Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Tracing the decline of a beautiful Japan

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By Michael Hoffman, author of In the Land of the Kami: A Journey into the Hearts of Japan and Other Worlds

THE JAPAN TIMES, June 17, 2017

Two irreconcilable views of patriotism were given their classic expressions by two Englishmen: Lord Byron, the poet (1788-1824), and Dr. Johnson, the lexicographer and jack-of-all-literary-trades (1709-84). Byron said, “He who loves not his country can love nothing.” And Johnson: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s patriotism is unabashed and fervent. He is doing all in his very considerable power to transmit it, via education, to the nation at large. His first stint as prime minister produced a revision to the Fundamental Law of Education in 2006 that charges schools with cultivating in children “an attitude that respects tradition and culture, and loves the nation and homeland that have fostered them.” He vowed at the time to “push ahead with education rebuilding that will … nurture people with vision and hope and build a dignified and beautiful country.”

Japan’s beauty was beautifully sung by the country’s most ancient poets, those of the sixth, seventh and eighth centuries whose work was anthologized in the famous Manyoshu collection, dating to the latter half of the eighth century. Among the poets were emperors and subjects, courtiers and lowly soldiers, men and women. Their shared love for their country at times seems almost erotic. The very mountains love one another: “Mount Kagu strove with Mount Miminashi/ for the love of Mount Unebi.” And in any human love, the nation seems ever present, a silent but indispensable third party: “On the vast lake of Omi/ you boatmen that come rowing/ close by the shore,/ ply not too hard your oars …/ lest you should startle into flight/ the birds beloved of my dear husband!” So sang Empress Yamato-hime, consort of Emperor Tenji (reigned 661-71).

As the Manyoshu era faded, so did patriotism. Warriors supplanted aristocrats, military rule marginalized the Imperial house, and Japan itself, beginning in the late 12th century, crumbled into a chaos of warring feudal domains. Poetry persisted, but the self-sacrificing loyalty it celebrated was to one’s domain, one’s lord — not one’s country. There was no country.

Unification in 1600 under the Tokugawa Shogunate produced no upsurge of national pride. The official morality it enforced was Confucian — hardly a native plant. Modern Japanese patriotism is rooted in simmering opposition to Confucianism, tainted by its very foreignness, and to the shoguns, damnable as usurpers. (Buddhism, then in eclipse, scarcely counted.) Japan had an indigenous religion: Shinto, the “way of the gods.” And it had its rightful ruler: the sacred Emperor, descended from the Sun Goddess. Where were they? Shinto was nowhere, all but forgotten. The Emperor languished in dignified but impotent exile in Kyoto, the old capital.

Vanguard teacher of generations of patriots to come was Motoori Norinaga (1730-1801). Did he know what he would spawn, this most gentle and erudite of scholars? Among his intellectual progeny were the kamikaze pilots of World War II, who drew inspiration from his famous poem: “What is the spirit of Yamato’s (Japan’s) ancient land?/ It is like the wild cherry blossoms,/ radiant in the sun.” The kamikaze poet who wrote on the eve of his suicide mission, “If only we might fall/ like cherry blossoms in spring —/ so pure and radiant!” was surely thinking of him.

“Our august country,” wrote Norinaga, “is the august country of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu Omikami. It is the beautiful and magnificent august country superior to all other countries, so people’s hearts and actions, as well as the words they speak, are straightforward and elegant. In the past, the realm was governed peacefully and without incident, so that, unlike in other countries, there was not the least trace of anything bothersome or troubling. But then writing came over from China.”

Thus were the seeds of corruption sown. Japan ceased to be fully Japanese. It became quasi-Chinese. Following the way of the Chinese sages, it lost the way of the Japanese gods. Of them Norinaga wrote: “All things in this world, such as the changing of the seasons, the falling of the rain and the gusting of the wind, as well as the various good and bad things that happen to countries and people, all are entirely the august works of the gods. Among the gods there are good ones and bad ones. … They cannot be understood with ordinary reason. … The fact that many things go against ordinary reason, such as good people meeting misfortune and bad people prospering, is all because of the deeds of these gods. In foreign countries, though, there is no correct transmission of the age of the gods, so they do not understand this.”

In short: A “beautiful and magnificent august country” is one thing; the happiness of people is something else altogether and, in fact, quite beside the point. The gods are the gods — there is no holding them to account. The people’s lot — the people’s joy, if only they know it — is to know the gods as best they can be known, and to serve them as best they can be served. For Norinaga’s disciples of the first two generations after his death, that meant “revere the Emperor and expel the barbarians” — a truculent challenge to the tottering shogunate which, having usurped Imperial rule, now stood helpless against the ever more boldly intruding Western “barbarians.”

Norinaga with his writing brush, his disciples with their swords, would gladly have thrust Japan back to its Manyoshu past, if only they could. They couldn’t, of course. The Meiji Era (1868-1912) that began with an Imperial Restoration modernized, industrialized, capitalized and militarized Japan far more than it “restored” it, if restoration means return to a pristine state. Norinaga’s ideal was the misty “land of the gods.” Meiji’s was “rich country, strong army.”

And Abe’s? He, perhaps no less than his Meiji predecessors, is remaking Japan — into a “dignified and beautiful country,” he says, vague as always as to what he means; hopefully not a neo-“land of the gods.” “Land of the gods” makes for pretty mythology but — as history teaches at such cost — very ugly politics.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Monday in Washington, June 19, 2017

REDEFINING MANUFACTURING: THE SERVICE SECTOR’S ROLE IN BOOSTING US COMPETITIVENESS AND RESILIENCE. 6/19, 10:00-11:30am. Sponsor: Asia Program, Wilson Center. Speakers: Matthew Resiman, Director, International Trade, Microsoft; Trevor Gunn, Vice president, international Relations, Medtronic; Sherry Stephenson, Senior Fellow, International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development; Christine Bliss, President, Coalition of Services Industries. Moderator: Meg Lundsager, Fellow, Public Policy, Wilson Center.

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THE FORGOTTEN FLIGHT: TERRORISM, DIPLOMACY AND THE PURSUIT OF JUSTICE. 6/19, 11:00am-Noon. Sponsor: Wilson Center. Speakers: author Stuart H. Newberger, Wilson Council Member, Senior Partner, International Law Firm Crowell & Moring. Moderator: David Ottaway, Middle East Fellow, Wilson Center.

CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF GENERAL JOSEPH DUNFORD
. 6/19, 11:30-1:00pm, Washington, DC. Sponsor: National Press Club. Speaker: U.S. Marine Corps General Joseph F. Dunford, Chairman, Joint Chief of Staff.

PAKISTAN AND AFGHANISTAN: RELATIONS, DIPLOMACY, AND SECURITY CHALLENGES. 6/19, Noon-1:15pm, Lunch. Sponsor: Afghanistan and Pakistan Studies, Middle East Institute (MEI). Speakers: H.E. Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Ambassador to the United States, Pakistan; H.E. Dr. Hamdullah Mohib, Ambassador to the United States, Afghanistan. Moderator: Marvin Weinbaum, Director, Afghanistan and Pakistan Studies, MEI.

LOSING AN ENEMY: CAN THE IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL SURVIVE TRUMP? 6/19, Noon, Lunch. Sponsor: Atlantic Council. Speaker: Trita Parsi, President, National Iranian American Council. Moderator: Barbara Slavin, Acting Director, Future of Iran Initiative, Atlantic Council.

U.S.-INDIA DEFENSE AND SECURITY COOPERATION: PROMISE AND MOMENTUM. 6/19, 1:00-3:00pm. Sponsor: Wadhwani Chair, CSIS. Speakers: Amb. Hemant Krishan Singh, Director General, Delhi Policy Group; Lt. Gen. Anil Ahuja (Retd.), Former Deputy Chief of Integrated Defence Staff, Senior Fellow, Delhi Policy Group; Brig. Arun Sahgal (Retd.), Senior Fellow, Delhi Policy Group; Richard M. Rossow, Senior Adviser and Wadhwani Chair, U.S.-India Policy Studies, CSIS; Kathleen H. Hicks, Senior Vice President, Henry A. Kissinger Chair, Director, International Security Program, CSIS.

