US diplomat calls Okinawans 'lazy'

A senior US diplomat supervising Japan affairs has been replaced for allegedly making disparaging comments about Japanese people living on a southern island where US troops are based.

Kevin Maher caused an uproar by reportedly telling a group of American university students in December that Okinawans were lazy and used their hosting of US bases to extort benefits from Tokyo. The comments have been widely reported in the Japanese media, and Japan's Foreign Minister called them hurtful and deeply regrettable.

Okinawa hosts tens of thousands of US Marines and other troops, more than any other part of Japan. Okinawans often complain that they bear too much of the burden for Japan's security alliance with Washington.

Under their mutual security pact, about 50,000 US troops are stationed in Japan.