News / Asia

Former US Diplomat Criticizes Japan's Nuclear Response

Farmer Sumiko Matsuno, left, and her friend, bag carrots on her farm to eat as she fears no one will buy them with the current radiation fallout in Fukushima, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, March 24, 2011. (file photo)
Farmer Sumiko Matsuno, left, and her friend, bag carrots on her farm to eat as she fears no one will buy them with the current radiation fallout in Fukushima, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, March 24, 2011. (file photo)

Multimedia

Audio

A former high-level U.S. diplomat, who was posted in Japan for many years, is speaking out about Tokyo's initial response to the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

He is also revealing the level of concern that was expressed behind closed doors in Washington at that time.

After a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and historic tsunami battered northeastern Japan on March 11 a veteran U.S. diplomat, who had just been removed from the top post on the island of Okinawa, was among those put in charge of a crisis task force in Washington.

Kevin Maher says American decision-makers quickly realized there was little reliable data coming from their Japanese counterparts about the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant.

"There was a point where we told the Japanese government, 'Look you guys got to take this seriously. This is a real serious situation. The government needs to respond to this.' And, I think the [Japanese] government eventually came to that conclusion, itself," he said.

Maher says that was based on flights over the crippled nuclear plant by a U.S. Air Force (RQ-4) Global Hawk remotely piloted plane. The unmanned aircraft took photographs and could roughly gauge temperatures inside the damaged reactor and spent fuel buildings.

"And when you looked at the information we did have, it was very clear to me early on that there had probably been at least one, probably two meltdowns," Maher stated.

Maher recalls that prompted the U.S. government to explore scenarios for evacuations, including transporting 100,000 American citizens from the Tokyo metropolitan area.

That did not happen. Instead the State Department advised U.S. citizens to keep 80 kilometers away from the Fukushima plant. Plume projections modeled by U.S. agencies did not show significant levels of radiation would envelope the capital. But a voluntary departure plan for U.S. government employee families in Japan was also implemented.

Maher blamed Japan's confusing and belated response to the crisis on the government’s traditional consensus decision-making process. He says crucial information was not being shared among relevant Japanese government ministries and agencies.

Maher, who is fluent in Japanese and has spent 19 years living in Japan, is known for being outspoken, not a typical trait for diplomats.

Maher had been ousted from his post as Director of the Office of Japan Affairs of March 10, the day before the disaster struck.

Maher retired from diplomatic service in April after allegations that he made offensive comments about Okinawans during an off-the-record State Department briefing last December for students from American University in Washington.

The comments, based on a student memo composed in mid-February, were first revealed by the Kyodo news agency.

Maher denied saying Okinawans were "lazy" or "masters of manipulation and extortion." He called the newspaper story fraudulent and says he was misquoted by students who had links to anti-base activists. He says the Kyodo reporter was more interested in pursuing a political agenda than accurately reflecting his comments.

The former diplomat says the U.S. ambassador in Japan and State Department officials denied him a chance to rebut the remarks because they did not want the issue to escalate at a time of sensitive discussions about the future of American military bases on Okinawa.

A book that Maher, now a consultant, wrote in Japanese, "The Japan That Can't Decide" was released here Thursday.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs