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Japan's Navy chief sacked over accident scandal

world Updated: Mar 21, 2008 15:24 IST

Japan's Defence Minister on Friday dismissed the Navy chief and punished nearly 90 officials after a string of scandals including a naval accident that killed two fishermen.

Japan's largest and most advanced destroyer, Atago, last month rammed into a small tuna fishing boat near Tokyo Bay, killing a fisherman and his adult son and triggering a public uproar.

"We deeply apologise to the people. We will promptly and continually carry out effective measures to prevent a recurrence," Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba told reporters as he announced the punishments.

The dismissal of Admiral Eiji Yoshikawa will take effect on Monday.

He will be replaced by Admiral Keiji Akahoshi, who currently heads the naval force's Sasebo district in southern Japan.

In its biggest house-cleaning in recent years, the ministry also punished 88 officials over the crash and two other scandals, including leakage of information on the functioning of the US-developed Aegis radar combat system.

Two people were sacked, and the others faced either suspensions or had their salaries docked.

But no sailors aboard the Atago were immediately punished, as the investigation into the accident is still ongoing.

Ishiba will also voluntarily return part of his salary to state coffers, giving back USD 3,200 dollars (320,000 yen)for two months.