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Japanese editorial excerpts -3-.

NAHA, Japan, March 9 Kyodo

Selected editorial from the Japanese press:

KEVIN MAHER'S DISCRIMINATORY REMARKS (The Ryukyu Shimpo, special English version published Tuesday on the Okinawa-based Japanese-language daily)

-- 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.

If a similar set of remarks had been made about American citizens, would it have been possible for the American Congress, which is sensitive to racial discrimination, to have overlooked them? One wonders whether the Japanese government's reluctance to create any discord with the United States, and its tendency to be a follower of that country, is again the reason for not responding resolutely, even though the Japanese culture of consensus has been slighted as a ''means of extortion.''

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.

(March 8)
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Mar 14, 2011
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