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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Okinawans Urge US to Fire Maher: Ryukyu Shimpo 沖縄県民、ケビン・メアの解任を要求(琉球新報英文社説、記事)

See previous posts on Kevin Maher's controversial remarks on Okinawa.

Anger Spreads Over Kevin Maher's Derogatory Comments on Okinawans ケビン・メア 沖縄蔑視発言に怒り拡がる(英文原文)

Mark Selden on Maher: Arrogance, Expressed Crudely メア発言について、マーク・セルダン:「露骨に表現された傲慢」

On the morning of March 9th, four more municipalities in Okinawa - Nago City, Uruma City, Chatan Town, and Yomitan Village passed resolutions at their assemblies, asking Maher to rescind and apologize for his statement. Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs expressed a personal apology to reporters at an airport near Washington D.C. before he left for Japan for the 2 + 2 meeting (with Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Foreign Affairs) to be held on March 9 and 10 in Tokyo.
The State Department spokesperson Phillip Crowley avoided clarifying whose apology it will be, at the March 8 daily press briefing.


Below are English language articles by Ryukyu Shimpo, one of the two major Okinawan newspapers.

Kevin Maher’s Discriminatory Remarks
Cover of March 9 edition of Ryukyu Shimpo. The title
reads, "Derision and Insult to Okinawans."

The Ryukyu Shimpo Editorial, March 8, 2011

- The U.S. should remove him from his post and amend its views
- Lecture reflects distortion of Okinawa situation

Diplomats carry heavy responsibilities. A state’s relations with its allies or neighboring countries could be instantly damaged; friendship and trust undermined, and the setting for consultations spoiled, all of which could occur because of a single statement made by a diplomat.

“Okinawans are masters of ‘manipulation’ and ‘extortion’,” “too lazy to grow goya,” “[The Japanese] use [the] culture of consensus as a means of ‘extortion’,” “If the Japanese Constitution was changed, the United States would not be able to use Japanese land to advance US interests.”

The recent lecture delivered by Mr. Kevin Maher, the Director of the Office of Japanese Affairs at the U.S. State Department (also a former consul general in Okinawa), has provoked the ire of Okinawans in many quarters. In his remarks, sampled above, Mr. Maher repeatedly showed his contempt not only for Okinawans but also for Japanese culture and society, and laid bare the policy of giving precedence to the requirements of the U.S. military. This is a typical case in which a diplomat’s words and action end up causing serious repercussions.

Colonial attitude still alive

In the lecture delivered to an audience of American students at the U.S. State Department in December last year, Mr. Maher also stated that the Futenma Air Base was not particularly dangerous. He repeatedly expressed a similar view, without any hesitation, during his tenure as consul general. He now holds the key post of Director of the Office of Japanese Affairs at the State Department and is deeply involved in the relocation of Futenma Air Base used by the U.S. military. Despite this, if he does not take seriously the fact that both the U.S. and Japan have already admitted the dangers posed by the air base, it would shake the fundamental basis of the agreement between the two countries.

Mr. Maher is in the position of handing up his opinions to Secretary of State Clinton. The matter is more serious because he has been an advocate of the relocation of the air base to Henoko in Nago.
Mr. Maher’s speech is a reflection of the negative legacy of the Battle of Okinawa. The occupier mentality, which claims that “America controls Okinawa, land won through the sacrifice of American blood,” is still alive, and largely projected onto the distorted views of Okinawa and Japan held by some U.S. government officials.

Such a mentality is completely lacking in the diplomatic tradition that matters of concern among countries should be resolved by being based on mutual respect for history, culture, and national character. In fact, this is a quality essential in a diplomat. The occupier mentality throws into relief the attitude of complacency and unilateralism, which only takes into account America’s own interests.

We Okinawans want to demand that the United States government take immediate measures to dismiss Mr. Maher who has exhibited strong biases against Okinawans and the Japanese.

Although the American Embassy in Tokyo issued an unusual statement to say that Mr. Maher’s comments do not reflect the official views of the U.S. government, it is still not clear which part of his views really differ from those of his government, and thus the statement is not sufficient. If Washington does not take action against Mr. Maher, it only means it has accepted his views.

