Sunday, June 17, 2018

FORSAKE HUMAN RIGHTS IN PURSUIT OF THE DEAL WITH A TYRANT?

It is not the American ideal.

BY MARVIN HIER AND ABRAHAM COOPER
,
Rabbi Marvin Hier is founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human rights organization named for the famed Nazi hunter and Holocaust survivor. Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean of the center and director of its Global Social Action programs.

The Hill, 6/17/18

In the biblical narrative, King Solomon, described as the wisest of men, was confronted by two women who shared a house. They each claimed to be the mother of an infant boy while insisting that another newborn, just deceased, belonged to the other mother.

King Solomon pondered the claims of each and ordered, “Bring me a sword.” The king then said, “Cut the living child in two, and give half to one and half to the other.”

The woman who claimed that her living son was stolen from her said, “Please, my lord, give her the living child and do not kill it.” But the other woman said, “Neither mine nor yours shall he be. Cut!”

King Solomon, who based his decision on a keen understanding of human nature and an intuitive sense of ethics, declared, “Give the first woman the living child and do not kill it; for she is his mother.”

No American president has ever possessed the genius of a King Solomon. Yet, every president has faced critical decisions that would have left even King Solomon deeply conflicted.

Let’s start with the just completed historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. The stated goal was the removal of the growing nuclear threat from Pyongyang, in return for unspecified security guarantees. Human rights groups, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, are urging that the president also address a basket of human-rights issues, including dismantling North Korea’s infamous gulag and allowing religious freedom.

Activists question whether President Trump or any president should ever provide “security guarantees” to a regime that crushes the human dignity of millions its own citizens. Some critics express dismay that the president didn’t explicitly call out Kim’s crimes at the summit and, instead, lavished him with praise.

Yet, to be fair to President Trump, some of his predecessors in the Oval Office did just that and, it could be argued, even worse.

President Barack Obama and then-Secretary of State John Kerry decided it was in the best interest of the United States to pursue a policy of rapprochement with the theocratic Iranian regime of Ayatollah Khamenei; they pursued a deal that supposedly kicked the nuclear threat down the road for a number of years. To achieve that goal, they turned a deaf ear to Iranian protesters seeking relief from the mullahocracy.

In pursuit of their diplomatic goal, President Obama’s team legitimized a regime that is the world’s greatest Holocaust denier and state-sponsor of worldwide terrorism, while forking over billions of dollars to Tehran.

Mr. Obama would argue that he reached the conclusion that slowing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, in return for enabling Tehran to expand its dangerous bad behavior, served the best interests of the United States.

During the 20th century, America made even more debatable decisions. At the end of World War II, former allies who defeated Hitler’s Germany quickly turned into enemies with the onset of the Cold War. After the 1946 Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, Moscow, London and Washington quickly spurned further trials of Nazis; they were too busy recruiting them. Klaus Barbie, the infamous “Butcher of Lyon,” was hidden from French prosecution by the United States, putting him to work to identify communists.

The perceived threat to our national security from Soviet Russia, led the United States (under a Democratic president) to bring at least 88 prominent Nazi scientists to America; among them were those who used slave labor for their rocket programs or experimented with nerve gas on concentration camp victims. Our intelligence services never informed the Justice Department about them, and even hid their WWII crimes from the Justice Department. But in the midst of the Cold War, it had to be done, lest the Soviets beat us to the punch.

In occupied Japan, the United States shielded war criminal Gen. Ishii Shiro from Soviet prosecutors in return for his sharing results of experiments conducted on live POWs without anesthetic at the infamous Unit 731 in Manchuria.

So, should President Trump rely on these and other precedents and prepare to sacrifice some of our values on the altar of “national security”? Or is there a Solomonic path for the United States to remove the nuclear threat and guarantee human rights simultaneously?

America already achieved the latter — and with a much more dangerous foe: During the Cold War, President Ronald Reagan and then-Secretary of State George Shultz, rather than decoupling human rights from the nuclear arms race, used the issue of freedom for Soviet Jewry as the litmus test for Soviet intentions on nuclear disarmament. Eventually, human rights prevailed, and the communist system dissolved without a shot being fired.

The United States should counter Kim’s cycle of “charm offensives” not through appeasement but through verifiable changes. It is important to witness the blowing up of one nuclear test site but, of equal importance, will be the dismantling of Kim’s gulag. Only when that occurs can the world be assured that the two estranged Koreas are on the path to a peaceful reunification and a hopeful future for all.

Monday in Washington June 18 2018

ASSESSING THE TRUMP-KIM SUMMIT. 6/18, 9:00am-4:30pm. Sponsors: CSIS, Korea Foundation. Speakers: Dr. John Hamre, President and CEO, CSIS; Ambassador Lee Sihyung, President, Korea Foundation; Lim Sung-nam, First Vice Foreign Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Korea; Rachel Martin, Host, Morning Edition and Up First, National Public Radio; Dr. Sue Mi Terry, Senior Fellow, Korea Chair, CSIS; Dr. Paik Haksoon, President, The Sejong Institute; Dr. Kim Joon Hyung, Professor, Handong Global University; Evan Osnos, Staff Writer, New Yorker; Rebecca Hersman, Director, Project on Nuclear Issues, Senior Adviser, International Security Program, CSIS; John Schaus, Fellow, International Security Program, CSIS; Dr. Yoon Young-kwan, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Korea; Dr. Lee Sang Hyun, Senior Research Fellow, The Sejong Institute; Dr. Kim Heung-Kyu, Professor, Ajou University; Dr. Michael Green, Senior Vice President and Japan Chair, CSIS, Professor and Director, Asian Studies Program, Georgetown University; Christopher Johnson, Senior Adviser and Freeman Chair, China Studies, CSIS; Dr. Lee Hochul, Professor, Incheon National University; Dr. Lee Shin-wha, Professor, Korea University; Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO); Moderators: Ambassador Mark Lippert, Vice President, Boeing International, Former U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, U.S. Department of State; Dr. Victor Cha, Senior Adviser and Korea Chair, CSIS; D.S. Song-KF Professor of Government, Georgetown University. 

RESTORING RESTRAINT: ENFORCING ACCOUNTABILITY FOR USERS OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS. 6/19, 9:30-11:30am. Sponsor: CSIS. Speakers: H.E. Mr Ahmet Üzümcü, Director-General, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Moderator: Rebecca Hersman, Director, Project on Nuclear Issues, Senior Adviser, International Security Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies.  

A CONVERSATION WITH MEMBERS OF THE UNIVERSITY CLIMATE CHANGE COALITION. 6/18, 2:30-4:00pm. Sponsor: CSIS. Speakers: The Hon. Janet Napolitano, President, University of California; The Hon. Kristina M. Johnson, PhD, Chancellor, The State University of New York; Timothy Carter, PhD, President, Second Nature. Moderator: Sarah Ladislaw, Senior Vice President and Director, Energy & National Security Program, CSIS.

CHINESE EXPANSION AND THE SOUTH CHINA SEA: BEIJING’S STRATEGIC AMBITION AND THE ASIAN ORDER. 6/18, 3:00-4:00pm, Washington, DC. Sponsors: Asia Program, Wilson Center; Kissinger Institute on China and the United States. Speakers: Author Humphrey Hawksley, BBC Foreign Correspondent, Asian Waters: The Struggle Over the South China Sea and the Strategy of Chinese Expansion; Bob Drogin, Deputy Washington Bureau Chief and National Security Editor, Los Angeles Times; James Clad, Senior Advisor for Asia, CNA Corporation and former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asia.

UNELECTED POWER: CENTRAL BANKING, THE REGULATORY STATE, AND DEMOCRATIC LEGITIMACY. 6/18, 3:30-5:00pm. Sponsor: AEI. Speakers: Sarah Binder, Brookings Institution, George Washington University; Sir Paul Tucker, Harvard Kennedy School, Systemic Risk Council; Stan Veuger, AEI; Philip Wallach, R Street Institute. 

AN EVENING WITH PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR JENNIFER PALMIERI. 6/18, 6:30-8:30pm. Sponsor: Woman’s National Democratic Club. Speaker: Author, Jennifer Palmieri, Hillary Clinton's Communications Director, Dear Madame President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

North Koreans Also Have Human Rights

By Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean and director of the Global Social Action Agenda of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Greg Scarlatoiu executive director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) and APP member.

Jewish Journal, June 11, 2018

For almost three decades, U.S. administrations have tiptoed around the egregious human rights violations perpetrated by the Kim regimes in North Korea. But U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo already has changed the equation, by succeeding in securing the release of American detainees Kim Dong-chul, Kim (Tony) Sang-duk, and Kim Hak-song. A reminder to us and the world that the United States still has the clout to move the needle on human rights.

