It was especially noteworthy when, at a State Department briefing on Wednesday night, spokesman Mark Toner admitted that Washington was no longer following the guidance of its close East Asian ally. The U.S. government is now telling American citizens who live within 80 kilometers of the badly damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to evacuate the area—the Japanese government is only asking people within 20 kilometers to leave. Previously, the United States had aligned itself with the Japanese recommendations. What led to that change? Toner was asked. “Well, I mean, obviously, it’s a very fluid situation,” he said…

All governments dissemble of course, especially when disaster strikes, but the Japanese have sometimes been especially egregious. In 1995, the Monju experimental fast-breeder reactor sprung a massive leak of liquid sodium, and it was later discovered that the semi-governmental agency that ran it had actually falsified the video of the event. Earlier on in the 1990s, Japan was accused of not divulging full plans for overseas shipments of plutonium. Japan has been far more forthcoming in recent years, said David Albright, a former Iraq inspector who runs a respected nuclear-tracking organization called the Institute for Science and International Security. But Albright worries that Japan may be reverting to form, and that misinformation—or no information—is now coming out of Tokyo.