As in the case of the recent speech made by former Prime Minister Hatoyama, who said that the “deterrence capability” argument which he used last year was simply “an expedient,” the real nature of the problem this time will not be understood if it is treated simply as an individual instance of a slip of the tongue or lapse in his professionalism.

Unintentional or not, Mr. Maher’s remarks should be seen as revealing the true opinions of the United States, and accordingly, the Japanese government should take resolute action. If it fails to lodge a firm protest, it, too, will be seen to be endorsing Mr. Maher’s views.

The news about Mr. Maher’s lecture was reported on the 7th. However, what is hard to understand is that there was only a minimal ripple of reaction among the politicians and officials in Tokyo’s Nagata-cho and Kasumigaseki districts.
Okinawans, express your wills!

With reference to the plan to relocate Futenma Air Base, Mr. Maher said in the lecture, “Tokyo needs to tell the Governor of Okinawa, ‘if you want money, sign up to the plan!’” It reveals the view that the relocation of Futenma within the prefecture, which a large proportion of the Okinawan population opposes, would be implemented by an offer of money. It testifies to Mr. Maher’s blind eye to the fundamental shift that has occurred in Okinawan opinion on base problems. Now, Okinawan politicians detest the policy of “bases in return for compensation,” a feeling which transcends party lines. Mr. Maher’s view, however, still reflects such a policy.

Mr. Maher was the consul general in Okinawa from 2006 to 2009. When there was a nonpartisan request for the revision of the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement, he declared that local politicians were “making a political issue” out of this agreement. He made numerous other comments which used to rub Okinawans the wrong way.

While in that post, Mr. Maher repeatedly said that frank exposition of issues, and not separation of honne (one’s true opinions) from tatemae (public stance), is necessary for the practical resolution of the Futenma issue. He also said that the basic principle for a diplomat is not to tell a lie. If that is true, his scornful remarks this time must also reflect his frank views.

While he was consul general, he did not develop close relations with political and economic leaders in Okinawa, and failed to demonstrate any rapport with Governor Nakaima. He tended to establish relations only with those who accepted the relocation of Futenma within Okinawa, and paid no attention to people whose ideas were different from his own.

The major concern for Okinawans is that, since Mr. Maher is a recognized “Japan hand,” his distorted views on Okinawa may be influencing Washington’s stance on the negotiations over Futenma, the consequence of which might be unfavorable to Okinawa.

In Washington, a view that Governor Nakaima may accept the relocation of Futenma within Okinawa in exchange for development aid is more widespread than before. However, there will be no solution to base problems unless Okinawan wishes are taken into account. It is important that the people of this prefecture take a firm stance and stand up to any proposal that is contrary to their wishes.


Okinawans Urge US State Department to Fire Maher

Ryukyu Shimpo, March 9, 2011

The reported disparaging of Okinawans by Kevin Maher, Director of the US Department of State’s Office of Japanese Affairs and a former consul general in Okinawa, has outraged many observers in Okinawa.
They angrily accused Maher of seeing Okinawa as an American colony, and claim that there is little to distinguish his views from those of the US High Commissioners who reigned supreme in Okinawa before its reversion to Japan.

Those observers claim that the Department of State should ask Maher to resign. Maher is reported as having said that “(Okinawan) people try to extract as much money as possible by pretending to seek consensus.” Following that comment, the mayors of the municipalities that host the US military bases objected strongly, saying, “Money is not the issue!”

Political scientist and Okinawa International University Professor Manabu Sato concluded that what Maher had said were “his genuine views.”

The statements were made as part of a lecture to a group of university students in the US, and on the understanding that he was speaking off the record.

Sato also pointed out that Maher still sees Okinawa as a US strategic colony, which indicates Okinawa is still suffering from the kind of discrimination of which it was a victim under the High Commissioners.

Considering that Maher holds such an important position as Director of the Office of Japanese Affairs within the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Sato expressed concern that he has been extending his biased ideas that Okinawans would accept the US military bases if they were given more money or if pressure were exerted on them.