On the eve of the Singapore summit on denuclearization, we urge President Donald Trump to put the release of Japanese, other foreign and South Korean abductees, the reunion of separated Korean families, and the complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of the North Korean political prison camps, as the bill the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea must foot to become a normal and responsible member of the international community.

Three generations of the Kim family regime have continued to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles at the expense of the human security of North Koreans, and to egregiously violate the human rights of its citizens. In order to tackle North Korean threats, the Trump administration has applied three of the four fundamental elements of national power (diplomatic, information, military, economic power — DIME): economic power through the strengthening of the international sanctions regime; military power through the deployment of assets to the region and the reaffirming of U.S. commitment to our Korean and Japanese allies; and diplomatic power, employing for the first time summit diplomacy, made possible by the maximum economic and military pressure and the resuscitation of inter-Korean dialogue, starting with the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Kim Jong-un wants security guarantees, but history has taught time and again that liberal democracies shouldn’t try to guarantee the survival of a regime that runs political prison camps and commits crimes against humanity. South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his key advisers represent a generation of progressive intellectuals who helped democratize their nation. Their lasting legacy however, will be ultimately defined by their stance on North Korean human rights. Will they appease tyranny and lead the Republic of Korea (South Korea) down the path of catastrophic compromise? Or will they become the heroes who brought freedom and human rights to both Koreas, thus decisively opening the path of unification under a truly democratic and prosperous Republic of Korea?

Time will tell. But early signs are not encouraging. The recent ban on leaflet balloon launches and loudspeaker broadcasting into North Korea is one reason for concern. North Korean escapees in South Korea give voice to silenced millions. At this critical crossroads in history, the South Korean administration must protect these heroes and ensure their voices are heard, not muffled.

All this puts the spotlight on the United States’ summit diplomacy. Will it be a historic achievement for President Trump or just another déjà vu North Korean scam?

Under any conceivable outcome, in order to achieve ultimate peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in Northeast Asia — a fundamental U.S. security interest — the nature of the Kim regime and its horrific human rights abuses must remain in focus.

Human rights cannot be treated as a sidebar issue, possibly sacrificed for a wink and a nod and photo-op with Kim. Human rights must not be abandoned to appease the Kim regime.

Human rights cannot be postponed until an ever-elusive future scenario in which the Kim regime miraculously agrees to protect the rights of its citizens. Despots do not give away human rights out of the goodness of their hearts. Human rights always are achieved and protected through struggle.

Can the U.S. remove a nuclear threat and guarantee human rights and dignity simultaneously?

President Trump, please take note: America already did it and with a much more dangerous foe. During the Cold War, President Ronald Reagan and then-Secretary of State George Shultz used the issue of freedom for Soviet Jewry as the litmus test for Soviet intentions on nuclear disarmament. Eventually, human rights prevailed and the communist system dissolved without a shot being fired.

The U.S. should counter Kim’s cycle of “charm offensives” not through appeasement but through verifiable changes in North Korea. It is important to witness the blowing up of one nuclear test site. Of equal importance will be the dismantling of Kim’s gulag. When that occurs — and only then — can the world be assured that the two estranged Koreas are on the path to a peaceful reunification and a hopeful future for all.

Abe the Pre-Trump Trump

In Japan, Too, Outrageous Is the New Normal

By Koichi Nakano
, professor of political science at Sophia University, in Tokyo.
New York Times, June 11, 2018

TOKYO — A sketchy land deal implicating the prime minister’s wife is revealed, then a vast cover-up by government officials. The relevant minister acknowledges the wrongdoing, apologizes and says he will fulfill his duty — by refunding a year’s worth of his salary as cabinet minister, or about $15,600.

This is what passes for government accountability in Japan today.

The senior official in question is Taro Aso, the finance minister, who — with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s backing — has refused to resign.

Details of the land deal, which involves a school operator with ties to Mr. Abe’s wife, remain unclear. But it already is clear that the cover-up is worse than the crime and yet its culprits may get away with it. Although roiled by scandals and deflated by low popularity ratings, the Abe administration seems to think it can ride out the turbulence, banking on the few remaining checks on its power and public apathy about politics. And it may be right.

