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

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    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.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.