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Man arrested for throwing coffee at U.S. diplomat on Okinawa

By CHIYOMI SUMIDA | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 9, 2009

URASOE, Okinawa — A 43-year-old Japanese man was arrested Monday for allegedly throwing hot coffee at U.S. Consul General Kevin Maher at a Naha coffee shop, Okinawa prefectural police said Tuesday.

Kazuo Yamamoto of Naha approached Maher at a Starbucks at about 4 p.m., throwing coffee on Maher’s trousers and shoes before pushing him and demanding he leave Okinawa, according to the police report. Maher took control of Yamamoto and held him until officers arrived, a police spokesman said.

The spokesman said Yamamoto admitted to the accusations, saying it was to protest the way Maher handled the recent port call of two U.S. minesweepers on the small island of Ishigaki.

The USS Patriot and USS Guardian, both forward-deployed to Sasebo Naval Base, Japan, arrived at Ishigaki on Friday morning for a three-day liberty call.

About 100 protesters blocked the gate at the port, preventing sailors from disembarking for nearly half a day.

Maher was at the port to welcome the ships and help coordinate an exchange between local government and U.S. Navy officials, according to U.S. consulate officials.

The ships departed Sunday after participating in two community service projects — cleaning and clearing weeds and debris from two World War II memorials and visiting a children’s home to donate sporting equipment and play with the children there, according to Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Denver Applehans.

There were no injuries in Monday’s incident, and police expected to send the assault case to Naha Public Prosecutor’s Office on Wednesday, the police spokesman said. Thomas Kreutzer, a spokesman for the U.S. Consulate General in Naha, said the office is taking the incident seriously since it involved an American diplomat.

"We’re lucky that there were no serious injuries," he said. "But at this time we’re not able to comment."

Stars and Stripes reporter Natasha Lee contributed to this story.


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