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Leaked E-mail Creates Furor Among Okinawan Press, Politicians

Date Posted: 2001-02-09

Lt. Gen. Earl Hailston, the commander of U.S. Marines in Japan, found himself in the middle of an unwelcome controversy after a copy of an internal Marine Corps e-mail that Hailston had sent to his commanders was leaked to several local newspapers, including Japan Update.

In the e-mail message, the general urged his commanders to enforce strict discipline among the troops in order to avoid incidents that the local media tends to look at under a magnifying glass. The general was obviously prompted to write the message after he received another message from a Sergeant Major recounting two recent incidents of drinking and driving by two Marines. A copy of that message was also included in the leaked documents.

In his e-mail, the general also mentioned a recent incident in Kin Town where a Marine was fined for lifting the skirt of a high school girl and trying to take a picture of her underwear. The marine was fined ¥50,000 for “disturbing public peace.”

However, commenting on the case he also called several prefectural officials, including Gov. Keiichi Inamine. "nuts and a bunch of wimps."

Hailston's message said: "This situation went from the governor, both vice governors, Kin Town Mayor Katsuhiro Yoshida, and a Diet member separately telling me in person last week 'while this is bad, we understand and appreciate your efforts,' to all of them standing idly by as the OPG Assembly passed an inflammatory and damaging resolution. I think they are all nuts and a bunch of wimps."

Prompted by the incident in Kin, the Prefectural Assembly, on Jan. 19, unanimously adopted a resolution in an extraordinary plenary session for the first time specifically demanding a reduction in the marines' presence.

After confirming the contents of the e-mail Okinawa Governor Keiichi Inamine commented that, "Although it is a personal letter from the general, I feel discomfort."

Hailston immediately issued a written apology. "This was a private, internal communication from me to my commanders and acting commanders. 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 apologize for the misunderstanding," the message said.

In Tokyo, Defense Agency chief Toshitsugu Saito commented on the case at a regular news conference, "It is regrettable, although it was an expression in a personal letter and he has already expressed an apology."

Inamine said Hailston's criticism of the prefectural government over the resolution is irrelevant. "Even though Japan and the U.S. are both democratic countries, General Hailston does not seem to understand Japan's legislative and administrative systems," Inamine said.

Besides being an acute embarrassment to the Marines, the leak has also reportedly raised concerns about the security of communications between the top commanders of the Marines in Okinawa.

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