On relief duty after Okinawa slur, chided U.S. diplomat Maher quits

by Masami Ito

A U.S. diplomat who allegedly made disparaging comments about Okinawa that caused him to be sacked last month as the head of Japanese affairs resigned Wednesday from the State Department.

Without directly commenting on the resignation of Kevin Maher, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Thursday that many Japanese found it difficult to understand how he could remain involved in U.S.-Japanese relations.

After being replaced as the chief of the Office of Japanese Affairs on March 12, Maher was kept on to serve as a coordinator for the special U.S. task force set up to assist Japan after the March 11 disaster.

“Given what happened, not only the Okinawan people but many Japanese people found it difficult to accept him working inside the U.S. government dealing with Japan-U.S. relations or especially Okinawan affairs,” Edano said. “I would like to accept the fact as it is, that he is no longer in that position.”

Maher allegedly called the Okinawans “lazy’ and “masters of manipulation and extortion” in its prolonged dealings with Tokyo on hosting U.S military bases. The comments angered many Japanese and prompted an official apology from the U.S. government.

Edano stressed the statements did not reflect the official views of Washington.

“From the beginning, the U.S. government has said that its views are completely different from that of Maher’s alleged statements in media reports,” Edano said. “And we have urged (Washington) to make efforts to show its position to the Japanese people, especially the Okinawans.”

Maher, a former consul general in Okinawa, allegedly made the discriminatory comments in an off-the-record meeting with 14 students from American University in December. Maher’s statements were compiled by several students who attended the meeting and were reported in early March.

Clinton visit next week

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) Final arrangements are being made for U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to visit Tokyo late next week to enhance cooperation on the Tohoku disaster, U.S. diplomatic sources said Wednesday.

Washington is exploring the possibility of talks between Clinton and Prime Minister Naoto Kan as well as Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto, the sources said.

Clinton is expected to discuss how to deal with the nuclear crisis and reconstruction efforts, they said, adding she will probably pledge Washington’s full support.