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Nakatani thanks U.S. Navy for Ehime Maru search.

HONOLULU, Dec. 12 Kyodo

Japanese Defense Agency chief Gen Nakatani thanked the U.S. Navy on Wednesday for its recovery of the remains of eight of the nine victims of a February collision between the Japanese fisheries training ship Ehime Maru and a U.S. submarine, Japanese officials said.

''We appreciate that you have tenaciously carried out such difficult tasks as salvaging the ship from the deep sea despite the unprecedented national crisis over terrorism,'' Nakatani was quoted as telling Adm. Denis Blair, commander of U.S. Pacific forces.

Blair responded that it was the U.S. Navy's obligation to conduct the search operation and expressed relief that the operation was successful to some extent, according to the officials.

Navy divers recovered the remains of all the victims except for those of Takeshi Mizuguchi, a 17-year-old student from Uwajima Fisheries High School in Ehime Prefecture, western Japan, before ending the search Nov. 15.

Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force took over the search but also has ended the operation without locating his body.

The 499-ton Ehime Maru was struck and sunk Feb. 9 by the 6,080-ton nuclear-powered submarine, the Greeneville, off Hawaii while the submarine was conducting an emergency-surfacing maneuver for the benefit of civilian visitors.

Nakatani stopped over in Hawaii on his way home from the mainland United States where he met with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He plans to return to Japan on Thursday afternoon.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Date:Dec 17, 2001
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