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TOWARD A GLOBAL NORM AGAINST MANIPULATING THE INTEGRITY OF FINANCIAL DATA. 6/19, 2:00-3:30pm. Sponsor: Cyber Policy Initiative, Carnegie. Speakers: Siobhan MacDermott, Senior Vice President, Executive, Global Cyber Public Policy, Bank of America; Greg Rattray, Director, Global Cyber Partnerships & Government Strategy, JP Morgan Chase & Co.; Tim Maurer, Fellow, Co-Director, Cyber Policy Initiative, Carnegie; Michael Chertoff, Co-Founder, Executive Chairman, Chertoff Group. Moderator: Duncan Hollis, Nonresident Scholar, Carnegie, James E. Beasley Professor, Law, Temple Law School.

DEAN ACHESON AND THE OBLIGATIONS OF POWER. 6/19, 2:00-3:30pm. Sponsor: History and Public Policy Program, Wilson Center. Speakers: Author Michael F. Hopkins, Director, MA, Twentieth Century History Program, University of Liverpool; David Painter, Associate Professor, International History, Georgetown University. Moderator: Charles Kraus, Program Associate, History and Public Policy Program, Wilson Center.

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POLITICAL PARTIES IN AMERICA: TRENDS AND TRUTHS IN THE TRUMP ERA. 6/19, 2:00-7:00pm. Sponsor: Hoover Institution. Speakers: Harvey Mansfield, Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Professor, Government, Harvard University; Morris Fiorina, Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution; Professor, Political Science, Stanford University; James Ceaser, Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Professor, Politics, University of Virginia; Spencer Abraham, Former U.S. Senator, U.S. Congress, Secretary, Energy, United States; Bill Kristol, Weekly Standard Editor at Large; Doug Sosnik, Political Strategist.

HOME FRONT TO BATTLEFRONT AN OHIO TEENAGER IN WWII. 6/19, 4:00pm. Sponsor: Institute of World Politics. Speaker: Author Ambassador Frank Lavin, CEO, Founder, Export Now, Former Ambassador to Singapore, Former Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade.

Japan's Official Statements of Apology are only four

What is an official Japanese government statement? What would make a Japanese apology official? The following paper answers this question by pointing out the three war apologies that have distinction of a Cabinet Decision (kakugi kettei) behind them. This is approval by Cabinet, which is the executive of the Japanese government. No war apology can be said to have been approved by the Diet, which would also be official.

The article below does not mention the fourth Cabinet Decision on a war apology. This was in 2009 to the American former POWs (buried in a February 6, 2009 reply, #171-22 [English, Question III, #3], to a Dietmember). Written answers to questions made in the Diet are kakugi ketteis. This apology by implication and vagueness included ALL POWs of Imperial Japan during WWII. It is the first war apology to a specific group.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in all his war statements has been very careful not to have them Cabinet approved. Neither his address to the joint meeting of the U.S. Congress or at Pearl Harbor were Cabinet approved. This substantially weakens them, and implies that the words are more personal than state sanctioned. There is then room for improvement.

The Prime Minister's Statements on Understanding of History

By Junichiro Shoji, director of NIDS Center for Military HistoryNational Institute for Defense Studies Commentary, 18 February 2013. Provisional translation by Asia Policy Point. [National Institute for Defense Studies is a policy research institute under Japan's Ministry of Defense]

Introduction 

In a speech to a plenary session of the Upper House, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated that he "would like to make a future-oriented statement that is appropriate for the 21st century," while, as with his first cabinet, continuing to follow the tenor of the "Murayama Statement," indicating Abe's intention to issue a new "Abe Statement." Abe has referred a number of times to the idea of an "Abe Statement" up to now, but this was the first time he mentioned the possibility in the Diet.

In this article, I will focus on three "Prime Minister's Statements" addressing Japan's historical understanding that received cabinet approval in order to identify their respective particular features and differences among them (these statements being divided between those receiving cabinet approval and those not needing it).

1) Murayama Statement

The "Murayama Statement," officially entitled "On the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the War's End," was a statement issued by Socialist Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama on 15 August 1995, 50 years after the end of the Second World War, regarding Japan's recognition of its wartime history. The following is an extract from the statement.
During a certain period in the not too distant past, Japan, following a mistaken national policy, advanced along the road to war, only to ensnare the Japanese people in a fateful crisis, and through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations. In the hope that no such mistake be made in the future, I regard, in a spirit of humility, these irrefutable facts of history, and express here once again my feelings of deep remorse and state my heartfelt apology. 
The primary special aspect of this statement is Murayama's expression of "deep remorse" and "heartfelt apology" in regards to the "tremendous damage and suffering" inflicted on Asian and other countries through Japan's "colonial rule and aggression." Moreover, based on this recognition, Murayama expressed his commitment to peace and the renunciation of war to ensure that Japan never repeats this sorrow of history again.

Up to then, official documents, statements, speeches, and so on had often expressed Japan's "remorse," "apology," and "renunciation of war," but [the Murayama Statement] compiled all of these sentiments into one statement, and was given the weighty imprimatur of cabinet approval [kakugi kettei, emphasis added]. For example, in his policy speech to the Diet on 23 August 1993, then Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa stated, "I would like to express anew our profound remorse and apologies for the fact that past Japanese actions, including aggression and colonial rule, caused unbearable suffering and sorrow for so many people." Prime Minister Murayama himself in the "Statement by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama on the 'Peace, Friendship, and Exchange Initiative,'" issued in August 1994, expressed similar sentiments.

The second aspect is that for the first time a reference to "following a mistaken national policy" was included in the Murayama Statement. Since a clear recognition was made of a "mistaken national policy," an animated debate subsequently ensued about who the main bearers of responsibility were and what the specific target policies and their timing were.

At that time, there were various views in Japan on the matter. For example, since disputes had arisen regarding historical understanding, the Resolution To Renew the Commitment to Peace on the Basis of Lessons Learned From History (War Renouncing Resolution) that was issued by the Lower House in June 1995 adopted the following mediating language: "Solemnly reflecting upon many instances of colonial rule and acts of aggression in the modern history of the world, and recognizing that Japan carried out such acts in the past, inflicting pain and suffering upon the peoples of other countries, especially in Asia, the Member s in this House express a sense of deep remorse."

That is, the words "aggression" and "apology" were replaced by "acts of aggression" and "deep remorse" respectively. A sentence calling for "transcending the differences over historical views of the past war" was also added. Moreover, although Diet resolutions are meant, in principle, to be passed unanimously, since many members from both the ruling and the opposition parties absented themselves during the voting, it was the rare case of a resolution being approved by less than half the total number of Diet members.

Although the Murayama statement was said, for external consumption, to have been led by the prime minister's office, in actuality, the statement was carefully vetted by the Foreign Ministry as part of its long-term processing of post-war policy. Moreover, the target countries for the resolution, particularly China, South Korea, the United States, and Britain, were kept well in mind, and letters from Murayama were sent to those four countries at the same time as the statement was released. (See The Murayama Statement and MOFA, by Ryuji Hattori.)

Accordingly, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson lauded the statement, saying, "The Japanese government has expressed deep remorse over their past history of colonial rule and aggression, and they have shown a positive attitude in apologizing to the peoples of Asia."

After that, the Murayama Statement policy was adopted and followed by successive cabinets, including those of the Liberal Democratic Party, and the policy has continued until today.

2) Koizumi Statements

On 15 August 2005, then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi issued a statement marking the 60th anniversary of the Second World War's end. It basically followed the Murayama Statement, but Koizumi's statement was significant because it was issued by an LDP prime minister. It is certainly true that certain quarters in both China and South Korea were dissatisfied with the Murayama Statement because it was issued under a Socialist Party administration.

