U.S. Diplomat Replaced After Calling Okinawans 'Lazy' and 'Masters of Extortion'

A senior U.S. diplomat supervising Japan affairs stepped down Thursday.

ByABC News
March 9, 2011, 11:14 PM

March 10, 2011 Tokyo, Japan — -- A senior U.S. diplomat supervising Japan affairs abruptly left his post today after the State Department apologized for comments he allegedly made calling the people of Okinawa "lazy" and "masters of extortion."

The U.S. embassy in Tokyo released a statement saying Kevin Maher, former director of the State Department's Office of Japan Affairs has been replaced by longtime diplomat Rust Deming.

News of Maher's replacement overshadowed Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell's two-day visit to Tokyo.

In a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto, Campbell offered yet another apology for Maher's comments.

"These in no way reflect the attitudes of warmth and gratitude and friendship that the United States has for the people of Okinawa," he said. "We are deeply apologetic for this controversy."

The State Department has been playing damage control, since reports of Maher's comments disparaging Okinawans surfaced Monday.

The alleged remarks were made during a lecture to American University students in Washington about "Military Bases and Their Impacts on Okinawa."

Student notes obtained by Japanese media, claims Maher called residents of Japan's southern island "lazy" and "masters of extortion," an apparent reference to financial subsidies Tokyo pays to Okinawans in exchange for hosting U.S. military bases on the island.