Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Abe's Anti-TPP Cabinet

Mr. Moriyama meets with Cargill in Washington
Shinzo Abe Bows to the Farm Lobby
The conditions were ripe for Japan's prime minister to act on structural reform. Instead, he's allowed trade talks for the Trans-Pacific Partnership to break down.

Wall Street Journal, 29 September 2014

By RICHARD KATZ, APP Member and editor of The Oriental Economist Alert, a newsletter on Japan.

See End of essay for additional information on the anti-TPP members of the Abe Cabinet

The U.S.-Japan cabinet-level talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact broke down on Wednesday largely because of Tokyo's refusal to sufficiently lower farm tariffs and other associated import barriers. The irony is that Japan, not America, has the most to gain from liberalizing food trade, as Japan's own reformers recognize.

Consider the costs of protecting farmers, most of whom are part-timers over the age of 60. Japanese consumers spend 13.7% of their total household budget on food, far more than the 6.3% spent by Americans, or even the 9.3% spent by Britons. If this share were reduced even to 11% by opening the food market to more competition, Japanese households would save 7.5 trillion yen ($72 billion) per year.

To put that in perspective, the output of Japan's entire farm sector is only worth 5.4 trillion yen. The five "sacred" farm sectors that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe resists liberalizing—rice, beef and pork, dairy, wheat and sugar—produce just 3.6 trillion yen, or 0.8% of Japan's gross domestic product.

Then there is the hidden cost to taxpayers, who provide almost half of farmers' income through subsidies. This compares to 23% in the European Union, 10% in the U.S. and 2.7% in Australia. In 2009, these subsidies amounted to 4.3 trillion yen.

Tax breaks for farmland have to be taken into account too. No one knows exactly how much revenue is lost because the land assessments are not transparent. However, Nikkei reports that farmland is typically taxed at a rate of one yen per square meter—a negligible $20 per year for the average-sized farm. By contrast, residential land is commonly taxed at 180 yen per square meter.

This tax break is most harmful in the three big metropolitan areas surrounding Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. In these areas, which comprise 17% of Japan's territory, almost one-third of the entire nonforest area is farmland. Much of that is only under cultivation because the laws make it difficult for the aging owners to sell the land for other uses. If the land tax were increased to just half the residential level for all farmland throughout Japan, the revenue gain could be 4.2 trillion yen per year.

The combination of ending subsidies and equalizing land taxes could reduce Japan's budget deficit by perhaps as much as 8.5 trillion yen per year. That's more than the 7.5 trillion yen gain projected from this year's hike in the consumption tax.

Land-use laws were originally aimed at keeping farmland in the hands of the farmers who till the soil that they own. But this has resulted in small, inefficient farms. It creates an artificial scarcity that raises the price of land throughout the nation, thereby suppressing new development and lowering GDP growth.

And this policy doesn't even help farmers, since it deprives them of potential capital gains. According to research by Yoshihisa Godo of Meiji Gakuin University, the tiny amount of farmland that is allowed to be converted to nonfarm purposes often appreciates in value several times over.

Instead, 8% of all Japanese farmland lies fallow. Even more remarkable, 13% of Japan's houses are abandoned and now sit on unused land, much of which is farmland. If they were torn down, the taxes on the land would quadruple because they would no longer be eligible for tax breaks on land with a residence.

Adding to Japan's fiscal crisis are political distortions created through the Local Allocation Grants that Tokyo gives to prefectural and local governments, amounting to about 3.5% of GDP and one-quarter of the national budget. In theory, the grants are supposed to redistribute money from richer prefectures to poorer ones. But in reality the money goes disproportionately to rural areas, regardless of per capita income. The biggest gainers are prefectures whose Diet members have held the balance of power in the last three Upper House elections. The national government pays out more in these Local Allocation Grants than it takes in via the consumption tax.

Why are all these self-destructive practices retained? Because as far as the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is concerned, the purpose of small farms is not to grow food but to cultivate voters. Despite Supreme Court decisions calling for more equality in voting power, the most rural half of Japan's population chooses more than 60% of the Diet members elected to district seats.

That helps explain why the new head of the LDP's Task Force on the TPP is Hiroshi Moriyama. In 2010, Mr. Moriyama founded an anti-TPP caucus whose membership now includes 63% of the 408 LDP members in both houses.

Still, the conditions are ripe for a determined prime minister to override the powerful farm lobby. The LDP's opposition is weak, as are Mr. Abe's leadership challengers within his own party. He could even pick up votes from opposition representatives who support the TPP.

Import liberalization and reform of land taxes and land-use laws would raise government revenues immediately and stimulate GDP, boosting the goals of Abenomics. If Mr. Abe will not act on structural reform when he has all these advantages, one has to question if he will ever act at all.


Can Abe’s third arrow pierce Japan’s agricultural armour? by Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra, East Asia Forum, 6 April 2014
      On balance, none of the proposals for reform to date constitute serious structural reform. They offer no evidence that the Abe administration is willing to create domestic conditions conducive to agricultural trade liberalisation under the TPP — another central pillar of Abe’s growth strategy. This would require, most importantly, a shift from supporting farm prices with subsidies and import tariffs to a system of direct income support which would compensate farmers for income losses stemming from agricultural trade liberalisation.

Anti-TPP Caucus

Although the Abe administration is officially pro-TPP, many Cabinet Ministers are openly opposed. Seven of the 19 current Cabinet Ministers belong to a parliamentary league called the Association Seeking the Immediate Withdrawal from Participation in the TPP [TPP sanka no sokuji tekkai wo motomeru kai TPP参加の即時撤回を求める会]

All seven were appointed earlier this month in the September 3 cabinet reshuffle. All seven also belong to the conservative nationalist parliamentary Shinto League, Yasukuni League, and (with the exception of Obuchi) Nippon Kaigi. Three of the five women appointed are anti-TPP. 

Lower House member Hiroshi Moriyama (Kagoshima #5) is chairman of the Association, which he founded in 2010. This anti-TPP caucus includes 63 percent of the 408 LDP members in both chambers of the Diet.  Members believe that American security concerns would dampen a Washington hard-line on trade. In April 2014, he said “The U.S. might seek major concessions in return for security.”**

In deference to Prime Minister’s Abe’s stated goal of joining TPP, the Association was renamed March 21, 2013 as "TPP kosho ni okeru kokueki wo mamorinuku kai" [TPP 交渉における国益を守り抜く会, which means roughly "The Association Protect to the End the National Interests in TPP Negotiations”].*

Moriyama—elected to the Lower House four times and to the Upper House once—is a senior member of the LDP who was passed over in recent Cabinet appointments. Possibly as a consolation, a member of his Association was made Agriculture Minister and on September 13th he was appointed to head the LDP's Task Force on the TPP.

In addition to the LDP anti-TPP association, there is a multipartison one, The Association for Thinking Seriously About TPP (TPP wo shincho ni kangaeru kai TPPを慎重に考える会). It is chaired by former DPJ Agriculture Minister YAMADA Masahiko “Giving serious thought to TPP” is Japanese political code for a conservative nationalist, anti-America stance on free trade and TPP. Thus, it was significant on September 19th that Japan’s top TPP negotiator AMARI Akira—who is not a member of any anti-TPP group—stated that he intends “to give serious thought” to overcoming Japan’s differences with the US, including tariffs on agricultural products and automobiles, that are hindering Japan’s commitment to TPP.

Cabinet members who are members of Moriyama's anti-TPP Association

TAKAICHI Sanae, Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications

OBUCHI Yuko, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI)
Minister in charge of Industrial Competitiveness
Minister in charge of the Response to the Economic Impact caused by the Nuclear Accident
Minister of State for the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation

MOCHIZUKI Yoshio, Minister of the Environment
Minister of State for the Nuclear Emergency Preparedness

ARIMURA Haruko, Minister in charge of Women's Empowerment
Minister in charge of Administrative Reform
Minister in charge of Civil Service Reform
Minister of State for Consumer Affairs and Food Safety
Minister of State for Regulatory Reform
Minister of State for Measures for Declining Birthrate
Minister of State for Gender Equality

YAMAGUCHI Shun’ichi, Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs
Minister of State for Science and Technology Policy
Minister of State for Space Policy
Minister in charge of Information Technology Policy
Minister in charge of "Challenge Again" Initiative
Minister in charge of "Cool Japan" Strategy

TAKESHITA Wataru, Minister for Reconstruction
Minister in charge of Comprehensive Policy Coordination for Revival from the Nuclear Accident at Fukushima

NISHIKAWA Koya, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

**”LDP welcomes agreement to strengthen Japan-U.S. alliance,” Yomiuri, April 25, 2014 – p. 4.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Monday In Washington, September 29, 2014

NATIONAL ACADEMY OF ENGINEERING (NAE) 50TH ANNIVERSARY ANNUAL MEETING: ENGINEERING'S CONTRIBUTIONS TO SOCIETY IN THE PAST 50 YEARS AND ITS VITAL ROLES IN THE FUTURE. 9/28-29. Sponsor: The National Academy of Engineering (NAE). Highlights: Wanda Austin, president and CEO at the Aerospace Corporation; Roderic Pettigrew, director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering; Arnunava Majumdar, vice president of energy at Google Inc.; and Al Jazeera America's Ali Velshi participate in a panel on "Celebrating the NAE's 50th Anniversary: The History of Engineering over the Past 50 Years and a Look Forward".

HEARING OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSIONER FOR TRADE AND PANEL DISCUSSION. 9/29, 8:00-10:30am. Sponsor: Center for Transatlantic Relations, SAIS, Johns Hopkins. Speakers; Antoine Ripoll, head of the European Parliament Liaison Office with the U.S. Congress; Dan Hamilton, executive director of the SAIS Center for Transatlantic Relations; Marjorie Chorlins, vice president for European affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Hendrike Kuehl, head of the Brussels office for the Trans-Atlantic Business Council; and Geoff Antell, member of the trade counsel for the House Ways and Means Committee.

FEDERATED DEFENSE IN THE MIDDLE EAST. 9/29, 9:00am-1:00pm. Sponsors: International Security Program, CSIS; Middle East Program, CSIS; Federated Defense Project, CSIS. Speakers: Dr. Nora Bensahel, Senior Fellow and Co-Director of the Responsible Defense Program, Center for a New American Security; Dr. Frederic Wehrey, Senior Associate in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Dr. Andrew Parasiliti, Director of the Center for Global Research and Security, RAND Corporation; Tom Vecchiolla, President of Raytheon International; Dr. Matthew Spence, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle East Policy; Christian Brose, National Security Advisor to Senator John McCain; Dr. Philip Gordon, Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf Region.

AMERICA AND THE CHALLENGES OF A TURBULENT MIDDLE EAST: LOOKING BACKWARD, LOOKING FORWARD. 9/29, 9:00am-1:30pm. Sponsor: Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). Speakers: Israeli Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein; U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro; and former U.S. Ambassador to Israel William Brown participate in a discussion on "The Evolution of U.S.-Israel Relations in the Sam Lewis Era" 10:30 a.m.: Jessica Mathews, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, scholar at the American Enterprise Institute; and former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dennis Ross, fellow at WINEP, participate in a discussion on "A Moving Target: The Art and Science of Middle East Policy Planning"12:30 p.m.: Deputy Secretary of State William Burns delivers keynote. 

HELPING THE ARCTIC COUNCIL FIND ITS TRUE NORTH. 9/29, 9:30-11:00am, Sponsor: Center for American Progress. Speaker: Admiral Robert. Papp Jr., U.S. Special Representative for the Arctic.

DEPUTY ENERGY SECRETARY DANIEL PONEMAN PARTING REMARKS. 9/ 29, 10:30-11:30am. Sponsor: Woodrow Wilson Center. Speaker: Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman.

AN ASSESSMENT OF PRESIDENT ROUHANI'S VISIT TO THE UNITED STATES. 9/29, Noon-1:30pm. Sponsor: Middle East Program, Woodrow Wilson Center. Speakers: Farideh Farhi, Former public policy scholar, Woodrow Wilson Center; Bijan Khajehpour, Managing Partner at Atieh International.

THE EVOLVING RISKSOF FRAGILE STATES AND INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM9/ 29, 2:00-3:30pm. Sponsor: Brookings Institution. Speakers: Jean-Marie Guehenno, president of the International Crisis Group; Sarah Cliffe, special adviser at the World Bank Group and former assistant secretary-general of the United Nations; and Bruce Jones, senior fellow and deputy director of foreign policy at Brookings. 

TAILORED ENGAGEMENT: MAKING INTER-KOREAN RELATIONS EFFECTIVE AND SUSTAINABLE. 9/29, 2:00-4:00pm. Sponsor: Center for East Asia Policy Studies, Brookings Institution. Speakers: Gi-Wook Shin, Director of the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center and Director of the Korea Program at Stanford University; David Straub, Associate Director of the Korea Program at Stanford University; John Merrill, Adjunct Professor of Korea Studies, SAIS, Johns Hopkins; Katharine H.S. Moon, SK-Korea Foundation Chair in Korea Studies and Senior Fellow, Center for East Asia Policy Studies, Brookings Institution.

THREE GREAT IDEAS THAT WEREN’T ON THE UNGA AGENDA. 9/29, 3:00-5:00pm. Sponsor: Environmental Change and Security Program, Woodrow Wilson Center. Speakers: Wael Hmaidan, Director of the Climate Action Network – International; Ilze Melngailis, Senior Director of Global Partnerships at the UN Foundation; Genevieve Maricle, Policy Adviser to the US Ambassador (ECOSOC), US Mission to the UNA; Tianna Scozzaro, Climate and Population Associate at Population Action International; Roger-Mark De Souza, Director of Population, Environmental Security and Resilience at Wilson Center.

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS AND TRANSNATIONAL RELATIONS. 9/29, 4:00-5:30pm. Sponsor: History and Public Policy Program, Woodrow Wilson Center. Speaker: Akira Iriye, professor of American history at Harvard University. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Monday in Washington, September 22, 2014

ADDRESSING CORRUPTION IN GLOBAL TRADE. 9/22, 8:30-10:00am. Sponsor: US and International Anti-Corruption Law Program, American University Washington College of Law. Speakers: (Keynote) Pascal Lamy, Former WTO Director General; Alan Larson, Chairman, Transparency International USA; Tim Reif, General Counsel, Office of the US Trade Representative; Moderator: Nancy Boswell, Director, US & International Anti-Corruption Law Program. 

RUSSIA’S ROLE IN ASIAN ENERGY MARKETS. 9/22, 10:00-11:30am. Sponsor: Russia Eurasia Program, CSIS. Speakers: Edward C. Chow, Senior Fellow of the Energy and National Security Program, CSIS; Shoichi Itoh, Senior Analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics in Tokyo, Japan; Andrew C. Kuchins, Director and Senior Fellow of Russia and Eurasia Program, CSIS; and Jeffrey A. Mankoff, Deputy Director and Fellow of Russia and Eurasia Program, CSIS.

TRADE AND INNOVATION: INDIA'S AND CHINA'S DIVERSE EXPERIENCES WITH THE INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AGREEMENT. 9/22, 10:30am-Noon. Sponsor: East-West Center in Washington. Speaker: Dr. Dieter Ernst, Senior Fellow, East-West Center.

SAUDI ARABIA: OPPOSING DEMOCRACY AT HOME AND ABROAD. 9/22, Noon-2:00. Sponsor: National Endowment for Democracy. Speakers: Bernard Haykel, director of the Transregional Institute for the Study of the Middle East and North Africa at Princeton University; Jean-Francois Seznec, visiting associate professor in the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University; and Karen Elliott-House, author, On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines and Future.

SHOULD KOREA JOIN THE TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP? 9/22, 12:15-1:00pm. The Peterson Institute for International Economics. Speakers: Angela Ellard, chief trade counsel to the Trade Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee; Everett Eissenstat, chief international trade counsel to the Senate Finance.

THE RISE OF LASHKAR-E-TAIBA : A LOOK AT ONE OF SOUTH ASIA'S LARGEST TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS. 9/22, 12:15-1:45 pm. Sponsor: New America. Speakers: Arif Jamal Author, Call for Transnational Jihad, Lashkar-e-Taiba 1985-2014; Dr. Mohammad Taqi Columnist, The Daily Times (Pakistan); Moderator: Joshua T. White Deputy Director, South Asia Program, Stimson Center. 

HIGH-SKILLED IMMIGRATION POLICY & THE GLOBAL COMPETITION FOR TALENT. 9/22, 1:00pm-5:30pm, 9/23, 8:30am-5:00pm. Sponsor: National Academies. Speakers: Charles Beach, Queens University; Herbert Brücker, University of Bamberg; Jean-Christophe Dumont, OECD; Richard Freeman, Harvard University, NBER; Lesleyanne Hawthorne, University of Melbourne, Victoria; Graeme Hugo, University of Adelaide; William Kamela, Microsoft; Lindsay Lowell, Georgetown University; William Kerr, Harvard University; Pia Orrenius, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; Daniele Paserman, Boston University; Madeleine Sumption, Migration Policy Institute; Jonathan Wadsworth, University of London; Madeline Zavodny, Agnes Scott College.

SOUTHEAST ASIA AND THE UNITED STATES. 9/22, 2:00-3:00pm. Sponsor: Center for East Asia Policy Studies, Brookings Institution. Speakers: Ambassador Susan E. Rice, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Executive Office of the President; H.E. Mr. K. Shanmugam, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Law, Republic of Singapore; Joseph Liow, Senior Fellow and Lee Kuan Yew Chair in Southeast Asia Studies at Brookings; Richard Bush, Chen-Fu and Cecilia Yen Koo Chair in Taiwan Studies, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for East Asia Policy Studies, Brookings Institution.

THE ECONOMIC COSTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE. 9/22, 4:00-5:00pm. Sponsor: Hamilton Project, Brookings Institution. Speakers: Treasury Secretary Jack Lew; former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, co-chair of the Council on Foreign Relations; Michael Greenstone, professor of economics at the University of Chicago; and Melissa Kearney, director, Hamilton Project, Brookings.

PUBLIC SECTOR INVESTMENT AND ITS IMPACT ON THE WORLD ECONOMY. 9/22, 4:00-6:00pm. Sponsor: Atlantic Council's Transatlantic Finance Initiative (TFI) and the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF). Speakers: The Hon. C. Boyden Gray, Atlantic Council Board Director and Former US Ambassador to the EU; Mr. David Marsh, Co-Founder and Managing Director, OMFIF; Ms. Sara Bonesteel, Managing Director and Head of Portfolio Strategy, Prudential; Ms. Sonja Gibbs, Director, Capital Markets & Emerging Markets Policy, Institute of International Finance; Mr. Clay Lowery, Vice President, Rock Creek Global Advisors; David Marsh, Managing Director and Cofounder, The Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF); Dr. Rakesh Mohan, Executive Director, India, IMF.
Launch OMFIF's new publication Global Public Investor (GPI) 2014.

JIHAD 3.0. 9/22 4:45-6:30pm. Sponsor: Schieffer Series Dialogues, CSIS. Speakers: Bob Schieffer, Chief Washington Correspondent for CBS News and Anchor for CBS News “Face the Nation”; The Honorable Juan C. Zarate, Former Deputy National Security Adviser for Combating Terrorism, Author of Treasury Wars, Senior Adviser for the Transnational Threats Project and Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Program, CSIS; Dr. Jon Alterman, Senior Vice President, Zbigniew Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy, and Director of Middle East Program, CSIS; and Julianna Goldman, Washington Correspondent for CBS News.

100 YEARS OF WARFIGHTER TECHNOLOGY. 9/22, 5:00-8:00pm. Sponsor: Task Force on American Innovation. Speakers: Patricia Falcone, associate director for national security and international affairs at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; and Thomas Williams, director of operations and CEO at United States Marine Corps Historical Company.

Abe’s female Cabinet picks warrant a closer look

Reprinted with APP annotation for educational use from the Japan Times, September 20, 2014


In a Sept. 5 Twitter post, university instructor Akiko Orita pointed out that four of the five women appointed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to his new Cabinet do not use their legal names. Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi, state minister in charge of abduction issues Eriko Yamatani, state minister in charge of female empowerment Haruko Arimura and Justice Minister Midori Matsushima all go by the names they were born with rather than their husbands’. According to the Civil Code, married couples must use the same name, and while a man can take his wife’s name, that happens only 2 percent of the time, and usually because the wife’s family doesn’t have a male heir to carry on the name. The husband of the fifth new female Cabinet member, Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yuko Obuchi, took her surname because she belongs to a political dynasty and is, thus, expected to take over the family business.

In its interview with Matsushima, Tokyo Shimbun asked if she would do anything in her capacity as law minister to allow married couples to have separate names, a common situation in other developed countries but one the Liberal Democratic Party opposes because it thinks it undermines family unity. Without mentioning her own situation, she said the matter “is related to the core being of a family,” and thus “it is difficult to make a decision right away.” Actually, politicians have been discussing separate names since the early 1990s and legislation was once drafted to change the Civil Code and make it legal, but nothing was done. “Right away” in this case seems to mean “forever.”

[APP: With the exception of Obuchi, all the female Cabinet members belong to a number of parliamentary leagues, such as Nippon Kaigi that advocate traditional gender roles and for women to continue to adopt their husband's name.]

Is Matsushima a hypocrite? Maybe, but she is adhering to the party line, which is more important. When Abe announced the Cabinet on Sept. 3 at a news conference, he said that all the new members possessed “abilities adequate” to their respective posts, and that he wants the female ministers to create a “new wind” of change that will force society to look at the world from a woman’s perspective. But in media interviews these women have offered no original opinions or policy proposals that differ in any way from Abe’s stated positions, unless you count Arimura’s statement that she would like to ban abortion, which some will interpret as not looking at society from a woman’s perspective.

[APP: Arimura is a member of the Caucus to Promote Parental Education [学推進議員連 Oya gaku suishin giin renmei ], aka Home Education Support Caucus. Prime Minister ABE Shinzo is the group’s chairman. Parliamentary group tied to the Association for Parental Education established by TAKAHASHI Shiro.  Takahashi, a professor at Meisei University and former deputy chairman of the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform, promotes the concept of “Oya Gaku” (Parenting Studies)It asserts that parents need to be educated about correct childrearing. “Correct” in this context means emulating pre-war education. Autism and learning disabilities are considered the product of lack parenting.]

This particular Cabinet reshuffle is no more cynically motivated than any other in the LDP’s history. Ministers are almost never chosen for their expertise in a given field but rather because of their political affiliations and time in office. All are eventually beholden to the bureaucrats who make those ministries their life’s work, regardless of whether or not that work aligns with the aims of the ruling party. However, choosing these particular women does seem cynical. As the weekly Aera points out, there are about 60 lawmakers in the LDP who are “waiting their turn” for ministry positions and who were disappointed they didn’t get one this time. Since Abe wanted to keep certain people in the Cabinet for strategic reasons — for instance, Shigeru Ishiba is considered a threat to Abe’s premiership so he had to be kept close — there was a limited number of openings, and he needed to match if not surpass the previous record for female ministers in order to lend credibility to his pledge to make Japanese women “shine.”

So the media was expecting a female posse, just not necessarily this posse. The biggest surprise was the absence of Seiko Noda, one of the most experienced female lawmakers in the LDP, though Noda and Abe have reportedly been on cool terms ever since she opposed the LDP’s bill to privatize the post office when Abe was chief Cabinet secretary.

In an interview with Aera, Noda toed the party line and did not betray disappointment with being passed over. She praised the choices as “courageous” and said she thought they showed a “good mixture of viewpoints.” But her most revealing comment had to do with her pal Obuchi, the youngest of the female ministers. Saying that Obuchi was nervous about her new job, Noda asked the press “to admire her, because she knows her limitations.” Aera paraphrases an unnamed trade ministry official as saying that Obuchi, who reportedly refused a Cabinet post when Abe became prime minister in 2012, was selected because having a young, relatively inexperienced woman — and not just a woman, but a mother — as trade minister makes it more difficult for people to criticize the ministry when it approves the resumption of nuclear power plants.

Matsushima was even more of a surprise, having been elected only four times. A former Asahi Shimbun reporter who covered Yoshiro Mori when he was prime minister, she went into politics at Mori’s encouragement. The buzz is that Abe wanted former Olympic speed skater Seiko Hashimoto to take the justice portfolio but Hashimoto was recently involved in a tabloid scandal and so Matsushima was “pushed up.”

The remaining three women, as well as new LDP policy chief Tomomi Inada, have been criticized for their rightist leanings, and there seems to be concern within the party that they could, as one critic told Aera, “step on a mine” by saying something stupid about China or South Korea. The embarrassing photos of Inada and Takaichi with that Japanese Nazi are already old news and mean little to the domestic press. More potentially problematic in light of their PR value to the Abe administration is their pronouncements on nominally female issues. Takaichi is against quotas for women in management and politics, while Yamatani opposes sex education in schools. Arimura pegs her “patriotism” to “everyday values,” which include wives “supporting” breadwinner husbands.

None of this is surprising given Abe’s record, but it’s discouraging when the executive director of U.N. Women praises the selectionsand surveys show female support rates for the administration roseafter the new Cabinet announcement. You’d think everybody would be wise to the game by now.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Monday in Washington September 15, 2014

JAPANESE PERSPECTIVES ON CHINA, TAIWAN AND CROSS-STRAIT RELATIONS.  9/15, 8:30-Noon. Sponsor: Freeman Chair in China Studies and Japan Chair, CSIS. Speakers: FUKUDA Madoka, Associate Professor of International Politics and China Studies, Hosei Universit; Mike Mochizuki, Japan-U.S. Relations Chair, the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington Universit; TAKAHARA Akio, Professor of Contemporary Chinese Politics, the Graduate School of Law and Politics, the University of Tokyo; Richard Bush, Senior Fellow, the Chen-Fu and Cecilia Yen Koo Chair in Taiwan Studies, and director of the Center for East Asia Policy Studies (CEAP), Brookings Institution; Bonnie Glaser, Senior Adviser for Asia, Freeman Chair in China Studies, CSIS; HUANG Wei-Hsiu, Visiting Faculty, Taiwan Research Institute, Waseda University; David Brown, Adjunct Professor in China studies, SAIS; MATSUDA Yasuhiro, Professor of International Politics, Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies, the University of Tokyo. 

SQUARING THE IRANIAN NUCLEAR CIRCLE: DEFINING URANIUM ENRICHMENT CAPACITY AND OTHER KEY ISSUES. 9/15, 9:30-11:00am. Sponsor: Arms Control Association. Speakers: Kelsey Davenport, Nonproliferation Analyst, Arms Control Association; James Walsh, Research Associate, Security Studies Program, MIT; Daryl G. Kimball, (moderator), Executive Director, Arms Control Association.

COOPERATION TO COUNTER 21ST CENTURY MARITIME DOMAIN CHALLENGES. 9/15, 9:30-10:30am. Sponsor: Europe Program, CSIS. Speakers: Admiral Michelle Howard, Vice Chief of Naval Operations; Vice Admiral Axel Schimpf, Chief German Navy; Rear Admiral Lars Saunes, Chief of the Royal Norwegian Navy; Ms. Heather A. Conley, Senior Vice President for Europe, Eurasia, and the Arctic.

IRAN AND THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY: NEGOTIATIONS AND FUTURE CHALLENGES. 9/15, 10:30pm-12:30pm. Sponsor: American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS), Johns Hopkins University. Speakers: Dr. Cornelius Adebahr, Europe Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Dr. Vali Nasr, Dean SAIS; Dr. Kenneth M. Pollack, Senior Fellow, Center for Middle East Policy, Brookings Institution.

AFTER THE SUMMIT: GENERAL PHILIP M. BREEDLOVE ON NATO'S PATH FORWARD. 9/15, 11:00am-Noon. Sponsor: Center on International Security, Atlantic Council. Speaker: General Philip M. Breedlove, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe and Commander, US European Command; Frederick Kempe, President and CEO, Atlantic Council.

DIRTY ENTANGLEMENTS: CORRUPTION, CRIME AND TERRORISM. 9/15, Noon-1:30pm, Arlington, VA. Sponsor: Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center (TraCCC), George Mason University. Speakers: Dr. Louise Shelley, Director, TraCCC GMU.

AMERICAN ISOLATIONISM: IS IT A MYTH OR REALITY? 9/15, 12:30-1:45pm. Sponsor: Wilson Center. Speakers: Jill Dougherty, Public Policy Scholar, Former CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent; Ivo Daalder, President, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, former US Permanent Representative to NATO; Jane Harman, Director, President and CEO, Wilson Center, Bruce Jentleson, Global Fellow, Professor of Public Policy and Political Science, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University.

NUCLEAR WEAPONS TESTING: HISTORY, PROGRESS, CHALLENGES. 9/15, 12:30-5:00pm. Sponsor: Embassy of Kazakhstan. Speakers: Ernest Moniz, U.S. Secretary of Energy; Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and Intl. Security; Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz, U.S. Undersecretary of Energy and NNSA Administrator; Dr. Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization.

INTERNET GOVERNANCE: AN OPPORTUNITY FOR U.S.-JAPAN LEADERSHIP. 9/15, 12:30-2:00pm. Sponsor: Capitol Hill Asia Policy Dialogue Series, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation. Speakers: Toshinori Kajiura, Chair of the Internet Economy Industry Forum’s Sub-committee on Information & Technology Policy, Japan Business Federation (Keidanren); Makoto Yokozawa, Head Professor, Market and Organization Informatics Systems, Kyoto University; and Richard Beaird, U.S. Department of State (retired). 

Prime Minister of Japan’s Schedule August 18-24, 2014

Monday, August 18, 2014


12:00 At holiday home (no visitors)
08:00 At holiday home in Narusawa Village, Yamanashi Prefecture (no visitors)
Stay at holiday home throughout the morning (no visitors)

12:40 Depart from holiday home
12:49 Arrive at hot spring Fujiyama Onsen in Fujiyoshida City, Yamanashi Prefecture. Bathe
03:09 Depart from Fujiyama Onsen
03:19 Arrive at holiday home
04:52 Ministry of Finance (MOF)’s Director-General of Budget Bureau Tanaka Kazuho enters
05:36 Commence dinner meeting with Mr. Tanaka and secretaries
05:43 Cabinet Advisor Honda Etsuro joins
10:34 Dinner meeting ends
10:35 Mr. Honda leaves
10:47 Everyone leaves

The above is 2009 interview with Mr. Sasakawa Yohei who is reportedly a major benefactor to Prime Minister Abe. Yohei's father Ryohei was close to Abe's grandfather Kishi Nobusuke.

Yohei Sasakawa: Indeed, it's very important, as you say, to educate the people. When we talk about education, we need political leaders, scholars, teachers and academicians to be involved, to really be aware of the seriousness of the situation we have on our hands. For each of the people in our lives, we need to be able to convey the correct information about the seriousness of the problem, to establish some sort of policy mechanism that we can spread to different countries.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


12:00 At holiday home (no visitors)
07:04 Depart from holiday home in Narusawa Village, Yamanashi Prefecture
07:07 Arrive at golf course Fujizakura Country Club in Fujikawaguchiko Town, Yamanashi Prefecture. Play golf with wife Akie, Chairman of Fuji Television Network Hieda Hisashi, Cabinet Advisor Honda Etsuro, and MOF’s Director-General of Budget Bureau Tanaka Kazuho

02:33 Depart from Fujizakura Country Club
02:36 Arrive at holiday home
05:49 Depart from holiday home
05:55 Arrive at Chairman of The Nippon Foundation Sasakawa Yohei’s holiday home in Narusawa Village, Yamanashi Prefecture. Dinner with former Prime Minister Mori Yoshiro; Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Motegi Toshimitsu; Senior Vice-Minister of Cabinet Office Nishimura Yasuhiko; Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Kishi Nobuo; Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato Katsunobu; Special Advisor to President of the LDP Hagiuda Koichi; LDP Lower House member Yamamoto Yuji; Mr. Sasakawa; and Mr. Hieda
09:59 Depart from Mr. Sasakawa’s holiday home
10:05 Arrive at own holiday home

For an excellent analysis of this get together, see: Shisaku, August 21, 2014, "Golf is just another four letter word."

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


12:00 At holiday home (no visitors)
07:22 Depart from holiday home in Narusawa Village, Yamanashi Prefecture
07:26 Arrive at golf course Fujizakura Country Club in Fujikawaguchiko Town, Yamanashi Prefecture. Play golf with former Prime Minister Mori Yoshiro; Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Motegi Toshimitsu; Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Kishi Nobuo; Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato Katsunobu; Special Advisor to President of the LDP Hagiuda Koichi; LDP Lower House member Yamamoto Yuji; Chairman of Fuji Television Network Hieda Hisashi; and Chairman of The Nippon Foundation Sasakawa Yohei
09:19 Depart from Fujizakura Country Club
09:22 Arrive at holiday home
09:41 Depart from holiday home
10:59 Arrive at office
11:22 Meet with Minister of State for Disaster Management Furuya Keiji and Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary for Crisis Management Nishimura Yasuhiko at Crisis Management Center. Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide also attends
11:23 Interview open to all media: When asked “What is the government’s reaction to Hiroshima City’s landslide disaster?” Mr. Abe answers “The government has come together to issue instructions, coordinating lifesaving aid.”
11:24 Interview ends

12:44 Meet with Director of Cabinet Intelligence Kitamura Shigeru
01:22 End meeting with Mr. Kitamura
02:00 Depart from office
02:01 Arrive at official residence
05:19 Mr. Nishimura enters
05:44 Mr. Nishimura leaves
05:54 Depart from official residence
07:42 Arrive at holiday home

Thursday, August 21, 2014


12:00 At holiday home (no visitors)
08:00 At holiday home in Narusawa Village, Yamansashi Prefecture (no morning visitors)
10:34 Director of Cabinet Intelligence Kitamura Shigeru enters
11:13 JR Tokai Honorary President Kasai Yoshiyuki joins

12:57 Mr. Kasai leaves
01:00 Mr. Kitamura leaves
01:40 Depart from holiday home
03:04 Arrive at official residence
03:15 Depart from official residence
03:17 Arrive at office
03:25 Meet with Minister of State from Disaster Management Furuya Keiji. Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide also attends
04:02 End meeting with Mr. Furuya
04:03 Disaster Response Meeting among Relevant Ministries and Agencies for Torrential Rainfall
04:18 Meeting ends
05:06 Depart from office
05:32 Arrive at private residence in Tomigaya, Tokyo

Friday, August 22, 2014


12:00 At private residence (no visitors)
08:00 At private residence in Tomigaya, Tokyo (no morning visitors)
09:40 Depart from private residence
09:55 Arrive at office
10:08 Meet with Director of Cabinet Intelligence Kitamura Shigeru
10:29 End meeting with Mr. Kitamura
11:04 Meet with former Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Shionoya Ryu
11:19 End meeting with Mr. Shionoya
11:30 Speak with Chairman of LDP Research Commission on Regional Diplomatic and Economic Partnership Eto Seishiro, Chairman of LDP Special Mission Committee on Territories Nukaga Fukushiro and colleagues
11:43 Finish speaking with Mr. Eto, Mr. Nukaga and colleagues

02:08 Meet with Cabinet Advisor Iijima Isao
02:38 End meeting with Mr. Iijima
03:02 Ministerial Council on Torrential Rain
03:18 Council meeting ends
03:32 Meet with LDP Lower House member Kawai Katsuyuki
04:02 End meeting with Mr. Kawai
05:40 Depart from office
05:41 Arrive at official residence

Saturday, August 23, 2014


12:00 At official residence (no visitors)
08:00 At official residence (no morning visitors)
11:44 Depart from official residence
11:54 Arrive at Komyo-ji Temple in Toranomon, Tokyo. Attend memorial service for the late Ushio Haruko, wife of Chairman of Ushio electronics company Ushio Jiro

01:29 Depart from Komyo-ji Temple
01:47 Arrive at private residence in Tomigaya, Tokyo

Sunday, August 24, 2014


12:00 At private residence (no visitors)
10:00 At private residence in Tomigaya, Tokyo (no morning visitors)
Stay at private residence throughout the morning (no visitors)

Stay at private residence throughout the afternoon and evening (no visitors)

Provisional Translation by: Erin M. Jones

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Myths About Japan's Resistance to Collective Self-Defense

Hyuga - DDH 16 - Hyuga class helicopter destroyer

Reexamining "Myths" About Japan's Collective Self-Defense Change -- What critics (and the Japanese public) do understand about Japan's constitutional reinterpretation

By APP Member Bryce Wakefield, assistant professor of Japanese politics and international relations at Leiden University and Craig Martin, associate professor of law at Washburn University. The views expressed in this article are their own. 
First posted on Japan Focus, September 8, 2014

In a recent article in the Diplomat, Michael Green and Jeffrey Hornung claimed that critics of the Abe government’s “reinterpretation” of Japan’s constitution, to end the ban on the use of force for the purposes of collective self-defense, were “basing their opposition on myths about the change.” This allegation that resistance to the “reinterpretation” of Article 9 is based on nothing but “myths” is increasingly heard, and so it is worth examining their arguments, and the so-called myths that they purport to dismiss.

Green and Hornung argued that the changes to be made through the “reinterpretation” were actually slight and that the immediate implications were far less problematic than alleged. There is a grain of truth to this as it relates to imminent strategic consequences, but it also misses the essential point. Yes, at least in the short term, changes to the roles and the missions of the nation’s Self Defense Forces resulting from “reinterpretation” will probably be modest; and yes, the changes will not likely lead to militarism, regional adventurism, or various other scenarios that the article examines and dismisses. But this focus on the intended policy shifts misses the far more significant issues raised both by the unconstitutional nature of the move and the possible longer-term and profound systemic ramifications of the “reinterpretation.”

It is precisely because the immediate strategic implications of the Abe Cabinet’s announcement will probably be relatively modest that the implications for constitutional practice in Japan should be the focus of the debate. Perhaps the changing strategic environment in Asia will require Japan to consider relaxing some of the constraints imposed by Article 9. However, so fundamental a change to the nation’s constitution should only come after broad debate and pursuant to formal amendment procedures as provided for in the constitution. As explained below, the so-called “reinterpretation” process has in fact weakened constitutionalism, the rule of law, and fundamental principles of democracy in Japan, an argument that Green and Hornung, and many other defenders of the “reinterpretation”, never seriously address. In short, the harm is to the Constitution, and so focus on strategy is no answer.

Let us re-examine some of the “myths” that Green and Hornung so quickly dismiss.

“Abe is gutting the spirit of Japan’s peace constitution”

Green and Hornung maintain that Abe’s announcement is not undermining the spirit of Article 9, because in reality it is not really changing the official interpretation at all. They claim that the Cabinet Legislation Bureau (CLB), a department within the Ministry of Justice that gives advice to the government and the Diet on the constitutionality of laws, has always acknowledged that Japan has a right to collective self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter, but that “collective self-defense was deemed inappropriate because it did not meet the CLB’s definition of ‘minimal’ defense” necessary for the defense of Japan. What has changed now, according to Green and Hornung, is that because of the evolution of the strategic environment, collective self-defense should be understood as being within the “minimal necessary use of force” required for the defense of Japan itself. Thus, they argue, the shift in the “reinterpretation” is not inconsistent with the original CLB position, and is thus not really a new interpretation of Article 9.