Koizumi's statement had the following characteristics. First, the references to the wartime period in the Murayama Statement, particularly those that sparked argument, such as "following a mistaken national policy," "ensnar[ing] the Japanese people in a fateful crisis," and "eliminat[ing] self-righteous nationalism," are gone, and in their place, much more prominence is given to emphasizing Japan's postwar history of peaceful development (achievements as a peace-loving nation). 

Thus, Koizumi's statement points out that postwar Japan adopted a completely pacifist position, and has contributed to peace and prosperity in the world (international contributions) through its Official Development Assistance (ODA), participation in UN peacekeeping operations (PKO), and so on. The statement reads, "Japan's postwar history has indeed been six decades of manifesting its remorse on the war through actions." Koizumi's statement has a "new aspect not found in the Murayama Statement," and as shown by the path taken by Japan after the war, Japan's past remorse is expressed not only in words [but also by international contributions], and "by emphasizing that Japan's actual actions are proof of this, the statement is all the more persuasive" (Takakazu Kuriyama, Wakai [Reconciliation]).

Incidentally, in a BBC opinion survey in 2012, Japan was ranked as the top country for "having a positive influence on the world," and in a survey by an Australian think tank in 2012, Japan ranked 5th in a list of "peaceful countries."

On the other hand, in the history education and media in China and South Korea, compared with the Second World War and Japan's colonial rule, Japan's postwar course has not been taken up very much. The Japan-China History Research Committee (December 2006-December 2009), of which I was a member, addressed not only the wartime period but also ancient and modern history, including the postwar period. In that sense, it had epoch-making significance (although at the request of the Chinese side, the section in the committee's report dealing with postwar history was not publicly released). This committee was established based on an agreement with the Chinese side when Prime Minister Abe visited China in October 2006. The Chinese side "positively appreciated the fact that postwar Japan has consistently followed the path of a peaceful country based on freedom and democracy."

Second, based on postwar Japan's pacifism, Koizumi's statement declared, "I believe it is necessary to work hand in hand with other Asian countries, especially with China and the Republic of Korea, which are Japan's neighboring countries separated only by a strip of water, to maintain peace and pursue the development of the region." While specifically naming China and South Korea, the statement penultimately concluded, "I intend to build a future-oriented cooperative relationship based on mutual understanding and trust with Asian countries."

At the Asian-African Summit (Bandung Conference) held in Jakarta in April 2005, Prime Minister Koizumi gave a similar speech, following the line of the Murayama Statement, but it was the first time a Japanese prime minister had referred to the matter of historical awareness at an international conference and expressed "remorse" and "apologies," making the speech exceptional.

Third, Koizumi's statement begins: "...I affirm my determination that Japan must never again take the path to war, reflecting that the peace and prosperity we enjoy today are founded on the ultimate sacrifices of those who lost their lives for the war against the their will. More than three million compatriots died in the war -- in the battlefield thinking about their homeland and worrying about their families, while others perished amidst the destruction of war, or after the war in remote foreign countries." Referring to the Japanese war dead, the statement expresses a remembrance of the Japanese who died as a result of the war and a desire for peace. This is an expression of Koizumi's logic (thinking) for visiting Yasukuni Shrine.

Prime Minister Koizumi's first visit to Yasukuni after becoming prime minister came in August 2001; because of his consideration of China, Koizumi made the visit on the 13th, ahead of the anniversary on the 15th. On that day, Koizumi issued a statement that began: "...Japan caused tremendous sufferings to many people of the world, including its own people. Following a mistaken national policy during a certain period in the past, Japan imposed, through its colonial rule and aggression, immeasurable ravages and suffering, particularly to the people of the neighboring countries in Asia. This has left a still incurable scar to many people in the region." This statement replaces the Murayama Statement's phrase "tremendous damage and suffering" with "immeasurable ravages and suffering." With the addition of the idea of an "incurable scar" and so on, Koizumi's statement was evaluated as going beyond the Murayama Statement. Although he continued to visit Yasukuni, Koizumi carried on the policy line of the Murayama Statement.

Moreover, when Koizumi visited China on 8 October, two months after his first Yasukuni visit, he went to the Museum of the War of Chinese People's Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (near Lugou Bridge), the first prime minister to do so since Murayama visited the Museum in 1995. "I looked at the various exhibits with a feeling of heartfelt apology and condolences for those Chinese people who were victims of aggression...We must look directly at our past history and must never cause a war again. Based on our remorse, Japan has been able to achieve prosperity as a peaceful country after the war," Koizumi said after he toured the museum. Koizumi expressed remorse and an apology more clearly than the Murayama Statement, which did not specify the other countries. The Chinese side highly appreciated Koizumi's remarks, and Chinese President Jiang Zemin said with surprise, "This is the first Japanese prime minister I can talk with to such an extent." Sources said that the Chinese side held expectations that Koizumi would not visit Yasukuni again (Yomiuri Shimbun, 28 July 2005). Thus, it has been pointed out that in response to Koizumi's subsequent repeated visits to Yasukuni, the main emphasis of China's criticism moved from the issue of historical understanding per se to the damage to the national sentiment of the suffering country.

3) Kan Statement


Prime Minister Naoto Kan issued a statement in August 2010, the 100th anniversary of the annexation of Korea. The statement referred only to South Korea, and it was the first statement issued by the Democratic Party of Japan.

Following the tenor of the Murayama Statement, Kan's statement made specific mention of Japan's colonial rule of Korea, and in reference to the March 1st independence movement [Samil Movement], the statement recognized the coerciveness of Japan's colonial rule: "...the Korean people of that time [were deprived of their country], and their ethnic pride was deeply scarred by the colonial rule, which was imposed against their will...." Expressing consideration for the sentiments of the South Korean people, the statement also said, "Those who render pain tend to forget it, while those who suffered cannot forget it easily."

On the other hand, around half of the statement, particularly the latter half, declares that Japan and South Korea should build future-oriented ties based on the 2,000 years of exchanges and friendship between the two countries, while also recognizing the sorrowful periods in the past. Thus the statement declares: "Japan and the Republic of Korea have become the most important and closest neighboring nations now in the 21st century, sharing such values as democracy, freedom, and a market economy." Referencing the idea of an East Asian community, the statement also stressed the necessity of building a "partnership where we cooperate and exercise leadership for the peace and prosperity of the region and the world."

Conclusion

As far as an Abe Statement, the specific timing and contents will be considered from now. Regarding the timing, it is said that, in accordance with custom, one option is the year 2015, which will mark the 70th year since the war's end. As regards the contents, Abe has stated, "We should issue a statement that is appropriate for one given 70 years after the war and which includes the postwar path taken by Japan and the path that should be taken from now." Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has said, "We believe that a statement that is focused on a future-oriented outlook is necessary when we consider the stability, peace, and economies of Asia."

In other words, it is believed that the statement will aim for an "orientation towards the future," based on Japan's postwar course and not being solely tied to the past. It will likely reflect the transition, which I have taken up in this article, from the Murayama Statement, which took responsibility for Japan's wartime period, to the statements by Koizumi and Kan, which, while based on the sentiments of the Murayama Statement, also emphasized Japan's postwar path and future-oriented relations.

I had several opportunities to talk with scholars on the Chinese side through the Japan-China Joint History Research Committee, and I found that, in actuality, even the Murayama Statement is not sufficiently known in China. And since the impressions produced by Koizumi's repeated visits to Yasukuni ended up overshadowing the contents of his various statements and remarks, I was at first particularly surprised that members on the Chinese side said they wanted to read the full texts of Koizumi's statements and requested copies of them.

It is said that US President Bill Clinton, after reading an English translation of the Murayama Statement, praised it as being a "very courageous statement." From now, more efforts should be made to disseminate this series of statements by Japan's prime ministers more widely overseas.

References
· Kuriyama, Takakazu, Wakai -- Nihon Gaikou no Mondai (1) (Reconciliation -- Issues for Japanese Diplomacy), Gaiko Forum, January 2006.

· Hattori, Ryuji, Murayama Danwa to Gaimushou -- Shuusen 50 Shuunen no Gaikou (The Murayama Statement and MOFA -- Diplomacy in the 50th Year After the End of the War), in Nihonron: Gurobaruka-suru Nihon, ed., Tanaka Tsutomu, Chuo University Press, 2007.

· Shoji, Junichiro, Rekishi-Ninshiki o Meguru Nihon Gaikou -- Nitchuu Kankei o Chuushin To Shite (Japanese Diplomacy Regarding Historical Understanding -- Focusing on Japan-China Relations), Kokusai Seiji, No. 170, October 2012.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Arrogant Abe disrespects U.N. and the press

By Jeff Kingston, director of Asian Studies, Temple University Japan and APP member

THE JAPAN TIMES, June 10, 2017

What is with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s arrogant disrespect for the United Nations?

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga spread fake news by insisting that the U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres endorsed Japan’s much-maligned “comfort women” deal with South Korea even after his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, who was in Italy with Guterres when he met Abe, emphatically denied this. The South Korean government reported that it confirmed with Guterres directly that he had not endorsed the deal. Suga’s disinformation may be aimed at discrediting the U.N. Committee Against Torture’s recent call for revisions of the comfort women accord. [See Government of Japan May 12, 2017 rebuttal]

David Kaye, a professor of law at the University of California-Irvine and special rapporteur for the U.N. Human Rights Council, called Abe out on his government’s incivility towards U.N. representatives. Abe is miffed that Kaye and other U.N. representatives have voiced criticisms about the erosion of press freedom and the freedom of expression, in addition to conspiracy legislation that threatens the right to privacy and the right to dissent. These are legitimate concerns widely shared by Japanese about how democratic norms and values are being sacrificed in favor of the surveillance state, and where Abe is leading the nation. [See Kaye 2017 Final report See 2016 Preliminary Observations]

As the Japan Federation of Bar Associations notes, the government is wrong to maintain that the conspiracy legislation is necessary for Japan to live up to its commitments under the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. It is also wrong to claim that adopting the conspiracy legislation is necessary for Japan to gain access to intelligence about international terrorism. Scare-mongering about preventing terrorism at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics aims to distract attention away from the ongoing assault on civil liberties. The police already have the powers and laws needed to combat terrorism without handcuffing democracy.

In May, as tens of thousands of demonstrators around the nation decried the Draconian provisions, Joe Cannataci, the U.N. rapporteur on the right to privacy, expressed concerns about the sweeping nature of the powers granted that threaten the right to privacy. Cabinet secretary Suga dismissed Cannataci’s remarks, asserting that he was merely speaking in a private capacity. In fact, he was carrying out his duties. The government also denounced Kaye for doing his job, saying he “degrades the authority of the U.N. Human Rights Council.”

Kaye recently submitted his report on press freedom in Japan to the U.N. Human Rights Council. Kaye has been a target of government criticism since April 2016, when he submitted a scathing draft report that highlighted government intimidation of journalists, self-censorship and the press-club system, all of which enable the government to manage the mainstream news. The government engaged in damage control, arguing that Kaye didn’t meet the right people, didn’t understand the context and failed to give credence to official rebuttals.

At a recent Tokyo symposium sponsored by the Committee to Protect Journalists, Kaye cited the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’ Article 19, which protects the people’s right to know. This right is crucial to good governance and accountability, and is why it is essential to protect journalists, because they protect the public by letting them know what the authorities would rather they not know. Citizens’ ability to participate meaningfully in public life and hold government accountable, he argued, rests on the efforts of responsible journalists to access information and promote transparency. In a democracy the media watchdog must be able to bark, and to the extent it is muzzled, citizens’ democratic rights are threatened.

Kaye emphasized that the challenges to a free press are global and the forces of darkness are gathering as governments around the world justify restrictions on civil liberties in terms of combating violent extremism. Terrorism and public safety are typically invoked to muzzle the press, stifle dissent, curb civil liberties, arrest reporters, block access to the internet and adopt draconian surveillance laws.

In his final report, Kaye heralds “a high degree of freedom online,” but expresses concerns about the vaguely worded Specially Designated Secrets Law enacted in 2014, the potential for abuses and how it might impinge on freedom of expression given inadequate protections under the Whistleblower Protection Act. He also lodged a protest with the government after he “became aware of allegations that the government ordered intelligence community members to monitor at last one member of civil society who helped coordinate meetings.” For Kaye it was striking that most of the journalists who confided in him requested anonymity for fear of retaliation by their own management, highlighting the absence of any independent body to protect them from such reprisals.

Japanese journalists, media organizations and civil society groups told Kaye about threats to freedom of expression, including the “opaque and clique-plagued system of press clubs” that enforces norms of “access and exclusion,” self-censorship and access journalism. The latter encourages lapdog reporting to curry favor with those in power.

Kaye draws attention to broadcast regulations, pointing out that they are not independent from the party in power and are thus subject to abuse in ways that intimidate the media. He also reports about the apparent ouster of respected pundits from their broadcasting duties, and the spiking of stories and demotions of reporters as examples of the pressures exerted by the Abe government against its critics. Moreover, he notes allegations that the current political leadership has backed orchestrated campaigns of harassment targeting liberal critics, singling out the Asahi Shimbun in particular.

At the symposium Martin Fackler, former bureau chief of The New York Times in Tokyo, lamented that most Japanese journalists are company employees first, and avoid taking risks, and that media-wide solidarity and commitment to a professional ethos is lacking.

Regarding lapdog journalism, what are we to make of NHK and the Yomiuri helping Abe out over the Kake Gakuen vet school scandal? The Yomiuri’s effort to tarnish the name of Kihei Maekawa, a former top education bureaucrat who alleges Abe did a favor for crony Kotaro Kake, the school’s owner, is unseemly. Reports about Maekawa frequenting singles bars are irrelevant to the testimony Abe is trying to prevent him giving in the Diet on the issue.

Meanwhile, NHK shamelessly sidelined the story, giving short shrift to official papers implicating the prime minister’s office and focusing instead on Princess Mako. Fortunately, other media outlets are making these press poodles look decidedly lame, finally forcing NHK to find its journalistic backbone, at least on this scandal.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Monday in Washington, June 12, 2017

INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATION IN “NEW MATERIAL TECHNOLOGIES”. 6/12, 9:00-11:00am. Sponsors: U.S. Department of State; Wiley; Elsevier; Elliott School of International Affairs Institute for International Science and Technology Policy. Speakers: Liang Fang Zhang, Professor, UCSD; Michael Arnold, Professor, UW-Madison; Zhen Gu; Professor, UNC-CH & NCSU.

CHINA’S GREAT GREEN GRID: CAPTURING WASTED WIND AND SOLAR POWER FOR BLUER SKIES AND CLEARER WATERS. 6/12, 9:30-11:30am. Sponsor: Wilson Center. Speakers: Christopher James, Principal, Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP); Eleanor Stein, Professor, Albany Law School; Mun Ho, Visiting Fellow, Resources for the Future and Senior Associate, Dale Jorgenson Associates.

RELIGION AND VIOLENCE IN RUSSIA. 6/12, 10:30-4:30pm Sponsor: Russia and Eurasia Program, CSIS. Speakers: Marlene Laruelle, Professor, International Affairs, Elliot School of International Affairs, GWU; Natalia Yudina, SOVA Center for Information and Analysis; Geraldine Fagan, Independent Scholar; Olga Sibireva, SOVA Center for Information and Analysis; Alexander Verkhovsky, Director, SOVA Center for Information and Analysis; Jean-François Ratelle, Professor, University of Ottawa; Ekaterina Sokirianskaia, Project Director, Russia & North Caucasus, International Crisis Group; Irina Du Quenoy, Independent Scholar; Akhmet Yarlykapov, Senior Research Fellow, Moscow State Institute of International Relations; Sufian Zhemukhov, Senior Research Associate, PONARS Eurasia, GWU.

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BOOK LAUNCH: THE RIGHT BALANCE FOR BANKS: THEORY AND EVIDENCE ON OPTIMAL CAPITAL REQUIREMENTS. 6/12, Noon-2:00pm, lunch for a select few. Sponsor: Peterson Institute (PIIE). Speakers: author William R. Cline (PIIE), Daniel K. Tarullo (former Federal Reserve Governor) and Simon. WEBCAST.

A CONVERSATION WITH MEG GENTLE, PRESIDENT & CEO, TELLURIAN INC. 6/12, Noon-200PM, Lunch. Sponsor: Atlantic Council. Speaker: CEO Meg Gentle. Moderator: Ambassador Richard Morningstar, Founding Director, Chairman, Global Energy Center, Atlantic Council.

OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES FOR DEVELOPMENT LENDING IN THE ASIA-PACIFIC. 6/12, 2:00-3:30pm. Sponsor: Brookings. Speakers: Mireya Solís, Senior Fellow - Foreign Policy, Center for East Asia Policy Studies, Philip Knight Chair in Japan Studies; Miles Kahler, Distinguished Professor, School of International Service - American University; Victoria Kwakwa, Vice President, East Asia and Pacific Region - The World Bank; Scott Morris, Senior Fellow & Director of the U.S. Development Policy Initiative - Center for Global Development; Hiroyuki Nakashima, Fellow - Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation; Hongying Wang, Associate Professor of Political Science - University of Waterloo. 

CHINA’S VISION FOR A NEW EURASIAN ORDER. 6/12, 3:30-5:00pm. Sponsor: NBR. Speakers: Daniel S. Markey, Senior Research Professor, SAIS, John Hopkins; Ely Ratner, Senior Fellow, CFR; Nadège Rolland, Senior Fellow, NBR; Ashley J. Tellis, Senior Fellow, Carnegie. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Is this the scandal where the LDP pushes Abe under the bus?



Japanese high-level crony capitalism from schools to the maglev trains that benefits personal friends, and not Abe's district or national voters. This is a change in Japan's political dynamics that could be trouble for the prime minister.

America In the Age of Trumpism

By Michael KreponCo-founder of the Stimson Center and author of Better Safe than Sorry: The Ironies of Living with the Bomb. This article originally appeared in The National Interest on June 8, 2017

Henry Luce, the Time Life publishing magnate, wrote his editorial on “The American Century” in February 1941, trying to rally his fellow citizens to meet the challenges of a war that clearly lay ahead. Just as the U.S. entry into the first Word War turned the tide of battle, so, too, Luce argued, would America need to come off the sidelines to help friends in need in another conflagration. The American Century began in 1917, when President Woodrow Wilson sent doughboys to Europe. It ended in 2017, when President Donald Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate pact.

There’s nothing subtle or slow-moving about the decline of America’s standing in the first months of the Trump administration. His “America First” sloganeering corrodes the ties that bind the United States from allies and friends. Democratic allies in troubled regions hearing Trump’s hectoring have concluded, as Germany’s Angela Merkel has articulated, that they must increasingly fend for themselves. Meanwhile, authoritarian leaders rejoice at the newest member of the club. The biggest winners of the Trump presidency are already clear: the coal industry at home and China and Russia abroad.

Never in the history of international affairs has such a modest investment by an adversary—hacking a political campaign—yielded such extraordinary returns. The Kremlin has already accrued large dividends in the form of weakened alliances and diminished U.S. international standing. On top of this, sanctions relief or other quid pro quos from Trump would be icing on the cake.

In fairness to Trump, many others share the blame for downsizing U.S. influence abroad. America’s hard power has been badly spent in the world’s backwaters, where tidal pools of sectarian and tribal hatred are sustained rather than dried up by the presence of U.S. expeditionary forces. The George W. Bush administration’s disastrous decisions to wage a long war in Afghanistan and a war of choice in Iraq can now be indefinitely postponed due to the ability of U.S. forces operating under rules of engagement that minimize casualties. But success remains beyond their ambit. Placing boots on the ground to prevent low-probability/high-consequence terror attacks on the U.S. homeland will be an endless mission. Ungoverned spaces are multiplying. Meanwhile, the contingencies whose outcomes will define U.S. power in the decades ahead are far afield from these quagmires.

During and soon after the Cold War, Americans basked in the notion that theirs was the “indispensable nation.” Three signature American projects that gave sustenance to notions of indispensability—and that undergirded U.S. influence abroad—have now fallen upon hard times. First, U.S. allies and negotiating partners have expected Washington to take the lead on reducing nuclear dangers and weapons. This project has stalled out. A major danger sign was the refusal of Republican senators to consent to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1999. Blockages have subsequently grown with Vladimir Putin’s push back against post–Cold War U.S. triumphalism and wider partisan division at home. Most Republicans on Capitol Hill are deeply suspicious of international compacts, instead placing their trust in freedom of action and the protection of national sovereignty. Nuclear dangers cannot be reduced under these circumstances except by military action or good fortune.

A second defining project for “the indispensible nation” has been to promote democracy abroad. This was what separated a fledgling nation of thirteen liberated colonies from the Old World, and what fueled Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms to George W. Bush’s over-the-top second inaugural address. The democracy project is now in shambles, reflecting the jarring images of Trump’s first presidential foray into the world—sword dancing for autocrats and scowls for democratic leaders.

A third defining project of American leadership has been environmental protection, dating back to the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency in the Nixon administration. After Trump’s executive orders and withdrawal from the Paris climate pact, this project no longer has U.S. Government backing. During this administration, Americans will demonstrate their exceptionalism by disregarding their president.

Taken together, the abdication of U.S. leadership on these three projects is akin to the Republican Party’s rejection of the League of Nations after World War I. The images that the United States now projects abroad are that of an unfamiliar country that has lost its way, that is mired in partisan division, that uses military power in diminishing ways.

The trumpeter of the American Century, Henry Luce, would recognize all too well his party’s drift toward nationalism and isolationism. The company he kept—men who conceived and implemented the Marshall Plan, the Bretton Woods Agreement, the United Nations and NATO—have passed on. Their ranks have not been replaced. The internationalist wing of the Republican Party has been decimated.

Nowhere is this vacuum on greater display than in the State Department, which has become a ghost ship anchored at Foggy Bottom. American diplomacy is in crisis. A novice has been chosen to take the helm. He has no officers, as deputy and assistant secretary posts are unfilled. In times of impending crises, he is operating under orders to reduce provisions and crew by thirty percent. Non-career ambassadors have been ordered to leave their posts. Their replacements are nowhere in sight. At present, over fifty ambassadorial posts are vacant, including South Korea, India, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, Germany, Italy, Afghanistan, Canada, Austria, Australia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. Fourteen ambassadorial posts in Europe alone are vacant.

Raymond Aron wrote in Peace and War that crises have become the substitute of wars in the nuclear age, and that the outcome of crises would henceforth determine the rise and decline of major powers. Aron—like the rest of us—didn’t figure that the United States would be humbled daily by its own president rather than by a foreign power. As in previous challenges, solace is found on spending large sums on nuclear forces—this time to the tune of a trillion dollars over the next three decades. But recapitalizing the instruments of nuclear-war fighting won’t help if deterrence fails, as it occasionally does. The deciding factors will then be, as they have always been, proactive diplomacy, savvy crisis managers meriting great international respect, and usable conventional military capabilities.

Remedial steps are too numerous to mention, the most important of which will have to await Trump’s departure. But some Band-Aids can be applied quickly, particularly at the State Department and in key overseas posts. Experienced crisis managers can be deputized, if needed, and spending for diplomacy can be plussed up. All fixes will be temporary unless and until the Republican Party can revive its international orientation.

