Sunday, September 22, 2019

Monday in Washington September 23 2019

IMPLEMENTING INNOVATION: THE 21ST CENTURY NATIONAL SECURITY INNOVATION PARTNERSHIP CONFERENCE. 9/ 23, 2019 10:00am-12:45pm. Sponsors: CSIS, Northeastern University. Speakers: Joseph E. Aoun, President, Northeastern University; Steven Walker: Director, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency; Andrew P. Hunter, CSIS Director, Defense-Industrial Initiatives Group & Senior Fellow, International Security Program; Lisa Porter, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering, U.S. Department of Defense; David E. Luzzi, Senior Vice Provost for Research & Vice President of the Innovation Campus, Northeastern University; Robie I. Samanta Roy,Vice President, Technology & Government Affairs, Lockheed Martin; Wendy R. Anderson, General Manager of Defense and National Security, SparkCognition; William LaPlante, Senior Vice President & General Manager, MITRE National Security Sector; Kathleen Hicks, CSIS Senior Vice President & Henry A. Kissinger Chair & Director, International Security Program.

click to order
THE THREE LANGUAGES OF POLITICS. 9/23, Noon-1:30pm. Sponsor: Cato. Speakers: Arnold Kling, Adjunct Scholar, Cato Institute; Russ Roberts, John and Jean De Nault Research Fellow, Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, and Podcast Host, EconTalk.

SENATOR MARK R. WARNER ON U.S.-CHINA COMPETITION. 9/23, Noon- 1:30pm. Sponsor: U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP). Speaker: Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA). Moderator: Nancy Lindborg, President and CEO, USIP.

AMERICA’S INDO-PACIFIC POLICY: PROSPECTS DURING A CRITICAL TIME OF CHANGE. 9/23, 3:00-4:00pm. Sponsor: Heritage. Speaker: Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Chairman of the International Republican Institute.

Viewing the Comfort Women history battle West Coast

See the documentary Shusenjo: The Main Battleground of the Comfort Women Issue in October at the following universities:

🎥October 2nd - University of Minnesota

🎥October 3rd - University of Wisconsin-Madison

🎥October 4th - New Mexico State University, Las Cruces

🎥October 7th - Pacific University Oregon

🎥October 8thCalifornia Polytechnic State University

🎥October 9th - UCLA

🎥October 10th - California State University Northridge
Conference: Against Forgetting: Feminist Art, Activism, and Comfort Women

🎥October 11th - University of Southern California, Dornsife

Saturday, September 21, 2019

The Politics of Hate and Artistic Expression in Japan

statue in question
Organizers of the 2019 Aichi Triennale, a sprawling showcase of contemporary art, got more publicity than they bargained for

By Jeff Kingston
, Temple University, The Diplomat, September 14, 2019.

It is a troubling sign of the times in Japan when the government fails to unequivocally condemn threats of violence that target freedom of expression while politicians grandstand on censoring art. Organizers of the 2019 Aichi Triennale, a sprawling showcase of contemporary art, got more publicity than they bargained for. In an exhibit entitled After ‘Freedom of Expression?’ organizers displayed some 20 transgressive works, including a comfort woman statue that incensed Japanese conservatives because it drew attention to the Japanese military’s system of sexual slavery in the 1932-45 period. The “Statue of a Girl of Peace” is a South Korean work depicting a young woman in traditional Korean attire sitting next to an empty seat. A similar statue is located across the street from the site of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul that Tokyo wants removed, along with others around the world that reproach Japan over its inadequate contrition and efforts to downplay this sordid saga.

Over the past several months, the rupture between these frenemies morphed from battles over the shared history of comfort women and forced labor into a trade row as Japan instigated tit-for-tat trade restrictions that precipitated Seoul’s decision to terminate an intelligence sharing pact. This trifecta of history, trade and security was triggered by Japan’s bumbling diplomacy and poorly thought out actions, an own goal that plays to the advantage of Beijing and Pyongyang. Certainly, President Moon Jae-in earned an assist on that goal by mishandling unresolved grievances from the colonial era and playing the anti-Japan card to rally public support. Meanwhile, the Japanese public, egged on by a jingoistic press, supports Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s Trumpian tactics.

His reactionary supporters may not know much about art but they know what they hate.