In June 2016, officials in the Finance Ministry discounted by more than 85 percent the asking price for land it sold to Moritomo Gakuen, the school operator. After Mr. Abe pledged to resign if evidence was found proving his or his wife’s involvement, government officials destroyed or tampered with records that might have compromised them. According to the finance ministry itself, more than 300 passages in over a dozen official documents were doctored in early 2017 to eliminate any inconsistencies with what ministry officials told opposition lawmakers who had grilled them about the deal.

Mr. Aso, who is also deputy prime minister, and Nobuhisa Sagawa, the former director-general of the Financial Bureau, which manages state-owned property, repeatedly gave false answers during questioning by lawmakers: on 11 occasions in the case of Mr. Aso and no fewer than 43 times in the case of Mr. Sagawa. Leaked government documents also indicate that the supposedly independent Board of Audit colluded with government ministries to shield Mr. Abe.

Suspicions linger that the finance ministry may still be hiding incriminating records. Yet on May 31, the prosecutor’s office in Osaka decided not to indict any of the 38 people (including 37 government officials) it was investigating for breaching taxpayers’ trust.

In another major scandal, another educational institution benefited from exceptional favors to win a state bid to open a veterinary school. Official documents from 2015 refer to “the prime minister’s intentions” as the force behind the deal and mention meetings between a local government official and a secretary to the prime minister and between Mr. Abe and the director of the school corporation, Kotaro Kake, a friend of Mr. Abe’s from university.

Mr. Kake and Mr. Abe have denied any impropriety. But only 14 percent of respondents in a poll conducted by the daily newspaper Mainichi on May 26-27 said they trusted the prime minister’s explanation about the deal; 70 percent said they did not.

Japan has long had problems with political accountability. A multimember-district system was established after World War II. By giving even small parties a chance of getting elected, it could have encouraged proportionality and representativeness. Instead, it quickly entrenched the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, which learned to toggle its candidates in response to shifts in the popular mood, and it fragmented the opposition. The L.D.P., Mr. Abe’s party, ruled for nearly four decades. A set of cozy relations known as the “iron triangle” developed between politicians, bureaucrats and corporations, and these groups’ pursuit of their narrow interests came to dominate politics, breeding collusion and corruption.

In the post-Cold War era, various reforms were introduced in hopes of creating a British-style two-party system and ensuring alternation of power. It was also thought that centralizing authority in the hands of the governing party’s leader, who had received a popular mandate by being elected, would increase democratic accountability.

But the system has failed, notably in the December 2012 election that most recently brought Mr. Abe to power. Although the L.D.P. received fewer votes then than in the 2009 election, which it lost, the party and its coalition partner secured a crushing majority in the Diet, as Japan’s parliament is known. After that, Mr. Abe made partisan appointments to key posts previously insulated from direct political influence, including at the Bank of Japan and the public broadcaster NHK. The L.D.P. took measures to curb the legislative branch’s ability to check the executive, including by limiting the opposition’s question time in the Diet.

With so much power now vested in the prime minister’s office, Mr. Abe embarked on a controversial series of laws, including on defense matters. Cronyism and corruption returned in force. Today’s scandals seem rather small compared with the Lockheed bribery case in the 1970s or the Recruit scandal of the late 1980s. But the extent of the recent cover-ups — and the fact that those seem designed to protect Mr. Abe personally — is new, and it undermines the legitimacy of Japan’s entire governance structure like never before.

So why, then, hasn’t there been more pushback?

One reason is that the opposition is too weak and too divided to hold this reckless administration accountable. When Mr. Abe called a snap electionlast fall, a poorly conceived attempt to challenge the government by launching a new challenger, the Party of Hope, ended in an abysmal failure, leaving the opposition even more fractured than before. In Sunday’s election for governor in Niigata, the front-runner for the opposition lost to the L.D.P. candidate even though she ran largely on a platform that opposed restarting the prefecture’s main nuclear power plant, a position favored by nearly 75 percent of voters, according to exit polls.

Unless the opposition can strengthen itself enough to threaten the L.D.P.’s grip on power, no internal rebellion is likely to materialize within the party itself. Mr. Abe is expected to seek a third term as party president during internal elections in September, and despite muted grumbling over his stewardship, a serious opponent has yet to emerge.

Mr. Abe’s popularity has seesawed in recent years, partly because of the scandals. Less than one-third of respondents in the Mainichi poll approved of his government (and 48 percent disapproved) — with nearly half of them citing as a reason the absence of a clear alternative. These are poor results, but Mr. Abe has weathered worse. The public seems more disgusted than outraged, resulting in its being alienated from politics rather than wanting to engage in it.