Shinzo Abe and the arrogance of power

by James D.J. Brown, associate professor and academic program coordinator for International Affairs, Temple University, Japan Campus.

First published in The Japan Times, 6/1/17

On Sunday [May 28th], Prime Minister Shinzo Abe overtook Junichiro Koizumi to become Japan’s third longest serving postwar leader. Ahead of him are only the 20th century political giants of Shigeru Yoshida and Eisaku Sato. Abe has used this time to leave a lasting imprint on Japan, transforming its security architecture and lending his name to Abenomics, his strategy for economic revival.
Abe’s strong leadership was initially welcomed by many who had grown weary of the succession of short-lived administrations. Yet, if there is a golden rule of politics, it is that power corrupts as hubris inflates leaders’ egos and they begin to conflate personal interests with those of the state. After five continuous years in office, Abe increasingly appears to be suffering from this affliction.

The most recent sign is the Kake Gakuen scandal in which Abe is alleged to have pressured the education ministry to approve the opening of a veterinary medicine department at a university run by his friend, Kotaro Kake. After an application period of just eight days, with Kake Gakuen being the sole applicant, the permit was the first issued in 52 years. On the basis of this approval, the school operator was given free land worth ¥3.68 billion, plus ¥9.6 billion in subsidies.

To make matters worse, the former vice education minister whose claims lend support to the accusations against Abe has been targeted by smear stories in the government-friendly Yomiuri Shimbun. This gives the impression that the Abe administration is seeking to cover up its influence peddling through the intimidation of witnesses.

This scandal bears a striking resemblance to the recent Moritomo Gakuen case in which it is alleged that another private educational establishment used its connections with the Abe family to purchase a plot of land for less than 15 percent of its appraised value. This earlier scandal is made worse by the fact that Moritomo Gakuen is a nationalist organization that promotes prewar educational values and has been accused of hate speech against Chinese and Koreans.
Although the final truth about these scandals has yet to be revealed, the recurrent allegations raise concerns that Abe has become too comfortable in office and has begun to use the instruments of power to benefit his cronies and further his own radical views. This tendency has no doubt been encouraged by the contemporary weakness of opposition parties and the timidity of much of the media.

Voters have a tendency to tolerate a degree of corruption as long as it is accompanied by economic growth. In the case of the Abe administration, however, the concern is that the pursuit of self-interest is distracting from the crucial task of rejuvenating the listless economy. The stated purpose of Abenomics was to use monetary easing and fiscal stimulus to create breathing space to implement needed structural reforms. Increasingly, however, it is becoming clear that this economic respite is being frittered away on Abe’s ideological mission to reshape the Japanese state.

A clear example of this is the government’s handling of the controversial conspiracy bill, which criminalizes the plotting and preparation of crimes even if they are never carried out. Applying to 277 types of crime, there are widespread concerns that the law will be used to justify widespread surveillance of activist groups, including labor unions and political parties. Despite public opposition and direct criticism from the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to privacy, the Abe administration high-handedly forced the bill through the Lower House on May 23.

Similar disregard for the views of others is evident in Abe’s attitude toward the Constitution. Although it is the Diet’s prerogative to initiate constitutional revision, on May 3 Abe declared that a new constitution should come into effect by 2020. He subsequently specified that it is his desire to amend Article 9, the current Constitution’s famous war-renouncing clause. This unilateral intervention caused consternation even within Abe’s own Liberal Democratic Party. The opposition Democratic Party was also incensed when Abe refused to answer questions on the issue in the Diet, dismissively telling them to read the interview he had given to the Yomiuri Shimbun.

The proposed timing of the amendment also reeks of egocentrism. While the prime minister weakly claimed that the change should be hurried through by 2020 to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics, it was clear to all that his priority is to enforce the first-ever change to the Constitution while he is still in office. There can be no clearer example of Abe’s willingness to put his own desire for legacy above the nation’s interests.

Having changed the LDP’s rules to permit him to run for party president for a third term, Abe could potentially continue as prime minister until September 2021. If this is the case, he is currently little over halfway through his stay in office. Given the whiff of corruption and arrogance already emanating from his administration, supporters of liberal democracy must worry about what the next four years portend.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Comfort Women searching for apology

On Tuesday, June 5, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley became the first U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations to address the UN Human Rights Council, Geneva.
Whereas the core of the brief speech was castigating the Council for not doing more and its anti-Israel bias, a surprising focus was on women and violence against women:

Civil society has also helped advance the equal rights of women, an important theme of this session. Based on my own experience, I know that when women can exercise their voices at the highest ranks in business and in government, we all benefit and prosper. There is no room here for cultural relativism. This Human Rights Council must adopt strong resolutions condemning violence and discrimination against women and it must take a decisive action to eliminate trafficking.
To emphasize this, Voice of America featured this story on the same day, Comfort Women Film Offers Painful Testimony to Wartime Atrocities detailing the plight of the Comfort Women, their quest for justice, and highlighting this new documentary by the Canadian filmmaker Tiffany Hsiung.

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival New York City will feature on the weekend of June 9th the film discussed.

The Apology

Distributor: National Film Board of Canada
Grandma Gil in South Korea, Grandma Cao in China, and Grandma Adela in the Philippines are interviewed. The courageous resolve of these women moves them to fight and seize their last chance to share first-hand accounts of the truth with their families and the world, and to ensure that this horrific chapter of history is neither repeated nor forgotten.
June 10, 2017
7:00 PM /IFC Center/ New York
Screening followed by discussion with filmmaker Tiffany Hsiung and Sarah Taylor, Advocate, Women's Rights division, Human Rights Watch

June 11, 2017
8:30 PM /Film Society of Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater/New York
Screening followed by discussion with filmmaker Tiffany Hsiung and Sarah Taylor, Advocate, Women's Rights division, Human Rights Watch

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Monday in Washington, June 5, 2017

FROM SOVIET PROPAGANDA TO THE ‘FIREHOSE OF RUSSIAN FALSEHOOD.’ 6/5, Noon-1:30pm. Sponsor: University of Southern California. Speakers: Adam Clayton Powell III, Director, Washington Policy Initiatives; Scott M. Rauland, Senior Advisor, U.S. State Department Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

THE FUTURE OF MOBILITY: A FIRESIDE CHAT WITH BILL FORD. 6/5, 2:00pm. Sponsor: Atlantic Council. Speaker: Bill Ford, Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Company; Moderator: Frederick Kempe, President, CEO, Atlantic Council.

THE NATIONAL SECURITY IMPLICATIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE. 6/5, 2:00-3:30pm. Sponsors: Environmental and Energy Study Institute, Center for Climate and Security, Henry M. Jackson Foundation. Speakers: Brigadier General Gerald Galloway, Former United States Army; Hon. Sherri Goodman, Former Deputy Undersecretary, Defense, Senior Fellow, Wilson Center; General Ron Keys, Former United States Air Force; Rear Admiral Ann Phillips, Former United States Navy; Hon. John Conger, Former Principal Deputy Undersecretary, Defense, Senior Advisor, CSIS.


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ALL MEASURES SHORT OF WAR: THE CONTEST FOR THE 21ST CENTURY AND THE FUTURE OF AMERICAN POWER. 6/5, 3:30-5:00pm. Sponsor: Project on International Order and Strategy, Brookings. Speakers: Author, Thomas Wright, Director, Center on the United States and Europe; Gérard Araud, Ambassador, France; Robert Kagan, Senior Fellow, Project on International order and Strategy. Moderator: Susan Glasser, Chief International Affairs Columnist, Politico. PURCHASE BOOK

FOUR FAMINES: UNPRECEDENTED NEED UNDERFUNDED RESPONSE. 6/5, 3:30-5:00pm. Sponsor: Global Food Security Project, CSIS; Speakers: José Graziano da Silva, Director General, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization; David Beasley, Executive Director, United Nations World Food Programme; Helen Gayle, CEO, McKinsey Social Initiative, Trustee, CSIS. Moderator: Kimberly Flowers, Director, Global Food Security Project. 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

President Trump did not inherit a country that is failing


Ambassador (Ret.) Nicholas Burns, presented the annual George Herbert Walker Jr. Lecture in International Studies at Yale University on May 3, 2017 entitled “The Trump Administration’s Global Foreign Policy Challenges.” 

