Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano lodged a protest Tuesday with U.S. Ambassador John Roos over comments by a State Department official that allegedly disparaged the Okinawa people.
The Okinawa Prefectural Assembly meanwhile unanimously adopted a resolution seeking a retraction and apology over the comments by Kevin Maher, who heads the State Department’s Japanese affairs office.
Maher reportedly described Okinawa’s residents as “masters of manipulation and extortion.”
He was discussing issues related to the political deadlock over the relocation of the U.S. Futenma air base in Okinawa during a private meeting with U.S. college students.
According to the prefectural resolution, Maher’s remarks were unacceptable because they disregard the feelings of the people of Okinawa, and ridicule and insult the local residents.
The Naha Municipal Assembly adopted a similar resolution.
Excerpts of Maher’s lecture, according to students
Following are excerpts from an off-the-record lecture given by Kevin Maher, who heads the Office of Japan Affairs at the U.S. State Department, as written down and compiled by a group of students in December at the request of American University before they took a trip to Okinawa. Kyodo News obtained a copy of the memo from students who attended the lecture. Under the road map, Japan will provide money for the relocation and it is a sign of a tangible effort from Japan. The DPJ government has delayed implementation, but I am confident that the government will implement the existing plan. Tokyo needs to tell the Okinawan governor, “If you want money, sign it (agree to the relocation plan).” There is nowhere else to base U.S. Marines. The DPJ suggested a replacement facility in mainland Japan, but there is no place in mainland Japan for the U.S. military. Japanese culture is a culture of “wa” (harmony) that is based on consensus. Consensus-building is important in Japanese culture. While the Japanese would call this “consensus,” they mean “extortion” and use this culture of consensus as a means of “extortion.” By pretending to seek consensus, people try to get as much money as possible. Okinawans are masters of “manipulation” and “extortion” of Tokyo.
“If by any chance the media reports are true, it is an inappropriate remark as an official in charge of Japanese affairs and is intolerable,” Edano reportedly told Roos during their chat.
“I will do my best to resolve the matter,” Roos was quoted by Edano as saying.
The 15-minute telephone conversation was held at Roos’ request.
Edano said he urged Washington to take “necessary measures,” without elaborating.
He added that if the U.S. doesn’t act, the incident could adversely affect the planned relocation of the Futenma base.
The U.S. Embassy issued a statement saying Roos conveyed “deep regrets” over the matter to Edano during their conversation, and that Maher’s alleged remarks “in no way reflect the U.S. government policy.”
Zenshin Takamine, chairman of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly, and other assembly representatives are expected to visit the embassy later this week and submit a letter of protest.
According to a written account of the lecture Maher gave in Washington in December, he said: “Consensus-building is important in Japanese culture. While the Japanese would call this ‘consensus,’ they mean ‘extortion’ and use this culture of consensus as a means of extortion.”
He has told Kyodo News the lecture was an off-the-record event and said the account made available to the news service was “neither accurate nor complete.”
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