Maher, the now-ex-head of the State Department's Japan desk,
himself most undiplomatic, making disparaging comments
that have triggered
an uncharacteristically angry response from Japan.
Nishinippon Shimbun, Japan
'Outraged' By U.S. Diplomat's 'Unbelievable Act of Contempt'
"This is an act of contempt against
Japan. … the friendship and trust built up between America and Japan will
crumble if such a person is permitted to continue leading American diplomacy
toward Japan. … The U.S. government’s fundamental understanding and stance
toward Japan and Okinawa are now in doubt."
At 2:46pm local time, one of the largest earthquakes in modern history struck Japan. The ensuing tsunami triggered a 33-foot wave that swept away cars, homes, buildings - and people. The death toll is almost certainly in the thousands.
[Editor's Note: This editorial was
published before the massive 8.9 earthquake that struck Japan on Friday in
mid-afternoon - or early in the morning in the United States. Clearly, as
regrettable as the issues raised in this article are, they pale in comparison
to the struggle Japan confronts today. On behalf of the people of the United
States and Worldmeets.US, I want to express our deepest concern for and
solidarity with the people of Japan who have been affected. As they emerge from
this horrendous natural disaster, we wish our friends in Japan Godspeed. --
Managing Editor William Kern]
Coming from the previous U.S. consul general in Okinawa and the current
head of the State Department’s Japan desk - in effect, America's Japanese
policy chief - the comments are unbelievable. If the string of reported comments
is in fact true, they discriminate against and insult Okinawa and trample on
the feelings of its people. What’s more, it is an act of contempt against
No matter how much the U.S.
Embassy tries to excuse itself by saying that the comments don't reflect the views
of its government, the friendship and trust built up between America and Japan
will crumble if such a person is permitted to continue leading American
diplomacy toward Japan. We ask the U.S. government to immediately remove the
source of these comments, the head of the Japan desk, Kevin Maher. It isn't
enough for him to retract his comments or issue a personal apology. The U.S.
government’s fundamental understanding and stance toward Japan and Okinawa are now
Mr. Maher’s comments were made
late last year, during a lecture held at the State Department for students at
American University before their visit to Japan. Okinawa was included in their
itinerary. Mr. Maher’s remarks came to light after a transcript was released
based on notes taken by several of the students.
According to the transcript, Mr.
Maher stated, as part of an explanation of Japan's culture of consensus and its
concept of “wa” (harmony), that “while the Japanese would call this ‘consensus,’ they
mean ‘extortion,’ and they use this culture of consensus as a means of ‘blackmail.’
By pretending to seek consensus, people try to get as much money as possible.” He
repeatedly made derogatory comments throughout the lecture, such as “Okinawans
are masters at ‘manipulating’ and ‘extorting’ Tokyo” and“Okinawans
are too lazy to even grow goya,”
referring to the vegetable used in Okinawan cuisine.
Furthermore, he presented his theory that, “although Okinawans claim that
Corps. Air Station in Futenma is the most dangerous base in the world, they
know this isn't true. Fukuoka Airport and Osaka Itami Airport are just as
Live English-language coverage of earthquake's aftermath
the U.S. diplomat in charge of negotiating the return and relocation of the Futenma
Marine base disregards the risk it presents, which is a commonly understood, then
the talks have no foundation and will collapse.
Posted by WORLDMEETS.US
not only denies the significance of the 1996 agreement signed by the United States to return the air base, but the history and path of negotiations on the
issue. These are statements that could badly undermine trust between the United
States and Japan. Moreover, this callous rant tramples on the hopes and efforts
of the people of Okinawa.
Maher is a diplomat with extensive experience in Japan, working at the U.S.
Embassy in Tokyo in the 1980s before becoming a consul in Fukuoka and Okinawa. But
what did he learn of Japan? If these allegations are true, it must be said that
his view of Okinawa and Japan is a distorted one.
day after Maher's comments made headlines,
the Okinawa Prefecture Assembly unanimously passed a protest resolution saying that
it, “absolutely cannot condone such mockery of Okinawans.” Naha and Urazoe City
assemblies put forward a resolution requesting a retraction of the comments, an
apology, and Mr. Maher’s resignation as head of the State Department Japan
desk. Their anger should come as no surprise.
What defies comprehension is
the sluggish response of the Japanese government. The chief cabinet secretary
protested to the U.S. ambassador by phone, saying that, “if the comments are
true, they are unacceptable.” However, it transpired that the call was made at
the request of the American ambassador, in order to avoid any detrimental
effects on U.S.-Japan relations. The Kan Cabinet will be abandoned by both the
U.S. and Okinawa if it can't even urge the United States to verify the facts
and remedy the situation.
[Editor's Note: Kevin Maher,
while he was dismissed from his post ashead of the State Department’s Japan
desk on Thursday, remains a State Department employee.]
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