The top Marine in Japan apologized on Tuesday for an e-mail in which he allegedly called government officials on the island of Okinawa a bunch of wimps.
News of the errant e-mail emerged in Tuesday morning's edition of the Ryukyu Shimpo newspaper, the largest circulation daily in Okinawa. The newspaper said Lt. Gen. Earl Hailston sent the e-mail on Jan. 23 to his staff, and called the officials nuts and a bunch of wimps.
Hailston was reportedly reacting to Okinawan leaders' handling of a recent political uproar over crimes allegedly committed by Marines on the island.
Capt. Tanya Murnock, a spokeswoman for the Marines on Okinawa, refused to confirm the wording in the e-mail, saying it was meant to be read only by Hailston's staff.
But government spokesman Kiyoshi Yamazato said Hailston called on Gov. Keiichi Inamine confirming the contents and apologizing.
Hailston, in a statement, said he has only respect and admiration for local officials.
If my remarks in the e-mail are construed as suggesting anything else, then I am deeply sorry and apologize for the misunderstanding, he said.
Inamine told reporters he realized the e-mail was supposed to remain private. Nonetheless, I personally find it very disconcerting, he said.
Japan's defense minister, Toshitsugu Saito, also said he found the e-mail regrettable.
Under a mutual security treaty between Japan and the United States, about 47,000 U.S. military service people are stationed in Japan. Nearly two-thirds of them are on Okinawa, which is 1,000 miles southwest of Tokyo.
Relations between the Japanese government and the U.S. military on Okinawa are often tense.
A recent string of crimes involving U.S. troops prompted Okinawa legislators last month to adopt a resolution asking the United States to cut its military presence on the islands and to do more to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents.
Murnock said she didn't know how the e-mail ended up in the hands of newspaper reporters.
By KENJI HALL
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