Japan angered by U.S. submarine's port call without advance notice

Tuesday, April 3rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TOKYO (AP) _ Japan's foreign minister demanded an explanation Tuesday for a U.S. nuclear-powered submarine's entry into a southwestern port without advance notice, and suggested that further port calls should be put on hold.

``Until I receive the report, I cannot cooperate with U.S. nuclear submarines making port calls,'' Yohei Kono told reporters.

The 6,080-ton Chicago entered Sasebo port, 609 miles southwest of Tokyo, on Monday, but U.S. military officials had only told the city government that it would stop outside the port, said city spokesman Keiichi Matsuda.

The 20-minute stop violated a 1964 bilateral accord requiring the United States to notify Japan 24 hours in advance of port calls for U.S. nuclear-powered submarines. The notice gives time for local authorities to check radioactivity levels in ports before and after U.S. submarine visits.

The port call has inflamed tensions between Japan and the U.S. military in the wake of a series of crimes linked to American bases here and the collision of a U.S. submarine and a Japanese fishing vessel off Hawaii that killed nine Japanese.

Sasebo City Mayor Akira Mitsutake called the Chicago's port call an ``act of bad faith.'' It was the first port entry to violate the U.S.-Japan pact, he said.

Kono demanded an explanation.

``I have instructed my staff to ask the United States to clearly state why it defied previous practice and made a port call without prior notification and confirm the cause of the incident,'' Kono said.

Acting U.S. Ambassador Christopher LaFleur had told Japanese Foreign Ministry officials that the sub's incursion was caused by a miscommunication within the U.S. Navy, said a Foreign Ministry spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

U.S. embassy spokesman Akira Matsuda refused to comment.

Japan is host to nearly 50,000 U.S. troops under a joint security treaty.