“I think America is in good shape as a global power,” he said. “We are the world leader economically. We should be the world leader in the next digital age that is coming. We are certainly militarily still the strongest country in the world.”

Ambassador Burns concluded his remarks by discussing China. He related a story of the late Ambassador Stephen Bosworth coming into his classroom at Harvard and telling his students that the most daunting international challenge is to “find a way to be partners with China and then not to be dominated by China.”
 “In many ways, China is not our enemy, China is our partner,” he said. “How can you be successful in the modern world without working with China?” Yet, Ambassador Burns continued, China is bullying five sovereign nations in the South China Sea and has pursued international strategies that the United States cannot ignore.
“It would be catastrophic to go to war with China,” he said. “Here’s the question – have we ever had a relationship in American history where our strongest partner is our strongest competitor? That’s a difficult question that requires leadership that is historically minded, that is sophisticated, that is nuanced, that has a great deal of credibility.”
“If these are the big challenges, boy we better have good leadership in Washington,” he continued. “You need people with that depth, experience, gravitas, personal credibility, honesty, that’s what we need in Washington. And I don’t want to be unfair to the Trump administration, but they started in a very awkward position.”

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Abe, Trump's Drama Queen

President Moon Jae­-in’s special envoy Amb. Hong Seok­-hyun had ten minutes with U.S. President Donald Trump to reconfirm the US­-South Korean alliance. With the President’s known attention span of only six minutes, this may have been more than enough. However, Seoul is way behind in “showing” Trump it's more important commitment, which is to the President himself. 

Japanese Minister Shinzo Abe’s advisers quickly realized that the Trump’s campaign bluster reflected very little what Trump actually understands, does, and wants. To test and to blunt the President­-elect’s tough trade rhetoric, Abe’s team moved quickly through its business contacts to appease the President­-elect with a visual of his power through his first photo­-op as world leader with a world leader. 

The hook was an appeal to Trump’s personal commercial interests and his desire to show he was tackling immediately a central campaign pledge on trade. This was the context of the Prime Minister’s November 17th meeting in Trump Tower, allowing Abe to become the only foreign leader to meet with Trump before his inauguration. The get­-together was arranged as if it were a business meeting through Trump’s tax lawyers, Morgan Lewis and their well­-contacted partner Satoru MURASE and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson who had deep financial ties to Trump and in Japan. Abe’s challenge was to mirror Trump by listening carefully and exploring how Japan can enhance the President’s trade and business agenda.

Adelson, who has proposed a $10 billion casino investment in Japan, then arranged for his sometime business partner Softbank’s Masayoshi Son to meet with Trump on December 7th. Son gave Trump another PR moment by repackaging a long­=proposed $50 billion investment in the U.S. and commitment to create 50,000 new jobs. This cemented Trump’s view that the Japanese were team players. 

Fearful of all the 1980s trade warriors in Trump’s Administration, Abe’s government needed to deflect attention away from its growing trade deficit, anti­dumping cases, and anti­trust actions (64 Japanese executives are in US jails from anti­trust enforcement trials) with the US. The initial interactions succeeded, but the hard facts of the trade imbalances threatened to upend the goodwill being cultivated. 

By demonstrating an affinity for military advisers and a penchant for dramatic, albeit limited shows of force, the Trump Administration gave Abe a new opening to convince the President that Japan was Washington’s best Pacific ally, ever. Most important, Abe knew he could not tell Trump this, but had to illustrate it. North Korea successfully gave Abe the opportunity to show Trump what a national threat to an ally looks like. 

 The Japanese government knew going into Abe’s mid­-February visit to Mar­a­Lago that North Korea would soon test fire a missile. As if on cue, Pyongyang’s projectile launched in the middle of Trump’s very pubic dinner with Abe. What emerged was a real­-time opportunity for Abe to share crisis management with the very inexperienced President. 

Abe familiar with this kind of “crisis”—another missile in the ocean—skillfully managed Trump to feel as if he was participating not following in crafting a response. The result was that Abe is likely the only world figure that Trump allowed to speak at a press conference before he did and who he followed with only a simple awestruck sentence, that “the US stands with Japan.” Abe gave Trump what he craves most, drama. 

Whereas Japan’s initial approach to Trump emphasized business and trade cooperation, playing on Trump’s desire to be a security leader have proved a more effective and longer­-term strategy. Cooperation over North Korea overshadows irritating issues such as trade, currency, and defense burden sharing. As a result, all of the unprecedented six telephone calls between the two have focused on North Korea. Abe is likely the most consulted, if not the most influential foreign leader, in Trump’s North Korea policy­making. 

Both Japan and the U.S. do not want to see a nuclear­-armed North Korea with accurate and far­-reaching strike abilities. Denuclearization is both countries’ ultimate goal. However, their priorities and considerations in the process of achieving this end have underlying differences. Other than distracting American attention away from economic issues, Abe is using the North Korean threat to advance his long­-term domestic political agenda—Constitutional revision, or in his view, the “normalization” of Japan through military means. The support of any U.S. president, even one as flawed as Trump, is critical to Abe’s program. 

Abe is now binding the relationship further by mirroring Trump’s rhetoric. The Prime Minister stated at a Wall Street Journal event in Tokyo on May 16: “I am the prime minister of Japan, so I favor a ‘Japan First’ policy, but Japan will also work with other countries for global prosperity and peace.” Abe’s advisors, assume that Trump will only hear the catch­phrase “Japan First” and believe that it is a positive reflection on himself. Trump will ignore the second part of the sentence where Japan goes its own way.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Japan’s constitutional rebirth or reincarnation?

By Jeff Kingston
, director of Asian Studies, Temple University Japan. APP Member, Japan Times, May 13, 2017

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has boldly promised to revise the Constitution by 2020, to coincide with the Tokyo Summer Olympics, saying “That will be a year when a newly reborn Japan begins to move strongly forward.” However, the public doesn’t share his enthusiasm.

In terms of revising the Constitution, opposition is highest (50 percent) in the Asahi poll, followed by Nikkei’s 46 percent, Kyodo’s 37 and NHK’s 34. Support for revision ranges from 60 percent in the Kyodo poll (combining “necessary” or “somewhat necessary”) to 45 percent according to Nikkei, 43 percent from NHK (down 15 percent from 2002) and 41 percent in the Asahi. The Asahi Shimbun also reports that half oppose any revision at all under Abe.

For the war-renouncing Article 9, Asahi reports 63 percent as being opposed to revision; NHK gives 57 percent and Kyodo 47 percent. Those in favor of revising Article 9 range from 49 percent in the Kyodo poll to 29 percent in the Asahi and NHK’s 25 percent, down from 30 percent in 2002. NHK also reported that 82 percent found Article 9 very or somewhat useful for maintaining peace and security. Regarding the Self-Defense Forces, NHK found that 62 percent regard their existence as constitutional while 11 percent don’t, and 87 percent think that Japan is currently threatened, especially by North Korea and China.

Public attitudes may be discrepant, but Abe has an unprecedented opportunity to secure the two-thirds approval he needs in both houses of the Diet to set the stage for a public referendum, in which he would need only a simple majority to realize his long-standing dream.

The referendum law stipulates that a simple majority of votes cast can pass a revision, but it does not specify a minimum turnout of voters to validate a plebiscite. For example, revisions could be approved with the support of about 25 percent of eligible voters — about what the Liberal Democratic Party garners in national polls, in which turnout recently has hovered at just over half of eligible voters.