This suits Mr. Abe fine. In Sunday’s election in Niigata, for instance, which the L.D.P. candidate appears to have won by a bit more than 3 percent of votes, turnout was about 58 percent.

There have been so many scandals lately, it’s hard to keep track, or care. Logs of Japan’s peacekeeping force in South Sudan (and in Iraq many years ago) have disappeared from the Defense Ministry, only to surface at defense intelligence headquarters. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has tampered with the results of workplace surveys that were supposed to serve as the factual basis for a comprehensive labor-reform bill. The twists and turns of the Moritomo Gakuen land deal have also been overtaken by extensive coverage of more sensationalistic stories, like illegal tackles in college football or the mysterious death of a munificent philanderer.

Conservative media outlets, apparently determined to protect Mr. Abe for ideological reasons — namely their shared hope of revising the Constitution — have played a part. The daily newspaper Yomiuri, for instance, has accused the opposition of being consumed by the scandals instead of the serious business of governing.

There was a time in Japan when if an administration was caught red-handed in as vast a cover-up as in this land-sale scandal, the mainstream media would have cried out in unison that Mr. Aso’s position was untenable. No longer.

Key democratic principles like transparency and accountability, which were never as entrenched here as in the United States anyway, no longer seem to be the lingua franca of public discussion. In this respect, the Abe administration is not unlike the Trump presidency: In Japan, too, what was once outrageous has become the new normal.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Monday in Washington June 11, 2018

SPACE TECHNOLOGY FOR A SMART AND RESILIENT ARCTIC. 6/11, 8:30-11:30am. Sponsor: Wilson Center (WWC). Speakers: Dr. Mike Sfraga, Director, Polar Initiative, Wilson Center; H.E. Kåre R. Aas, Ambassador of Norway to the United States of America; Dr. Mike Sfraga, Director, Polar Initiative, Wilson Center; Mr. Ole Øvretveit, Director, Arctic Frontiers; Professor Michael Byers, University of British Columbia; Mr. Sean Helfrich, Office of Satellite and Product Operations, NOAA; Mr. Eirik Sivertsen, Chair, Standing Committee of Parliamentarians of the Arctic (SCPAR); Mr. Rolf Skatteboe, CEO, Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT); Mr. Rune Sandbakken, Head, Satellite Communications, Norwegian Space Centre; Ms. Nettie LaBelle-Hamer, Director, Alaska Satellite Facility; Mr. Douglas May, Arctic Council Task Force on Improved Connectivity, U.S. State Department; Ms. Tina Pidgeon, Vice President, GCI; Mr. Mead Treadwell, Chair, Iridium Polar Advisory Board; Mr. Geir Westgaard, Vice President Political & Public Affairs, Equinor; Senator Lisa Murkowski, United States Senator for Alaska & Mr. Eirik Sivertsen, Chair, Standing Committee of Parliamentarians of the Arctic (SCPAR).

CHINESE ECONOMIC COERCION AND POTENTIAL U.S. RESPONSES. 6/11, 9:30-11:30am. Sponsor: Center for a New American Security (CNAS). Speakers: Dr. Daniel W. Drezner, Professor of International Politics, The Fletcher School Tufts University; Bonnie S. Glaser, Senior Adviser for Asia, Center for Strategic and International Studies; Peter Harrell, Adjunct Senior Fellow, Energy, Economics & Security Program Center for a New American Security; Michael Hirson, Director, Asia Eurasia Group. Moderator: Elizabeth Rosenberg, Senior Fellow and Director, Energy, Economics & Security Program Center for a New American Security.

AVOIDING NUCLEAR WAR—A DISCUSSION WITH THE MAYOR OF HIROSHIMA. 6/11, 10:00­-11:30am. Sponsor: Carnegie. Speakers: Kazumi Matsui, Mayor of Hiroshima; Jon Wolfsthal, Director, Nuclear Crisis Group. Moderator: James L. Schoff, Senior Fellow, Asia Program, Carnegie.

