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American sailors earn mixed praise from Yoniguni citizens

Date Posted: 2007-06-28

A liberty port call to Okinawa's southernmost islands by two US Navy warships went off without incident Sunday, and even drew positive comments from Yonaguni residents.

The one-day rest and recuperation visit by the USS Patriot and USS Guardian, the first ever visits by American Navy ships, had been opposed by the Yonaguni Town mayor, Moriyoshi Hokama, but was pressed by the American Consulate Naha on grounds of “crew members need rest time and want to do a friendship exchange.”

That’s what happened, with the ship captains opening their vessels to public tours, and inviting local citizens to dinner aboard.

Local restaurant owners were largely impressed by the sailors, particularly the advance team which included a sailor who spoke Japanese. “They asked how many people could come at one time,” said one, “and one of the servicemen could speak Japanese. He was such a bright person.” “”Islanders are not noisy, but outsiders are actually noisy,” said another. “We re quite alright, though, and the military servicemen were very kind.”

A team of 120 crewmembers cleaned the local beach, then hosted a barbeque party for the Yonaguni residents. The captains of the USS Patriot and USS Guardian invited 60 islanders to dinner.

A local newspaper reported, though, that there was more to the visit than just having fun. It said the American were checking more than 300 items on an inspection list about the islands, updating information about sea maps, pilot boats, the harbor, gas facilities, food, waste disposal facilities, etc. It reported if anything happens in nearby Taiwan or China, the ships would need accurate information about water depth, weather, safety facilities, airports and medical centers, clubhouses and restaurants.

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