The recipients of such views could be Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Zenji Shimada, leader of a Futenma group suing the government over noise pollution, is one who was exasperated at Maher’s alleged remarks. He said, “Local residents are living on the edge. During his term as consul general, Maher repeatedly stated that Futenma base was not a source of danger. He still seems to entertain the same view, and we find that highly offensive.”

Knowing Maher has been an advocate of relocating the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to the Henoko coastal district of Nago, KENko, a musician and resident of Ginowan City, strongly asserted that the government of Japan should take Okinawa’s side and say “NO” to the US government instead of putting the onus on Okinawa.

KENko said, “Okinawa has persistently expressed its determination in rejecting the US military bases as we have seen in election results and at protest rallies”.

Douglas Lummis, a political scientist and an ex-Marine, said that in view of Maher’s insults it is important that the State Department demand Maher’s resignation. It would be a well-advised move unless it wants to be seen as accepting discriminatory remarks aimed at a partner and an ally.

Teruo Onishi is a member of Nago City Council in northern Okinawa and a critic opposed both to the construction of the U.S. sea-borne heliport and to the relocation of the Futenma base to Nago.
Onishi offered the view that Maher deliberately passed such remarks in order to make the Kan administration bend to US policy, and added that he was trying to throw Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima off balance in order to force him to accept the relocation of the Futenma base elsewhere in the prefecture.

“Maher used to pass various remarks that deprecated Okinawa while he was Consul General,” Onishi added.

Masatake Kyoda is a co-leader of the voluntary group that conditionally accepts the relocation of the Futenma base to Henoko. He argued for the hasty relocation of Futenma base, saying, “Although the US doesn’t see Futenma as posing serious risks to the safety of the local population, Okinawa and the government of Japan both do. The relocation of a dangerous base should be undertaken immediately before any further accidents occur.”

"Okinawans, Masters of Extortion”
- U.S. Diplomat Makes Disparaging Remarks

Ryukyu Shimpo, March 9, 2011

Kevin Maher, director of the Japanese Affairs Office at the U.S. State Department and former consul general in Okinawa, has described Okinawan people as masters of “manipulation” and “extortion” in their dealings with the Tokyo government and in relation to the Futenma issue.

He delivered his critical observations during a lecture to the students of American University in Washington D.C. late last year. He explained “They use the “wa” or harmony element of Japanese culture as means of extortion.”

As an official involved in working-level consultations between Washington and Tokyo, Maher has been deeply involved in the negotiations on the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma relocation plan.
He is an advocate of relocation of the air station to Cape Henoko in Nago City in the northern area of Okinawa Island, the site of the existing Camp Schwab.

Once disclosed, his remarks drew immediate criticism for their discriminatory implications and because of his lack of awareness of the Okinawan and Japanese situation and of local feeling.

According to reports of what he had said, based on summary notes written by students, who had attended the State Department lecture, Maher explained that Japanese culture is one of “wa”, which is based on consensus. Okinawans use that consensus culture as a means of “extortion,” and they try to get as much money as possible through a pretense of seeking consensus.

In their relations with Tokyo, Mayer saw Okinawans as masters of “manipulation” and “extortion.”
As an illustrative aside, he remarked that “Okinawans are too lazy to grow their own goya (the bitter cucumber vegetable and a local specialty)”.

As head of the Japan desk, he said with absolute certainty that Tokyo officials “only need to tell Hirokazu Nakaima, the governor of Okinawa Prefecture, ‘If you want money, sign here!’ ” in order to give the green light to the Futenma Air Base relocation plan.

Maher made the emphatic point that Futenma posed no uniquely specific dangers since the civilian airports at Fukuoka and Osaka were similarly situated, that is also surrounded by residential areas.

The students who attended the lecture have confirmed the contents of his lecture. They were all shocked at how such remarks betrayed inappropriate prejudice and racism coming, as they did, from someone of his high-ranking official position.

Maher delivered his lecture on December 3 at the invitation of American University in D.C., to 14 students who had been undertaking two-week study tours of Tokyo and Okinawa.

Maher had an understanding with the university that his lecture would be “off the record.”

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