii on Feb. 9 of the U.S. submarine Greeneville and the Japanese fishing vessel Ehime Maru, in which nine Japanese died. He was playing on a posh golf course, where his large membership fee had been paid by a businessman crony.
—Alexander Chancellor

PARIS Agence France-Presse (international news service), Feb. 12: Japanese-American relations have been strained in recent days, because of the outcry provoked by the commander of American forces on the island of Okinawa, Earl Hailston. He dubbed Japanese politicians commenting on the incident “nuts” and “wimps.” The general apologized on Thursday, but the incident is still provoking irritation on Okinawa, where the majority of the 47,000 American soldiers deployed in Japan are stationed....The accident could well have repercussions nationally in Japan, because on Sunday the press and several politicians criticized Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori for having played golf after being informed about the accident.

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