CARBON REMOVAL IN THE CLIMATE RESPONSE PORTFOLIO. 6/11, 10:00am-Noon, Breakfast, Washington, DC. Sponsor: National Press Club. Speakers: Sally Benson, Co-Director, Precourt Institute for Energy, Professor, School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences, Stanford University; Katharine Mach, Senior Research Scientist, School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences, Stanford University; Daniel Sanchez, AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow; Bob Perciasepe, President of the Center for Climate Energy Solutions (C2ES); Moderators: Chris Field, Perry L. McCarty Director, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment; Melvin and Joan Lane, Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies, Stanford University. 

US-CHINA ECONOMIC RELATIONS: FROM CONFLICT TO SOLUTIONS. 6/11, 10:45am-1:30pm, Webcast. Sponsor: PIIE. Speakers: Chad P. Bown, Reginald Jones Senior Fellow, PIIE; Joseph E. Gagnon, Senior Fellow, PIIE; Dr. Guan Tao, Senior Fellow, China Finance 40 Forum (CF40); Ha Jiming, CF40; Dr. Jin Zhongxia, Executive Director for China, IMF; Nicholas R. Lardy, Anthony M. Solomon Senior Fellow, PIIE; Adam S. Posen, President, PIIE.

A CONVERSATION WITH VINCENT DEVITO. 6/11, Noon-1:00pm. Sponsor: Atlantic Council Global Energy Center. Speakers: David Livingston, Deputy Director for Climate and Advanced Energy, Global Energy Center, Atlantic Council; Vincent DeVito, Counselor to the Secretary for Energy Policy, US Department of the Interior; Moderators: Vincent DeVito, Counselor to the Secretary for Energy Policy, US Department of the Interior; Cynthia Quarterman, Distinguished Fellow, Atlantic Council Global Energy Center.

RECOVERING THE NATIONAL MEMORY: THE QUEST FOR PRE-COLONIAL FILIPINO PAST. 6/11, 3:00-4:30pm. Sponsors: Library of Congress; Sentro Rizal Washington DC; Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines. Speaker: Hon. Virgilio Almario, Chairman and National Artist, Philippine National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

RUSSIAN ACTIVE MEASURES: PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE. 6/11, 5:00-6:30pm. Sponsor: CSIS. Speakers: Michael Hayden, Former Director, Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency; John J. Hamre, President and CEO, CSIS; Seth G. Jones, Harold Brown Chair, CSIS, Author of A Covert Action: Reagan, the CIA, and the Cold War Struggle in Poland; Moderator: Bob Schieffer, Trustee, CSIS; Heather Conley, Senior Vice President for Europe, Eurasia, and the Arctic, Director, Europe Program, CSIS.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

When Abe meets Trump


Abe meets with President Trump on Thursday, June 7.

It is unlikely to go well, unless Abe brings a very publicity-worthy concession to Trump. Just as Japan is missing from the print edition of the latest CIA World Factbook, it is also missing from the President’s playbook.

Prime Minister Abe made a grave mistake of trying to form a personal relationship with the new American president. Whereas Trump liked the good press of their golf outings and of confronting a North Korean missile launch in a public dining room, he was likely disappointed not to see more drama develop. Trump has had to settle for the “drama” of a tense relationship with Japan.

Trump still dismisses Japan as free-riding off the US military and economy. Japan’s contribution to the North Korea discussions has been to issue reminders about Japanese abductees held in North Korea and to urge broader definitions of WMD that include more than nuclear weapons are further dismissed are unhelpful, if not obstructionist to any peace deal with Pyongyang.

Unlike the South Koreans' President Moon, Abe has offered neither impressive trade concessions nor the vocal solidarity of a good ally. Trump is unlikely moved by stories of 12 probably dead Japanese abductees. This gives him no dramatic footage of his meeting them on the tarmac. The casino legislation introduced and passed soon after Abe’s November 2016 meeting with Trump probably did not impress either. Any ribbon cutting is years down the road and operations would be hindered by peculiar restrictions.

Abe cannot expect help from Trump’s new favorites, China and South Korea. The Prime Minister’s campaign to re-adjust Pacific War history glorifying Imperial Japan has alienated and annoyed all of the island nation’s neighbors. None have an incentive to trust his foreign policy judgment. Abe’s security vision, first of an “Arc of Democracy” and now of a “security diamond” excludes both China and South Korea.

To right the relationship with the White House, Abe needs a magic moment. He needs dramatic signing ceremonies with a smiling Trump, happy Trump constituents, and photos that linger. Surely there is an industrial and agricultural market to open; a US military exercise to join; and a POW reconciliation program to enhance (MOFA just scuttled it). Trump is weary of hearing what Japan can’t do or even will do; he wants to know what Japan will do now. Trump relishes the moment.

