A look at some of the other top Pacific stories of 2003 ...
Some of the other top stories from 2003:
Torres rape case
Marine Lance Cpl. Jose W. Torres was sentenced Sept. 12 to 42 months in a Japanese prison, at hard labor, for raping a 19-year-old Okinawa woman May 25 in the town of Kin.
Torres, 21, assigned to Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Hansen, pleaded guilty when indicted in July.
“I am sorry,” he said when asked if he had any final words in court. “That’s all I have to say.”
At an August hearing, Torres admitted he raped the woman after a night of drinking.
Junkyard bomb kills collector
A Japan Air Self-Defense Force sergeant was killed in August while cleaning a Vietnam-era rocket-propelled grenade at a friend’s Okinawa City junkyard. After the death of Senior Master Sgt. Takio Tamura, 53, Okinawa police discovered his two Naha homes warehoused his ordnance collection. Both neighborhoods were evacuated Sept. 6 while U.S. Air Force explosive ordnance experts destroyed several rocket-propelled grenades.
Contracting commander sentenced to jail
In June, a California federal court sentenced the U.S. Army colonel who headed the contracting command in South Korea to 54 months in prison for soliciting bribes from contractors.
Col. Richard J. Moran, 56, had pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy and one of bribery. In his job, he’d overseen 140 people and 17,000 contracts worth more than $310 million annually.
His wife, Gina Cha Moran, 44, was sentenced to two years’ probation after pleading guilty in January to making a false statement.
Army Criminal Investigation Command agents raiding Moran’s home in January 2002 found more than $700,000 in cash.
Typhoon Maemi pounds South Korea
In early September, the most powerful typhoon ever recorded on the peninsula battered South Korea. Over two days, Typhoon Maemi dumped almost a foot of rain, killed more than 110 people and caused billions of dollars of damage. Its 135 mph winds toppled a huge steel crane, beached a cruise ship and shattered homes. U.S. bases largely escaped the brunt of the storm but still recorded more than $5 million in damage, officials said. For weeks, servicemembers helped bases and local communities clean up.
Pilots killed in Huron crash
Aug. 12, Kongse-ri villagers saw a light U.S. Army plane, engulfed in flames, spin through the cloudless, mid-afternoon sky and crash into an onion field.
Killed were Capt. Kevin M. Norman and Chief Warrant Officer David W. Snow, 6th Battalion, 52nd Aviation, 17th Aviation Brigade at K-16 air base in Seoul. Witnesses said they believed the pilots managed to steer their stricken plane away from a densely populated residential area. Later that week, hundreds packed into Yongsan Garrison’s South Post Chapel heard Norman and Snow eulogized as the “very essence of duty, honor and country.”
It was a dangerous year for aviation in South Korea — at least six other crashes were reported. In October, an unmanned aerial vehicle crash-landed, grounding a fleet that had become operational just weeks before. In September, a 35th Fighter Squadron F-16 pilot was rescued after his jet crashed into the Yellow Sea. In early August, an Army Black Hawk crash-landed in a river near Taegu. In May, a 36th Fighter Squadron F-16 crashed just after takeoff at Osan Air Base, and in January, an Osan-base U-2 Dragonlady crashed in a rural area, injuring four civilians on the ground.
North Korean fighters shadow U.S. spy plane
In the midst of a showdown over its nuclear ambitions, North Korea sent four fighter jets into international airspace to “shadow” a surveillance flight by a Kadena-based RC-135S Cobra Ball reconnaissance aircraft.
North Korea had repeatedly complained of U.S. military aircraft spying on its country in recent months. The North’s official news agency, KCNA, made almost daily reports of U.S. aircraft allegedly entering into North Korean airspace.
The intercept mission by advanced MiG-23s and MiG-29s was part of a series of moves by North Korea in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. In late February, a North Korean fighter jet entered South Korean airspace for two minutes. Two days later, North Korea test-fired a missile that landed in the sea between Japan and the Korean peninsula.
Anthrax scare at Atsugi
ATSUGI NAVAL AIR FACILITY — An anthrax scare closed the post office Feb. 19-25 when mail sorters complained of itchy hands after handling an envelope. Seven people went through decontamination procedures, two were hospitalized overnight for observation and the Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light 51 hangar was closed temporarily.
But the envelope subsequently tested negative for chemical or biological agents; base officials said they could not explain what caused the sorters’ reactions.
Airman convicted of raping daughter
YOKOTA AIR BASE — On June 9, a seven-officer jury sentenced an Air Force technical sergeant, convicted of raping his daughter, to 21 years’ confinement, dishonorable discharge, reduction in rank to E-1 and forfeiture of all pay and allowances.
He was convicted June 7 of raping his daughter when she was 14, carnal knowledge on various occasions, possessing child pornography and committing indecent acts. He also pleaded guilty in December to secretly videotaping her while she changed clothes in her room.
Expanded housing opposed
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE — Yokohama City officials said in September they wanted U.S. Navy housing and other off-base support facilities returned unconditionally to Japanese control.
The four areas sought were Fukaya and Kamiseya communications sites, Tomioka storage area and Negishi housing area.
At the same time, Navy officials were negotiating with Japan’s federal government to expand the Ikego Housing Area, which is partly within Zushi and Yokohama cities.
Yokohama officials filed a notice for the return in response to a Japanese government request asking Yokohama’s reaction to a tentative exchange agreement being discussed in conjunction with expanding Ikego.
Two carriers may patrol Western Pacific
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE — Speculation centered on a second Pacific-based carrier led Hawaii and Guam to compete this fall for increased military presence.
Navy officials have yet to decide if the Kitty Hawk will be decommissioned in 2008, as has been projected unofficially. But they’ve said they expect to maintain a carrier presence in Japan, even though the country opposes nuclear-powered military vessels in its waters — and almost all U.S. carriers now are nuclear-powered.
Officials said that means a second carrier could be stationed in Guam or Hawaii. A yearlong $1.8 million study on basing a nuclear carrier at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, already is under way. Hawaii officials said they expect a Navy decision in 2004.
A carrier-group assignment would bring thousands of sailors and families, and the impact on local economies would be significant, Guam and Hawaii officials have said.
Powell: Troop strength will not increase
TOKYO — During a five-day Pacific visit, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Feb. 23 he couldn’t foresee increasing U.S. military forces in Japan.
The United States and Japan have agreed concerns about North Korea’s nuclear program must be addressed through multilateral talks, Powell said, not through increasing military forces in Japan.
Pacific Air Forces to cut 1,101 jobs
A plan announced in January 2003 would cut 1,101 civilian and military Air Force jobs by 2009.
The job cuts are to be made in conjunction with a servicewide plan to realign 13,000 active-duty and civilian positions before 2010. Pacific Air Forces plans 908 military and 193 civilian cuts.
Air Force officials have yet to decide where, or in what career fields, the cuts will take place. Congress decides how many civilian and military personnel each service can retain.
Servicemembers losing jobs in a realignment are eligible for retraining and priority placement; civilians are eligible for voluntary early retirement or a separation incentive.