Japan’s culture wars escalated in early August 2019 over the art exhibit, as some netizens took exception, sight unseen, to the Girl of Peace and a video installation depicting an image of Emperor Showa (Hirohito) being incinerated by a blowtorch. Following a faxed threat to set fire to the venue, 770 threatening emails and a cascade of scripted tirades by angry callers, organizers shutdown the exhibit just three days after it opened, mindful of the arson attack on Kyoto Anime the previous month that killed 35 employees. This decision without consulting any of the artists showing their works at the Triennale drew a sharp reaction in a petition signed by 72 of them condemning both the threats and the organizers’ capitulation. In a gesture of solidarity, two South Korean artists withdrew their work while other artists requested their art be removed from the festival until the controversial exhibit was reopened.

It was certainly an ironic decision given the symbolism of displaying art that had been rejected or removed from previous shows for political reasons. The After “Freedom of Expression” exhibit was intended to highlight and challenge such efforts to stifle this freedom. Adding to the drama, the governor of Aichi accused the mayor of Nagoya of championing censorship by advocating closure of this special exhibit, asserting that this violated Article 21 of the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of expression. As Philip Brasor wrote, “By demanding that a public function be shut down due to a threat of violence without expressly condemning that threat, the authorities, inadvertently or not, send a message that says violence could be an acceptable means of protest.” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga only said that such threats are wrong “generally speaking” in a manner implying they were just possibly justified in this case.

Japan Forward
, the conservative Sankei Shimbun’s English language media outlet, tried to shift blame onto the organizers, accusing them of engaging in hate speech, fuming, “Many of the works shown cannot be characterized as anything but expressions of hate towards the Japanese people and the Emperor,” adding, “It is difficult to imagine why on earth a behavior based on hate — like the exhibition in question — should fall within the scope of ‘freedom of expression.’”

Japan Forward asserted that the Japanese curator sought to inflame “public opinion as a marketing technique to breed confrontation” and called for common sense to prevail, assuming that its aesthetic tastes and constitutional interpretations represent that common sense. Apparently, those threatening violence against the art show share that common sense, one that is inimical to freedom of expression. Moreover, by condoning politicians weighing in against the exhibit, Japan Forward sanctions violating the culture and arts law guaranteeing noninterference by authorities in such situations.

It also turns out that those protesting the burning Emperor video were clueless about the artist’s history and intentions, whipping up hysteria on social media based on ignorance or willful distortion. Art critics assert that the artist is definitely not against the imperial system and that the video was actually a protest against the burning of 470 copies of a museum catalogue containing the Emperor’s image instigated by right-wingers and local assemblymen in Toyama Prefecture.

Perhaps unintentionally the curator succeeded in highlighting how limited freedom of expression is in Japan and how informed opinion has been overwhelmed by an ideologically charged public discourse.

The Aichi Triennale debacle is yet another example of how the rising tide of revisionist denial and downplaying of Japan’s wartime and colonial era abuses under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has had a chilling impact on freedom of expression as academics and journalists are subjected to orchestrated attacks.

Such efforts to rewrite the worst chapter of Japan’s modern history shine a limelight on it and impart a whiff of what life must have been like under the militarists when censorship was widespread and dissent dangerous. Curbs on freedom of expression in contemporary Japan appear to be gaining momentum under a reactionary political leadership and represent a threat to democracy and the free press.

SEE ALSO:

Japan’s tabloid media accused of racism towards South Korea as tourism dives: A Japanese newspaper has accused the nation’s tabloid media of racism in its coverage of the country’s ongoing diplomatic spat with South Korea, South China Morning Post ,  9/18/19

     The monthly magazine WiLL published a feature with the headline “Countdown to South Korea’s disappearance in 202X” which suggested Seoul’s present economic and political problems are the precursors to the nation’s doom within the next decade. The Shukan Post also printed an article that claimed to draw on academic research to conclude that South Koreans have a pathological inability to control their own anger. It is this failure, it added, that is largely to blame for the deteriorating relationship between Seoul and Tokyo. The Asahi editorial said the premise of the entire article “is nothing less than racist”.

The Japanese prime minister’s end game

Abe’s cabinet changes reflect tension between pragmatism and ideology

AsiaTimes, September 15, 2019

By Daniel Sneider, a Stanford lecturer and APP member, is associate editor of the Washington-based Nelson Report, which first published this article.


The naming of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s new cabinet has launched what are supposed to be the final two years of his already historically long administration.

The new cabinet and the opening statement by Abe reflect the schizophrenic nature of his administration, for there are really two Abes.

There is the outer Abe or, perhaps more precisely, the pragmatic Abe, whose focus has been on reviving Japan as a dynamic power with a more assertive claim to leadership in the region and globally. In that version, the priorities are economic growth and effective management of relations with the US and with China and the rest of Asia.

Then there is the inner Abe, the ideological Abe, who still feels the pull of history: unfinished tasks of ending the postwar era, as viewed through the lens of the Japanese revisionist conservatives. That Abe asserts the priority of finally revising, and in effect repudiating, the anti-war provisions of the constitution adopted under the weight of American military occupation. The current focus on the dispute with South Korea over wartime history issues reflects, to some degree, that outlook as well.

Both Abes were on view last week, and the debate was reflected in the array of commentary in the major Japanese media.

The Bolton question
But before getting to that, there is the unintended overlap with the new Abe cabinet of John Bolton’s ouster from the White House. Ironically, the cabinet change coincided also with a shakeup in the Japanese counterpart to Bolton – the replacement of the well-respected former Vice Foreign Minister Shotaro Yachi with the intelligence boss of the National Police Agency, Shigeru Kitamura, as well as an elevation of Abe’s close aide, former Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry bureaucrat Takaya Imai.

Bolton’s departure was seen by some in the Japanese media as a bit of a blow to Abe’s ability to manage relations with the mercurial Donald Trump, coming at a sensitive moment when there are attempts to finalize a trade deal and talk of another summit with North Korea. Bolton was widely seen as being “pro-Japanese” and, perhaps more importantly, as a voice within the White House opposing the kind of limited bargain with North Korea that would leave intact the missiles and warheads that directly threaten Japan.

“From Abe’s perspective,” a veteran Japanese journalist told me, “Bolton was the stabilizer of Trump’s volatility and, above all, the thermostat of simmering love between Trump and Kim Jong Un – plus the cold-eyed critic against [South Korean President] Moon Jae-in’s fantasy of the unified peninsula.

“In addition, Bolton was important to Abe in the sense that there was relatively reliable communication channel kept between Yachi and Bolton,” the journalist added. “Now both are gone. Once again the Abe administration is back into an uncharted territory of Trump’s impulse game with allies. Neither [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo nor [NSC Asia director Matt] Pottinger can be any match to Bolton as a consistent counterpart, even if he was a neocon jerk.”

For some observers, however, this would overstate the importance of Bolton.

“The Abe-Trump relationship stood on its own two feet, so Bolton’s departure likely has little impact on the bilateral relationship overall,” veteran Japan hand Brad Glosserman, deputy director of the Center for Rule Making Strategies at Tokyo’s Tama University, told me. “For all the alignment of views between Bolton and Abe, there is little indication that Bolton moved US policy in ways that benefitted Japan. The president is the decision maker and there is little sign that DJT acted on any particular issue because Bolton pressed his view upon him.”

That view can be found widely within the Prime Minister’s office and the National Security Secretariat – there is some degree of confidence that Abe can successfully manage the challenges ahead, beginning with the trade negotiations, followed by the prospect of another North Korea negotiation and finally upcoming tense talks on defense cost sharing. But behind that confidence lies the belief that Japan mainly has to play for time, to do what they can to keep the wolf of Trump’s neo-isolationism at bay and survive the coming election year.

The new cabinet and constitutional revision
The unveiling last week of the new Abe cabinet reflected the two sides of the Prime Minister.

On the one hand, there was a clear genuflection toward the revisionist right. The prime minister declared at his press conference that constitutional change was his priority and he called on the opposition to yield to demands to open parliamentary debate on this, the necessary step towards a national referendum. “As we stand at the start of the new Reiwa Era,” Abe said, referring to the ascension of the new Emperor, “we are on the cusp of creating a new Japan…and on the horizon is the challenge of constitutional revision.”

The cabinet is filled with Abe loyalists ready to do his bidding, and is peppered with leaders of the revisionist rightwing Nippon Kaigi (Japan Conference) who are well known advocates of constitutional revision. Among them are new education minister, Koichi Hagiuda; Seiichi Eto, who is a key figure in Nippon Kaigi; Sanae Takaichi, who was reappointed as minister of Internal Affairs and Communications, where she has led the charge to purge the television broadcasting networks; and, not least, former education minister Hakubun Shimomura, who now has a senior post in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) where he has been a leading voice on promoting constitutional revision.

