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US Apologizes to Japan for Diplomat's Okinawa Remarks


U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell speaks to the media upon his arrival at Narita international airport, March 9, 2011.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell speaks to the media upon his arrival at Narita international airport, March 9, 2011.

A senior U.S. diplomat has apologized to Japan on behalf of the United States for remarks in which a subordinate reportedly referred to the people of Okinawa as "lazy" and its politicians guilty of "extortion."

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell spoke late Wednesday in Japan at the start of a two-day visit.

He said the comments attributed to State Department official Kevin Maher do not reflect the views of the U.S. government. Campbell said he will extend formal apologies Thursday to Japanese officials.

Maher is the State Department's Director of Japan Affairs. His remarks were reportedly made off-the-record during a meeting in Washington in December with a group of students. They were widely carried in Japanese media and based on notes taken by the students.

The comments sparked angry reactions from Okinawa residents and officials in Tokyo. The Asahi daily newspaper said local Okinawan lawmakers unanimously passed a resolution condemning the reported comments and demanding an apology.

Okinawa hosts more than half of the 47,000 U.S. military personnel stationed in Japan -- despite vocal opposition from many residents who complain of noise, aircraft safety risks and occasional crimes by some of the Americans.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

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