A U.S. official in charge of Japanese affairs at the State Department is said to have likened the Japanese cultural principle of maintaining social harmony to “extortion” and described Okinawans as “lazy” during a speech in Washington late last year.
According to a written account compiled by students who attended the lecture at the State Department, Kevin Maher, head of the Japanese affairs office and a former consul general in Okinawa Prefecture, described Okinawan people as “masters of manipulation and extortion” when dealing with the central government.
The article goes on:
Maher gave the speech Dec. 3 at the request of American University to a group of 14 students who were about to embark on a roughly two-week study tour of Tokyo and Okinawa.
In the speech, Maher was quoted as saying, “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,” he said.
Maher also criticized the people of Okinawa as “too lazy to grow ‘goya’ (bitter gourd),” a traditional summer vegetable in the prefecture, according to the account.
Maher served as the consul general in Okinawa from 2006 to 2009 after joining the State Department in 1981 and being posted to Tokyo and Fukuoka.
In the summer of 2008, while he was posted in Okinawa, Maher sparked controversy after questioning why the local authorities were allowing the construction of homes in the residential area around the Futenma air base. Plaintiffs seeking damages over noise from the U.S. base then presented him with a written demand calling on him to immediately leave Okinawa.
Magosaki, former head of the international intelligence office at the Foreign Ministry, said he had the impression that “U.S. officials in charge of recent U.S.-Japan negotiations shared ideas like those of Mr. Maher,” adding “in that sense, his remarks were not especially distorted.”
Who needs Wikileaks when State Department officials are willing to put their own feet in their mouths? Meanwhile, as the Financial Times reports, Secretary of State Clinton warned Congress about the waning U.S. influence in the Asia Pacific region vis a vis China:
In an appearance before Congress, Mrs Clinton highlighted the “unbelievable” competition with China for influence over islands in the Pacific, with development of Papua New Guinea’s “huge” energy reserves one of the key issues at stake.
Arguing against proposed cuts to the state department budget, she added that the US was already losing an “information war” to al-Jazeera, the Arab news channel, with Russia and China increasing their international broadcasting as Washington and London pulled back.
“We are in a competition for influence with China; let’s put aside the moral, humanitarian, do-good side of what we believe in, and let’s just talk straight realpolitik,” she told the Senate foreign relations committee, as she appealed to its members to keep state department funding intact.
The waning U.S. influence may be more related to the arrogant policies of the U.S. as reflected in the statements of Mr. Maher than any cut in funding for the state department or competition from China.