November 20, 1995 Web posted at: 10:10 a.m. EST (1510 GMT)
TOKYO (CNN) -- The U.S. Navy admiral who announced plans to retire after touching off outrage with his off-the-cuff remark about the rape of a Japanese schoolgirl spoke out again Sunday, but this time Richard Macke was apologetic.
"My comments were insensitive and offensive," he said.
In his original comments to reporters last Friday, Macke, U.S. commander of Pacific forces, had suggested the three U.S. servicemen accused of the crime and now on trial in Okinawa should have paid for a prostitute instead of raping the 12-year-old girl. After saying military officials had found nothing in the background of the three accused servicemen to suggest they would commit such a crime, he said, "I think it was absolutely stupid. I have said several times: for the price they paid to rent the car (used in the crime), they could have had a girl".
After the angry reaction he issued an apologetic statement, but the outrage did not die and the four-star admiral with 35 years in the military announced his retirement the same day.
But his resignation and continued apologies (213K AIFF sound or 213K WAV sound) may not be enough for Japanese demanding the removal of 47,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan. Officially, the arrangement is highly valued by the governments of both countries. But Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama in recent days stressed the seriousness of the situation to visiting U.S. Vice President Al Gore. "We would like to have an in-depth discussion on realignment and consolidation of U.S. military facilities in Okinawa," Murayama said.
Gore acknowledged that the crime has frayed U.S.-Japan relations and announced the creation of a task force to look into anti-American resentment in Japan. The panel has been given a one-year mandate to identify specific problems and suggest solutions. But the presence of Gore was, in itself, an irritant to the tense relations. He was a last-minute replacement for U.S. President Bill Clinton, who canceled his visit because of a budget dispute with the U.S. Congress. That left many Japanese wondering how highly Washington values its relations with Tokyo.
In the rape trial, one of the three accused U.S. servicemen, Navy Seaman Marcus D. Gill, 22, has admitted in court that he raped the girl. Two Marines pleaded guilty to assault and abduction but denied taking part in the rape. The girl was abducted on September 4 in a rental car.
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