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Monday, July 24, 2000

Clinton qualifies praise for troops

Staff writer

NAGO, Okinawa Pref. — U.S. President Bill Clinton on Saturday night urged American service members deployed here to be "good neighbors," calling for tighter discipline among the military personnel to avoid friction with local residents.

After the evening's official itinerary of the Group of Eight summit ended, Clinton stopped by at Camp Foster in Ginowan to pay a visit to the nearly 3,000 U.S. service members and their families.

Clinton addresses the troops at Camp Foster.

The president arrived at 11:10 p.m. and spoke for about 10 minutes.

To the sounds of "Hail to the Chief," Clinton said, "This is the largest crowd I've ever addressed at this late hour."

The president said the presence of the military in Japan has secured the peace for the last half-century. "The success of America depends on the success of the military. There is peace here because the military is here."

The president also called on the military to be good neighbors, saying: "We are here to be good neighbors and good allies. We must hear the concerns to reduce the impact of our presence."

Earlier in the day, Clinton extended his apology to Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori over a recent series of incidents involving U.S. servicemen in Okinawa, including the arrest earlier this month of a U.S. Marine on suspicion of molesting a 14-year-old local schoolgirl.

The president cited volunteer activities the Okinawan-based military has undertaken, from teaching English to helping in hospitals.

"These activities give a new meaning to the phrase, 'Send in the Marines,' " he said.

The president is scheduled to leave Okinawa early this afternoon to return to Camp David, Md., to rejoin the Mideast peace talks. Clinton, who had delayed his arrival in Japan for the G8 summit by one day because of his involvement with the peace talks, is leaving Okinawa several hours earlier than originally scheduled — immediately after today's G8 meeting is over.

Clinton was accompanied by his daughter, Chelsea, Ambassador to Japan Thomas Foley and local military brass.

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