Abe hopes that this legacy project can be achieved by 2020, and with the “help” of Beijing and Pyongyang he might just pull it off. Coalition partner Komeito seems on board, but may prove difficult if Abe pushes for more on security than he is currently revealing.

Abe explained that he won’t get rid of Article 9, the provision of the Constitution that has talismanic significance for many Japanese despite successive LDP-led governments reinterpreting it over the decades to ease constitutional constraints on the SDF. These efforts culminated in the April 2015 U.S.-Japan Defense Guidelines and later that summer in Abe’s collective self-defense legislation. That sequencing says a lot about Abe’s priorities, in that he sealed the deal with Washington first in a manner that subordinated the Diet’s role.

Abe hopes to add a proviso to Article 9 that would acknowledge the constitutionality of the SDF. In his opinion, it is deplorable that some constitutional scholars have cast doubts about whether the SDF are constitutional; they cite paragraph 2, which explicitly prohibits maintaining any armed forces or war potential. Whether they recognize the SDF or not, nearly all of Japan’s constitutional scholars believe Abe’s collective self-defense (CSD) legislation is unconstitutional. During Diet deliberations about the CSD legislation, even the LDP’s handpicked constitutional scholars raised such doubts — awkward testimony that nevertheless failed to deter Abe from his mission.

But since Abe is seeking clarification about the SDF in Article 9, shouldn’t he also include specific reference to the right to CSD and the three vague principles that ostensibly constrain Japan’s military actions? These principles grant the PM considerable discretionary authority to deploy the military if he alone determines that: 1) Japan or a country closely related with Japan is under military attack, which poses a threat to Japan’s existence and puts Japanese nationals’ lives, freedom and their right to pursuit of happiness in clear danger; 2) there are no other means to overcome the above-mentioned danger so as to ensure the existence of Japan and the protection of Japanese nationals, and; 3) the military engagement is limited to the “minimum necessary use of force.”

In focusing debate on declaring the SDF constitutional, Abe is avoiding the much more contentious issue of CSD and the new powers he gained to deploy troops overseas at Washington’s behest.

I have heard non-Japanese advocates of revision suggest that retaining Article 9 keeps Japan subordinate to the U.S., and thus it is crucial to revise it so that Japan can become an autonomous sovereign nation. I have no beef with Japan revising the Constitution according to the principles laid out in Article 96 for doing so. I think it is preferable to pursue formal revision rather than surreptitiously bypass such procedures as Abe has done. But will revising Article 9 really give Japan more autonomy? It seems more like Abe is kowtowing to the U.S. in order to bolster an alliance in which Japan gets its marching orders from Washington.

The other trial balloon released by Abe was his proposal to make free higher education a constitutional right, pandering to the opposition and public opinion to offset concerns about amending Article 9. But surely Abe must have more up his sleeve than this gimmick if Japan is to be reborn in 2020.

It is significant that Abe’s May 3 announcement was delivered at a Japan Conference (Nippon Kaigi) event. This ultra-conservative lobby group is extremely influential in the Diet and its members have dominated Abe’s cabinets. They want to restore the Emperor’s political power and revise Article 24 of the Constitution, which protects gender equality and other individual rights. These conservatives argue disingenuously that gender equality is undermining traditional values and is thus responsible for Japan’s current social ills. Defining family values and obligations based on their antediluvian preferences would impose conformity at odds with Japan’s growing diversity and prevailing norms and values, while trampling on many citizens’ human rights.

Looking back at the LDP’s 2012 draft constitution, I wonder if Abe will preside over Japan’s rebirth or a reincarnation of pre-1945 Japan? For example, this draft version imposes extensive obligations and duties on citizens; privileges public order over individual rights; seeks to remove the preamble based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; mandates respect for the national anthem and flag; allows the prime minister to declare a state of emergency and bypass the Diet; requires family members to help each other; and designates the Emperor as head of state.

This is what Abe means when he pledges to overturn the postwar order. The stakes are high as Japanese consider his backward-looking vision for the future.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

China’s Belt and Road Initiative to challenge US-led order

by Hugh White, Professor of Strategic Studies at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, The Australian National University, East Asia Forum, 8 May 2017

This month, what is likely to be this year’s biggest international summit will convene in Beijing to discuss the world’s most ambitious project. China’s Belt and Road Initiative aims to redefine the global economy of the 21st century by integrating the economies of Europe, Asia and Africa through an unprecedented and powerful network of transport and communications infrastructure.

Some estimates put the price tag at US$1 trillion, which would make it one of the biggest — if not the biggest — economic development programme in history, far outspending the United States’ Marshall Plan which rebuilt Europe after World War II.

So it’s no wonder that so many world leaders will be turning up in Beijing to claim a piece of it. China’s foreign minister recently announced that 110 countries would be represented, including no fewer than 28 national leaders. They include the leaders of Russia, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Pakistan and the Philippines from Asia, and many others from Europe and Africa. It is going to be a very notable gathering.

Among countries not sending their national leaders are the United States, Japan, India, Australia, Singapore and most western European countries. They will all be represented at more junior levels. It is no coincidence that these countries are aligned with the United States and are uneasy about China’s rise — or perceived to be so.

To many people, China’s Belt and Road Initiative is not really about economics at all. Instead it is all about expanding China’s strategic and political influence at the United States’ expense. That’s probably half right, but we should not overlook the powerful economic logic that underpins the geopolitical calculations.

There are several economic imperatives driving China’s Belt and Road Initiative. They include the need to foster development in China’s remote and underdeveloped regions and the hope of finding outlets for China’s massive overcapacity in key industries like steel-making.

But the key motive is much bigger and more ambitious. China wants to consolidate its position at the centre of global supply and manufacturing networks. This is crucial for the outlook of the global economy over the coming decades. China understands that as its economy matures and income levels rise, the lower-wage industries that have fuelled the country’s growth so far will migrate to less-developed nations where labour costs are lower.

China’s economic planners do not want to fight that trend. Rather, they want to use it to China’s advantage by centring the nation in the expanding supply-chain web that will result from it. That way China can capture the lion’s share of more sophisticated higher-wage economic opportunities.

The Belt and Road Initiative is central to this vision and therefore to realising China’s ambition to become a middle-income country. It also mutually reinforces China’s parallel ambition to take the lead in the coming decades in developing key technologies and setting global standards — including for critical elements of infrastructure like high-speed rail and data networks.

So far all of this is just a bold vision. Making it a reality will require an extraordinary alignment of financial resources, technical skills, political commitment and international cooperation. None of these can be taken for granted, so a degree of healthy scepticism is in order.

And yet it would be unwise to dismiss the Belt and Road Initiative as a mere pipe dream. It has the power and prestige of President Xi Jinping behind it. It is at the centre of his vision for China, and of his ambition to transform China’s place in the world during his time as its leader. He is determined to make it work, and in China today that counts for a great deal.

We can see its geo-economic implications by comparing what the Belt and Road Initiative tells us about China’s vision of its economic future with what the policies of the Trump administration tell us about the United States’ economic vision.

While President Xi is welcoming the world to Beijing to promote a plan to export low-income jobs in industries like steel-making to other countries and shift Chinese workers into higher-income ones, President Trump plans to lock out imports of steel so as to revive the United States’ steel industry. He wants to put US workers back into the jobs that Beijing wants to move Chinese workers out of.

The contrast could not be starker. The United States wants to shrink its role in the global economy and cling to old industries, while China wants to expand its global role and move its economy into new industries. No prizes for guessing which of these visions is more likely to succeed.

So that brings us back to the geopolitical and strategic equation. Clearly the leaders who are choosing to stay away from Beijing next month are right in their fear that the Belt and Road Initiative has immense geopolitical significance.

But those leaders are wrong in imagining that they can stop that from happening by simply staying away. They have to offer an alternative. If the United States and its allies are really determined to resist China’s challenge to the old US-led liberal global order, they have to counter Beijing’s powerful vision of a future global economy centred on China. And to do that they need an equally powerful and ambitious global economic vision of their own.