BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Asia-Pacific
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Tuesday, 6 February, 2001, 18:39 GMT
E-mail provokes Okinawa fury
US aircraft carrier in Japan
The US has a large military presence in Japan
The head of American military forces on the Japanese island of Okinawa has apologised for calling local officials "nuts" and "wimps" in an e-mail he sent to 13 other officers.

The message was an emotional attempt to gain the attention of my commanders

General Hailston
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori has stepped in to try to calm the row which blew up when the offending e-mail was leaked to the Japanese media.

The remarks made by US Marine Corps Lieutenant-General Earl Hailston reportedly referred to the governor of Okinawa and other senior officials.

Okinawa Governor Keiichi Inamine said although the e-mail was a personal communication, it left him feeling intensely uncomfortable.

The general was said to have been responding to a call by the local assembly for reductions in the American forces based on Okinawa.

This followed the arrest of a marine sergeant last month for allegedly lifting the skirt of a teenage girl and taking photographs.

Okinawa Governor Keichi Inamine (right) with Bill Clinton last year
Okinawa Governor Keichi Inamine (right) welcomed Bill Clinton to Okinawa last year
According to the Kyodo news agency, the general's e-mail complained of the governor and vice governors "standing idly by as the assembly passed an inflammatory and damaging resolution".

"I think they are all nuts and a bunch of wimps," Kyodo quoted the general as saying.

In a written statement, General Hailston said: "The message was an attempt, in a very emotional manner, to gain the strict attention of my commanders."

"If my remarks in the e-mail are construed as suggesting anything else, then I am deeply sorry and apologise for the misunderstanding," he said.

The Japanese Defence Minister, Toshitsugu Saito, described the incident as "extremely regrettable".

But Mr Mori - who himself has something of a reputation for making tactless remarks - pointed out that though the general's comments may have been inappropriate, they were made in private and he had apologised for them

He said the Japanese Government would continue to co-operate fully with the US forces on the island.

Schoolgirl rape

The incident is the latest in a long running dispute between Okinawa residents and US troops.

The rape of a schoolgirl by three marines in 1995 led to mass protests against the US presence and since then Okinawans have become increasingly sensitive to crimes by American troops.

Okinawa is host to about 30,000 of the 47,000 US troops stationed in Japan, and residents have long complained that the ratio is unfair.

Japan has insisted on redeployments of troops within Okinawa, but does not want troops moved to the main islands where opposition would be just as intense.

But despite concerns about crime, many Okinawans are ambivalent about the troops' presence as they are a key element in the depressed local economy.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console

Your e-mail could be being tapped as you typeWho's reading?
Welcome to the world of e-mail tapping
See also:

19 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Okinawa urges US troops cutback
04 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Okinawa marine charged
10 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Discipline warning for Okinawa military
03 May 00 | UK
E-mail: Our right to write?
06 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Okinawa: Island of resentment
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Asia-Pacific stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Asia-Pacific stories