The main media backer of this focus for Abe is, of course, the Fox News-like daily newspaper Sankei Shimbun and its affiliated television network, Fuji Television. “We cannot afford to put off constitutional revision any further,” Sankei editorialized on September 12. “Whether Japan can enjoy peace and prosperity in the future is called into question.”

The problem for Abe and the right is two-fold. First, the changes in interpretation of the constitution made by the Abe administration in 2015 have already made it possible for Japan to carry out any imaginable security role, without the need for a formal amendment.

More importantly, despite the right’s having pounded away on this issue for decades, and particularly during Abe’s rule, the Japanese public does not support changing the anti-war clause of the constitution. People understand very well that, however it may be worded, a change in Article 9 has huge symbolic meaning. While polls showed a bump in popularity from the cabinet reshuffle – a normal event in Japan – they also showed that only 38.8 percent supported Abe’s constitutional obsession, while 47.1 percent were opposed.

The opposition parties, with the exception of the Osaka-based Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party), are united in refusing even to open a parliamentary debate on this. Without that, it will be almost impossible for Abe to move ahead. And while the LDP remains dominant, recent elections in which the left and centrist opposition parties managed to stand together may only encourage this stance. The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Democratic Party for the People joined with the two leftist parties, the Communists and Social Democrats, to easily re-elect the governor of Iwate last Sunday, following a victory in late August in Saitama over a more formidable LDP candidate.

The lack of a political environment to push the rightwing agenda was clearly on the mind of the more mainstream conservative daily, the Yomiuri Shimbun, which called on Abe to pay more attention to a possible downturn in the Japanese economy and to reform of the heavily burdened social welfare system. The national sales tax, the consumption tax, will go up 2 percent on October 1, to 10 percent which is considered necessary for securing the social security system. But it may also trigger a recessionary downturn in consumer spending. With the US-China trade war already creating a drag on the Japanese economy, “the re-reshuffled cabinet should first focus on economic policy,” the Yomiuri opined on September 12.

Given the uncertainties of US-Japan relations and the unstable security situation in the region, the conservative daily wrote, it is important for Abe to “create an environment for discussion” of the constitution first.

While Abe made his gestures to the ideological side, he also gave key positions to LDP leaders who have been essential to carrying out his pragmatic foreign policy. The move of economy minister Toshimitsu Motegi over to the foreign ministry, where he will continue to run the trade negotiations with the US, is key, as is the shift of Foreign Minister Taro Kono over to the defense ministry. Motegi, who is seen as one of the more competent and capable figures in the party and who enjoys a close relationship with Abe, will also have the responsibility for trying to ease the tensions with South Korea.

All this suggests that the pragmatic Abe will likely prevail over the ideological one.

“Abe still harbors those conservative ambitions but the mechanics of an amendment remain quite complex, the ruling coalition is split and the public is ambivalent about amendment under Abe,” comments Glosserman. “Amendment requires a benign external environment as well. If the economy takes a dive, if there is a big international crisis, especially in the region, political energies will be redirected. And if there is a regional security crisis, and Japan steps up without constitutional change, it would undercut the perceived urgency of amendment. And then there are the Olympics.”

Against Forgetting - October 10 - California


Thursday, September 19, 2019

Viewing the Comfort Women history battle

Shusenjo - The Main Battleground of the Comfort Women Issue
A Documentary by Miki Dezaki



The “comfort women” issue is perhaps Japan’s most contentious present-day diplomatic quandary. Inside Japan, the issue is dividing the country across clear ideological lines. Supporters and detractors of “comfort women” are caught in a relentless battle over empirical evidence, the validity of oral testimony, the number of victims, the meaning of sexual slavery, and the definition of coercive recruitment. Credibility, legitimacy and influence serve as the rallying cry for all those involved in the battle. In addition, this largely domestic battleground has been shifted to the international arena, commanding the participation of various state and non-state actors and institutions from all over the world. This film delves deep into the most contentious debates and uncovers the hidden intentions of the supporters and detractors of comfort women. Most importantly it finds answers to some of the biggest questions for Japanese and Koreans: Were comfort women prostitutes or sex slaves? Were they coercively recruited? And, does Japan have a legal responsibility to apologize to the former comfort women?

