'US mulled moving forces from Japan amid nuclear crisis'

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Japan tsunami
Tokyo, Aug 19: The US government had considered evacuating a part of its military forces out of Japan in a "worst-case scenario" in the early days of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, a former senior US diplomat said.

Moving the US troops out of the country was "one scenario that was looked at in terms of crisis management planning" in the event the radiation threat worsened, Kevin Maher, the US State Department's former Japan desk chief, said at a press conference here on Thursday.

Maher, who now works as a senior associate at NMV Consulting LLC in Washington, was discussing his position as a coordinator at the department's Japan Earthquake Task Force until early April. Prior to that, he was director of the department's Office of Japan Affairs.

Maher told the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan that the US government, being "very concerned" over the lack of "good information" on the Fukushima plant status after it was crippled by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disaster, began looking into possibly evacuating American residents as well as US forces based in Japan.

Maher's comment acknowledges for the first time that Washington had thought of moving US forces personnel out of Japan. But since the situation did not worsen, the government only recommended evacuation for its citizens living within an 80-kilometer radius of the plant as a precautionary measure, according to Maher.

He said that based on information the United States had, there have probably been "at least one, probably two meltdowns" at the Fukushima plant. It had dispatched a Global Hawk unmanned high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft to take images of the inside of buildings housing the reactors.

PTI (Kyodo)

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