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Entries in Kevin Maher (2)

Thursday
Mar102011

US Diplomat Steps Down over Okinawa Comments

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(TOKYO) -- A senior U.S. diplomat supervising Japan affairs stepped down Thursday over controversial remarks he reportedly made about Okinawa to American University students in Washington.

The U.S. embassy in Tokyo released a statement saying Kevin Maher, former director of the State Department's Office of Japan Affairs, has been replaced by longtime diplomat Rust Deming.

News of Maher's resignation overshadowed Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell's two-day visit to Tokyo.

In a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto, Campbell offered yet another apology for Maher's comments.

"These in no way reflect the attitudes of warmth and gratitude and friendship that the United States has for the people of Okinawa," he said.  "We are deeply apologetic for this controversy."

The State Department has been playing damage control since reports of Maher's comments disparaging Okinawans surfaced Monday.  The alleged remarks were made during a lecture in Washington about "Military Bases and Their Impacts on Okinawa" and were intended to be off-the-record.

Student notes obtained by Japanese media revealed Maher called residents of Japan's southern island "lazy" and "masters of extortion," an apparent reference to financial subsidies Tokyo pays to Okinawans in exchange for hosting U.S. military bases on the island.

Word of Maher's comments quickly spread through the Japanese media and prompted the Okinawa prefectural assembly and Naha city to adopt a resolution condemning the diplomat's statements and demanding a retraction and apology.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar092011

Japanese Furious Over U.S. Diplomat's 'Extortion' Remark

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(OKINAWA, Japan) -- Comments by a U.S. diplomat reportedly disparaging the people of Okinawa as "lazy" and "masters of extortion," have sparked outrage in Japan, and complicated already tense discussions surrounding the future of a Marine base on the country's southern island.

The comments were allegedly made by Kevin Maher, director of the State Department's Office of Japan Affairs, in an off-the-record lecture given to students at Washington's American University in December. Student notes obtained by Japanese media allege Maher made the disparaging remarks. The news first surfaced Monday, and prompted a swift response from Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano.

"If these (comments) were to be true, they not only hurt the feelings of the people of Okinawa, but all of Japan," Edano said. "It is intolerable. I am deeply saddened that this has to be reported on the news."

Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa blasted the reported comments as "extremely deplorable," while the Okinawa prefectural assembly and Naha city unanimously adopted a resolution condemning Maher's statements and demanding a retraction and apology.

According to Kyodo News, which obtained notes taken by students who attended the lecture, Maher's comments were made during a speech on "Military Bases and Their Impacts on Okinawa."

The written account claims Maher said, "Consensus building is important in Japanese culture. While the Japanese would call this 'consensus,' they mean 'extortion' and use this culture as a means of extortion."

The comments were an apparent reference to financial subsidies Tokyo pays to Okinawans in exchange for hosting U.S. military bases on the island. Students also noted that Maher called Okinawa residents "too lazy to grow goya," referring to a bitter melon, famously used in local cuisine.

News of the alleged comments have dominated Japanese media, and prompted U.S. officials to play damage control.

Edano said Ambassador John Roos personally reached out to him Tuesday, and expressed "deep regret" for the reported remarks. Edano added, that he believed the appropriate steps would be taken by Roos and the State Department. In a statement released Monday, the U.S. embassy said the comments "attributed to a U.S. government official in no way reflect U.S. government views."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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