This is both misleading in what it does argue, and entirely disregards more fundamental arguments about the harm that will be caused to Article 9. To begin with problems inherent in the narrow point they make, it is simply incorrect to say that the recognition of a right to collective self-defense would not constitute a fundamental change in the meaning of Article 9. Their claim appears to confuse the distinction between individual self-defense (ISD) and collective self-defense (CSD), as those concepts are understood in international law. ISD, of course, is the use of force in defense of the state in response to an armed attack on that state. ISD has been understood to be permitted by Article 9 since Japan reemerged as a sovereign state in the early 1950s, following the postwar Allied Occupation. CSD, on the other hand, is the use of force by one state in defense ofsome other state in response to an armed attack on that other state, for example the American use of force against Iraq in defense of Kuwait in 1991. Green and Hornung’s argument that Japan may use force to assist other countries in order to better ensure Japan’s own security conflates these two concepts. The use of force by Japan in a true exercise of CSD would, by definition, not be for the defense of Japan, even if at some stage in the future such an action might improve Japan’s strategic or defensive situation.

It is true that the CLB has acknowledged that Japan, like all nations, has the right to use force in the exercise of CSD as a matter of international law; but it has also stated, on more than one occasion, that it is prohibited as a matter of constitutional law. According to the bureau’s earlier statements, Article 9, which renounces war and prohibits the use of force as a means of settling international disputes, makes the exercise of that international law right “impermissible under the constitution.” All that is permitted is the minimum force necessary to defend against an armed attack on Japan itself – an exercise of ISD. By eliminating the requirement that there be a direct attack on Japan as a pre-condition for Japan to lawfully use force in self-defense, the Abe Cabinet has therefore made a clear break with, and is in direct opposition to, prior and consistent understandings of the constitution.

A related argument that is often heard is that there has been a pattern of “reinterpretations” by government in the past with respect to defense posture and capabilities, and thus this “reinterpretation” is not unusual. As The Economist puts it, this was a “usual if rather shabby” process of constitutional change. But this too is entirely inaccurate. It is true that there have been incremental changes to Japan’s defense posture, but there has been a consistent understanding that such decisions on force adjustments fall within constitutional boundaries, precisely because they take into account the restraint embodied by the long standing interpretation that force may be used only for the direct defense of Japan. The government has never suggested that these defense posture adjustments constituted a “reinterpretation”, nor have they ever been understood to “reinterpret” Article 9. Government “reinterpretation” has simply never been recognized as a legitimate method of circumventing the legitimate amendment procedures and revising the longstanding interpretations of the constitution.

The difference in nature between past defense posture adjustments and the current “reinterpretation” becomes clearer upon a closer examination of those past shifts. The government has sought to reduce the restrictions on the deployment and use the military since the 1980s, and particularly after the Gulf War. However, many of these restrictions (such as the post-war ban on overseas dispatch of the SDF, rescinded in 1993) were established between the 1950s and the mid-1970s as political measures designed to deflate protest on the political left and to reassure the Japanese public sceptical after the war about military solutions to international problems. At the time they were conceived and often afterwards, the government was careful to note that such restrictions were not required by the constitution. Thus, the later dismantling of those restrictions, such as legislation eliminating the ban on overseas deployment of the SDF for involvement in UN peace keeping operations (PKO), did not constitute a “reinterpretation” of Article 9. The deployment of the SDF for PKO activity does not constitute a use of force under international law and did not implicate Article 9. Similarly, relatively recent overseas missions, such as anti-piracy operations, while they appear to political analysts as a type of CSD, in fact constitute no such thing, because they do not involve the use of force—a concept in international law that relates to relations between state actors. On the other hand, the deployment of the SDF to assist in the belligerent occupation of Iraq in 2003 may indeed have constituted a use of force, as the Nagoya High Court so held in a judgment in 2008—but that would be a violation of the Constitution, not an example of its “reinterpretation”.

Abe’s attempt at “reinterpretation”, shabby though it may be, is therefore far from usual. This point is often lost on historians, political scientists, and analysts interested in Japan’s defense policy, who focus less on the legal ramifications of change and more on the strategic or political implications. It is lost as well on some peace advocates and left-wing politicians in Japan, who have never fully accepted the 1954 interpretation that recognized the right to exercise ISD, or the legitimacy of an SDF as constituting the minimal “war potential” necessary for the defense of Japan. Seen from their perspectives, the current “reinterpretation” may seem to be simply a continuation of an incrementally more assertive (and possibly unconstitutional) defense policy. But from the perspective of the government’s own position on Article 9, this “reinterpretation” is unprecedented.

Green and Hornung also suggest that the current interpretation and understanding of Article 9 was itself based on a “reinterpretation”, and that, therefore, “if Abe’s decision was reached undemocratically, then the earlier interpretation being upheld by his opponents must be considered undemocratic as well.” But this too is misplaced. The CLB played an important role in developing the initial interpretation, it is true – but that was at the very outset of establishing the interpretation of a new constitution. While there was robust debate in the Diet as to what precisely Article 9 meant and exactly what it restricted, the government issued no clear and consistent opinion until the interpretation in 1954. That interpretation, as it related to the very limited right to use force for purposes of ISD, was reinforced by the Supreme Court, the branch of government with the constitutionally mandated authority to interpret the constitution, in the famous Sunagawa case in 1959. It has been further reinforced by more than six decades of consistent Diet testimony and policy precedent. Indeed, in 1991 there was enormous pressure upon Japan to contribute forces to the coalition engaging in collective self-defense in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, and there was an acute sense that failure to do so would jeopardize Japan’s alliance with the U.S., but the CLB advised the Kaifu government that Article 9 prohibited any such move. The government, in compliance with that understanding of Article 9, therefore refused to participate in the military operations, and the no-use of force provision of Article 9 successfully operated to constrain government policy. There is no basis for arguing that the manner in which the original interpretation was established, shortly after the Constitution was promulgated and prior to any judicial consideration or serious policy development, is in any way similar to the “reinterpretation” by Cabinet fiat now at issue after six decades of entrenchment. It cannot be considered a serious comparison.

These rather technical arguments about the past CLB interpretation in any event miss the other ways in which the “reinterpretation” will potentially gut Article 9. In addition to now declaring that Article 9 no longer prohibits the use of force for purposes of CSD, key actors in the government and an “Advisory Panel” that Abe set up to “reconstruct the legal basis” for national security have suggested that Japan can and should use force in collective security operations authorized by the U.N. Security Council under Article 42 of the Charter. If that were to become the accepted interpretation of Article 9, which, it should be recalled, states in part that Japan “forever renounces war as a sovereign right of the nation, and the threat or use of force for the settling of international disputes”, then Article 9 will in fact no longer renounce any sovereign right relating to the making of war and the use of force, despite its explicit language to the contrary. The U.N. Charter prohibits the use of force by states, with three exceptions – or to put it another way, three sovereign rights – the use of force for ISD and CSD, and collective security measures authorized by the Security Council. Under the “reinterpretation” recommended by the panel, Japan would be permitted to engage in all three, and so Article 9 would not limit Japan from doing anything that international law does not already forbid. It is difficult to see that such a move would not be gutting the pacifist spirit and intent of Article 9.