If a desperate Abe brings nothing dramatic to the table, the only thing memorable about his trip will be that the Korean-American community exhibited a Comfort Women memorial in the Capitol Building on the day of his visit.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Is Trump stringing Abe along?

Yes, because Abe does not understand the deal
EastAsiaForum, June 3. 2018
Glen S Fukushima, Center for American Progress and APP member 
Japan has been reeling ever since 8 March when US President Donald Trump met with South Korea’s national security adviser Chung Eui-yong and announced, to the world’s surprise, that he would accept the offer to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Until then, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was confident that he was ‘managing’ Trump well, starting with the meeting in Trump Tower on 17 November 2016 that made him the first foreign leader to meet with the then president-elect.This was followed by the meeting in Washington, DC on 10 February 2017 and golf and dinner in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, when North Korea’s missile launching forced an impromptu news conference pledging US–Japan solidarity against North Korea.
By the time Trump visited Japan on 5 November 2017, the two leaders had had several face-to-face meetings and nearly 20 telephone calls to coordinate on North Korea. In addition, Abe and his aides were pleased that Trump had adopted the slogan of the ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’, since the idea of a US–Japan–India–Australia alliance against China was already a centrepiece of Abe’s diplomacy.
But contrary to Abe’s expectation, Trump started to show his true colours by the beginning of his second year in office. On 22 January 2018, Trump announced the imposition of 30 per cent tariffs on Chinese solar panels and 50 per cent tariffs on South Korean refrigerators exported to the United States. On 1 March, he announced the imposition of 25 per cent tariffs on steel and 10 per cent tariffs on aluminium exported to the United States. Most alarming to Japan, on 23 May, Trump ordered an investigation under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 on whether the import of automobiles could constitute a national security threat to the United States, justifying the imposition of tariffs of up to 25 per cent.
All of this is a reflection of Donald Trump’s worldview, which was shaped in the 1980s. During this period he gave numerous speeches and interviews in which he decried the United States’ decline, which he blamed on foreigners taking advantage of the United States. In 1987, he paid nearly US$100,000 to place full-page ads in the New York TimesWashington Post and Boston Globe to criticise Japan for stealing US jobs, exporting to the United States but not importing, manipulating its currency for export advantage and free-riding on defence.
Trump writes on page 53 of The Art of the Deal: ‘The best thing you can do is deal from strength, and leverage is the biggest strength you can have. Leverage is having something the other guy wants. Or better yet, needs. Or best of all, simply can’t do without’.
Based on his numerous meetings with Abe, Trump knows that Japan cannot do without US military support against China and North Korea. In addition, he knows that Abe, for domestic political purposes, needs to show progress on the issue of Japanese abducted by North Korea. In return for providing Abe what he needs, Trump is expecting from Japan economic concessions, both on a national and personal level.
At this point, however, Japan is not as important for Trump as North Korea, South Korea and China. These countries hold the key to Trump’s political future: maintaining a Republican majority in the House of Representatives and in the Senate in the midterm elections of 6 November 2018 and winning re-election on 3 November 2020. Trump is using foreign policy to deflect attention away from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion with Russia by Trump and his team during the 2016 presidential campaign and subsequent obstruction of justice and conflicts of interest, from the lawsuits filed by Stormy Daniels and other women, and from the investigation into Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen.
By meeting with Kim Jong-un in Singapore on 12 June, Trump hopes to emulate former US president George W Bush in 2001. The Gallup Poll showed Bush’s approval rating on 1 February 2001 to be only 57 per cent. But by 22 September, it had jumped to 90 per cent as a result of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. After his meeting with Kim Jong-un on 12 June, Trump is certain to declare victory, thereby demonstrating to the world his genius as a dealmaker, his qualifications to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and his right to win the elections in November 2018 and 2020.
Abe has scheduled a meeting in Washington, DC with Trump on 7 June — five days before the 12 June meeting — in order to make a last-ditch plea to include in the Trump–Kim meeting the return of Japanese abductees, the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, and the dismantling of not only North Korea’s missiles that can reach the continental United States, but also the short- and medium-range missiles that can hit Japan.
For both Abe and Trump, foreign policy victories are imperative to win elections in the face of severe domestic political pressures.