September 2019 on the East Coast of the United States

🎥 September 21st - Brown University

🎥 September 23rd - Vassar College

🎥 September 24th - University of Connecticut 

🎥 September 25th - Yale University/Yale Law School

🎥 September 26th - Queens College

🎥 September 26th - New York University

🎥 September 27th - George Washington University

🎥 September 30th - University of North Georgia

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Contradiction between the symbolic emperor system and the Constitution has grown


By Watanabe Osamu, Professor Emeritus, Hitotsubashi University

Translation by Lawrence Repeta for the Asia-Pacific Journal. He is a former professor of law at Meiji University in Japan, an Asia-Pacific Journal contributing editor, and a director of Information Access Japan Clearinghouse.

Just before the emperor’s retirement and the change of era, the activities of the emperor and the imperial family suddenly came to life and the news media were overflowing with stories that struck a tone of veneration. Memorial visits to Okinawa, Saipan, and other battlegrounds and devastated sites and the people’s reception of okotoba [お言葉], or his message to the public (see note below), created an atmosphere that embraced these actions by the emperor. Moreover, many pundits and constitutional scholars positively support the actions of this emperor, interpreting them as subtle criticisms of the current administration.

But we must stop and think about this carefully. For here we see a fundamental contradiction between the symbolic emperor system and democracy.

The Constitution of Japan made the emperor a symbol in reaction to the repeated pattern of colonization and wars of aggression that occurred under the Meiji Constitution, which placed all political power in the emperor. With hoyoku [輔翼] - literally, assisting wings, but meaning, in consultation with the military, the emperor pursued war with no check from the cabinet, much less the Diet. This led to the horrifying descent through disastrous battlefields that took the lives of approximately 20 million people across Asia, including Japan.

The present Constitution preserved the emperor, but based on this experience, removed all political power, limiting the emperor to the performance of ceremonies listed in the Constitution as “acts of state (kokuji koi [国事行為]),” subject to the advice and consent of the cabinet.

Nonetheless, the existence of the emperor and popular sovereignty within the Constitution is a great contradiction. Conservative governments have sought to use the immense authority held by the prewar emperor as a force for political stability and have pushed the emperor to perform acts that are not recognized in the Constitution. During the Heisei era the political acts initiated by the emperor expanded and the contradiction with the Constitution grew ever greater.

Two contradictions have increased during the Heisei era. The first is that political statements and actions by the unelected emperor have had a great impact on politics. Even though there is strong suspicion that the frequent and generally accepted messages (okotoba) and appearances (odemashi) of the present emperor are unconstitutional, they will be inherited by future emperors; we should expect that conservative administrations will take significant advantage of these fait accompli.

The second, a much more serious problem, is that by relying on the authority of the emperor, people will obscure their own awareness and responsibility as sovereigns and will continue to avoid addressing problems. Issues like war responsibility, the work of building a country that does not engage in war, nuclear power, and the military bases in Okinawa should be resolved by the people themselves.

Visits by the emperor and imperial family members and messages (okotoba) may offer a temporary reprieve, but they cannot solve problems, nor should they. If there are issues with the Abe administration, it should be the people themselves, not the emperor, who criticize them and change the regime.

So what should be done about the emperor system? First, we should move closer to the symbolic system stipulated in the Constitution. The emperor’s public activities should be strictly limited to “acts of state.” Official visits abroad described with such labels as “imperial diplomacy” (kōshitsu gaikō  [皇室外交] should be stopped. If the emperor absolutely wishes to travel abroad, he should do so as a citizen, in other words as a private person.

“Traditions” that conflict with human rights provisions of the Constitution, such as limiting attendance to males only at change of era ceremonies, limiting the emperorship to males, conducting religious ceremonies such as the Daijosai as “official acts,” should be reviewed immediately with the goal of embedding the emperor system within democratic society.

Regarding war responsibility and related issues, the people should not simply accept the emperor’s “visits” and “messages”; instead, the people should act as sovereigns, facing these issues squarely and building a politics to deal with them.

Even so, the contradiction between the emperor and democracy will remain, but the road to its resolution can only be found through these kinds of measures.

--The above translation first appeared in the September 1, 2019, Volume 17, Issue 17, Number 3 of Asia-Pacific Journal of the original “Kenpo to no mujun hirogatta – Shocho tenno sei to minshu shugi,” a Kyodo News Agency article that appeared in Chugoku Shimbun, on April 19, 2019.

Translator’s note
Various terms are used to describe deeds of the emperor, and okotoba is one of them. It is a combination of “kotoba,” meaning words, and “o”, an honorific, and together, okotoba has a connotation of “words from on high.”