“The decision starts a slippery slope for revising the constitution and removing Article 9”

The next “myth” that Green, Hornung and others take aim at is the so-called slippery slope argument. Abe’s defenders argue that there is no such slippery slope, and this move cannot be taken as leading to further erosion of Article 9. In emphasizing the modesty of Abe’s “reinterpretation”, they point to the fact that the prime minister has stated that the constitution would continue to prohibit collective security measures authorized by the UN Security Council. Leaving aside for a moment the fact that this limitation is not explicitly mentioned anywhere in the text of the Cabinet Resolution, the larger point is that the process of reinterpretation destroys any sense of durable and meaningful constitutional constraints, which undermines not only Article 9, but indeed the entire constitutional structure. So the Cabinet Resolution places various conditions upon the exercise of CSD, upon which defenders of the process place great store. But given the precedent this process has established, these limits too are only binding, if one can call it that, until the next Cabinet resolution. These are not constitutional provisions or principles, but mere whims of the Cabinet of the day. If they can supplant a constitutional provision today, a much broader and more insidious Cabinet Resolution may do so tomorrow. Thus, the prospect of the process comprising the beginning of a slippery slope cannot be dismissed as mere myth. This process of “reinterpretation” by cabinet fiat makes a mockery of the entire notion of a constitution comprising the highest law of the land, which serves to bind future generations to consistent principles and values, and imposes meaningful constraints on the exercise of government power.

The slippery slope argument is further strengthened by considerations of motive. It is hard to dismiss the violence that the Cabinet Resolution does to the constitution as “merely” the product of a government with an overzealous defense agenda prioritizing narrow policy goals over respect for constitutional provisions. Rather, undermining the constitution appears to be a central goal of key actors within the government. Abe has actually suggested that the idea that constitutions are intended to limit government power is “old-fashioned.” In the recent negotiations with Komeito over the exact language of the Cabinet Resolution, many members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) wanted the resolution to have fewer limitations. Meanwhile, LDP Secretary General Ishiba Shigeru has noted that the government should “start with a limited scope” in its interpretation of CSD so that it can “widen later.” The Abe Cabinet’s “reinterpretation” leaves precisely that possibility intact by at once eliminating the constitutional prohibition on CSD, but also adding ambiguous limitations and conditions, so that any decision on expanding the roles of the SDF will be merely political, not legal. Moreover, it has established the precedent that any provision of the constitution—not just Article 9—is subject to arbitrary government “reinterpretation.” Scholars have also argued that this is just one step towards more wholesale amendment down the road—that by twisting the meaning of the constitution, Abe is trying to ensure that it will be easier to claim later that the actual language of its provisions no longer reflect reality, and must therefore be formally amended. Whether or not that is the case, with reinterpretation acting as a de factomechanism for change, arguments about actual amendment would be moot.

“The decision was made undemocratically without transparency”

In arguing that it is merely a “myth” that the “reinterpretation” was made undemocratically and without transparency, Green and Hornung emphasize that cabinet discussions on CSD, “were reported upon daily by Japan’s media, enabling voters to be fully aware of the discussions.” But that does not address whether the prime minister or the cabinet properly subjected the process to transparent and democratic scrutiny. Yes, there was media attention. Indeed, few issues rile the media in Japan like government action on security policy. But on its own, media coverage of government statements on CSD does not imply transparency or adherence to democratic principles.

In fact, in his push for “reinterpretation”, Abe has pointedly attempted to circumvent any real public or political debate (transparency), and even more seriously, circumvented the constitutionally mandated amendment procedure, which in and of itself constitutes a violation of fundamental principles of constitutionalism and the rule of law (democratic principles). This begins with the circumvention of the amendment procedure. Article 96 of the Constitution provides for precisely how the Constitution is to be amended. Amendments must be initiated by the Diet, approved by two thirds of each house of the Diet, and then approved by a majority of votes in a general referendum. Comparative research has shown that Japan’s amendment process is less difficult than that of a number of other constitutional democracies, including the U.S. Indeed, the LDP did in fact begin laying the foundation for formal amendment in the years following 9/11. But when Abe’s attempts to mobilize support for amending Article 9 ran into stiff headwinds, he attacked the amendment procedure itself, seeking to make the constitutional amendment process little more difficult for the Diet than the revision of common statutes. When that effort failed, due in large measure to the backlash from lawyers and constitutional scholars, he chose to circumvent the amendment procedure altogether, moving to “reinterpret” Article 9. To dress up this wholly illegitimate process, he resurrected his extra-constitutional “Advisory Panel” of so-called experts, with a mandate to examine how Article 9 should be reinterpreted in light of the changing security environment.

The Advisory Panel, which included very few lawyers and only one constitutional law scholar, engaged in little constitutional analysis. Rather, it developed a result-oriented argument, reasoning that because Japan needs to do more to ensure its security, Article 9 must therefore mean that Japan can do more to defend itself and others. On the basis of this Report, the Abe Cabinet developed its resolution that constitutes the “reinterpretation” of Article 9. There was no prior debate on the content of this resolution in the Diet, no vote in the Diet, no referendum, not even consultation with either the Diet or the public. As already discussed above, it was an executive fiat by the Cabinet that purported to change the meaning of a fundamental principle of the constitution, in a manner that was not only inconsistent with the long-established and entrenched interpretation of Article 9, but that was irreconcilable with the explicit language of the provision. As further evidence of the departure from democratic principles, Abe made a political appointment of the new Director of the CLB, presumably to ensure that the CLB would in due course provide a supportive interpretation of the Resolution and laws passed to implement it. This political appointment of someone external to the CLB and the Ministry of Justice was contrary to deeply entrenched convention, and provoked criticism from past CLB directors. The entire process not only usurped the superior constitutional claims of both the Supreme Court and the Diet to constitutional interpretation, but was likely designed to make any future contrary interpretation by the Supreme Court that much more difficult and politically risky.

This process of “reinterpretation” was not only a violation of the constitutional amendment procedure, but it makes a mockery of the idea that the constitution can constrain the exercise of government power. It flies in the face of the notions essential to the rule of law: that all law must be passed and amended through democratic process, and that government is both subject to the law, and must exercise its authority as defined by and in accordance with the law. Pundits argue that the Diet will still have its say when it comes time to pass legislation implementing the new interpretation. But to suggest that this post hoc debate will justify the prior unconstitutional “reinterpretation” is to reveal a perverse understanding of deliberative democracy and the respective roles of the legislature and the executive in a parliamentary system, especially one where the formalseparation of powers is so clearly defined in its constitution. And to suggest that all these ills were cured by the fact that there was robust discussion in the media is just absurd.