Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Revisionism II

The Vatican

Pope Benedict XVI has had a rough year reconciling the Church’s wartime record with contemporary sensibilities. Efforts to follow traditional Catholic doctrine have run up against larger issues of modern remembrance and reconciliation. Too often the Vatican finds itself in the same equivocal position as Japan. Measured words of contrition become undone by startling deeds of insensitivity and cultural defensiveness.

On Saturday, December 19th, Benedict confirmed the “heroic virtues” of Pope Pius XII—along with those of John Paul II—opening the door to beatification once a miracle is attributed to each.  A second miracle would be required for sainthood. Pius, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, is often accused of not having spoken out vocally enough against the Nazis or intervening to save Jews and others during World War II as well as condoning the use of Nazi-procured slave labor for the Church and assisting Nazis to escape to South America.

The Jewish community and others reacted with such outrage, that the Vatican issued a statement on December 23rd that "It is, then, clear that the recent signing of the decree is in no way to be read as a hostile act towards the Jewish people, and it is to be hoped that it will not be considered as an obstacle on the path of dialogue between Judaism and the Catholic Church.”

In other words, the statement acknowledges the consequences of enshrining a man whose decisions negatively affected millions, although not quite willing to forego the tradition. The Vatican is rightly worried of the reception when the Pope visits the Synagogue in Rome and the State of Israel in the coming months. The Church's efforts to strengthen understanding with the Jewish people have been clouded and it is being made to be accountable for its actions.

This recent action by Pope Benedict XVI  adds to others over the past year that seem disconnected from the goal of reconciliation. In January, Pope Benedict created firestorm by revoking the excommunications of four ultra-conservative schismatic bishops. One, Bishop Williamson of Argentina, was an outspoken anti-Semite and Holocaust denier.  Worse when the Pope demanded that the Bishop recant these views, he equivocated saying he did not have enough information.

As he told Der Speigel "It is not about emotions but about historic evidence," he said. "If I find this evidence, I will correct myself. But that will take time."

The wayward Bishop posted on his blog in February a peculiar rebuke to the Pope.  [The blog, was shut down in July and the below quote had been retrieved in February. Now you can subscribe to an email newsletter of sermons ranting about Pope Benedict's destruction of the Church.]:
Amidst this tremendous media storm stirred up by imprudent remarks of mine on Swedish television, I beg of you to accept, only as is properly respectful, my sincere regrets for having caused to yourself and to the Holy Father so much unnecessary distress and problems.
For me, all that matters is the Truth Incarnate, and the interests of His one true Church, through which alone we can save our souls and give eternal glory, in our little way, to Almighty God. So I have only one comment, from the prophet Jonas, I, 12; 
"Take me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you." 
Please also accept, and convey to the Holy Father, my sincere personal thanks for the document signed last Wednesday and made public on Saturday. Most humbly I will offer a Mass for both of you.

No Japanese denier could be more eloquent in avoiding responsibility. So sorry to cause trouble, but I have no regrets, says the Bishop. Like all deniers, the objective simply is to sow doubt. And if the Holocaust did not happen or if Imperial Japan did not rampage across Asia, then maybe, just maybe Fascism or Emperor worship was not so bad. These governments of a "greater time" had to be better alternatives to democracy. Or as Pierre Vidal-Naquet wrote in his 1992 book, Assassins of Memory, “One revives the dead in order to better strike the living.”

Exasperated and pressured by Germany and international outcry, the Vatican firmly admonished the Bishop, stating that “in order to be admitted to the Episcopal functions of the Church, [he] must in an absolutely unequivocal and public way distance himself from his positions regarding the Shoah [Holocaust]."

The Pope essentially admitted to a rare misjudgment and set a strict standard for contrition. More important, he set an international standard for an apology from those who deny historical fact. He said it should be "unequivocal" and "public." These words are the very same written in 2007 by Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA) for his resolution (H. Res. 121) outlining an appropriate official Japanese apology to the Comfort Women.

There is a difference between unambiguous and unequivocal. There is not room for doubt in the latter. "Unequivocal" has become the universal value associated with apology. Unfortunately, both the Vatican and Mr. Honda still await their apologies.

Disappeared but Not Forgotten

The Bruces at Australian National University have taken down its blog, Reconciliation between China and Japan and the Cooperative Security Network. This is unfortunate as some of the posts were unique and of historical significance. I was not pleased.

However, the author of those posts has given us permission to repost some of the more important observations and reports. So don't be surprised if over the next month you find some less-than-timely reporting here.

The replacement blog for China and Japan is PeaceBuilder. It has promise, but is currently a lot of whining about how unjust war is.

Christmas Revisionism I

This Christmas week was good for denials. World War II issues of responsibility that most thought were settled reemerged. After of a year of considerable progress for both Japan and the Vatican in acknowledging atrocities allowed by their wartime regimes, this is both surprising and disappointing. Saying sorry is no substitute for a genuine apology of words and deeds.

On December 20th, an Australian search team found the hospital ship, The Centaur, that was sunk during World War II off the coast of Australia in 1943. The Centaur went down with the loss of 268 lives after being torpedoed by a Japanese submarine—despite being painted white with red crosses.

According to Japan’s official 1979 submarine warfare history, it was submarine 1-177, under the command of Lt Commander Nakagawa who had sunk the Centaur. Lt Commander Nakagawa was convicted as a war criminal for firing on survivors of the British Chivalry, which his ship had sunk in the Indian Ocean. He was not charged, however, for the sinking of The Centaur.

Japan’s embassy in Canberra hastily issued a statement to the press (which cannot be found on their website) on December 23rd that said the circumstances in which the Centaur went down were not conclusive. "The Japanese government had conducted its own inquiry into the Centaur," the statement said, without giving any indication when the inquiry took place. “The circumstances were not clear given that it occurred during the Second World War. We will see how the on-going investigation by Australia unfolds." The Embassy continued with a reworking of the traditional and tired Murayama apology, "Japan, reflecting on the past, has since made the greatest efforts for world peace and prosperity as a responsible member of the international community and has also developed a close relationship with Australia.”

Members of the Centaur Memorial Association were disgusted by the Embassy’s response and some demanded an apology. But the Australian government jumped into damage control and a Foreign Ministry spokesman referred to Japan's past apologies for other wartime atrocities and said (also not on their website) that "The Australian government recognises the suffering endured by families of those killed as a result of the sinking of the Australian hospital ship Centaur in 1943." And added that "Australia accepts Japan's repeated apologies -- the 1951 Peace Treaty, which Australia signed, drew a line under Japan's crimes during the World War II for which many Japanese were rightly tried, convicted and sentenced. Japan is now a different country; it contributes greatly to regional prosperity and security."

Maybe after filming the remains of The Centaur and confirmation of what sunk the hospital ship, Japan will send a representative to the annual memorial, as some have suggested. The Hatoyama Administration came to office saying it wanted to face squarely Japan's history. We are waiting.

Later:  Sunk Australia WWII hospital ship Centaur: first images

Next post, The Vatican

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Child Abduction Politics IV

Nine-year old Sean Goldman will return to the United States with his father and Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ). They will be home in time for Christmas. Sean's grandmother, Silvana Bianchi, has decided not to file any further appeals.

The U.S. government at the highest levels and the U.S. media assisted the divorced father, David Goldman, with his quest to have his son returned to him. Presidential talking points included the issue, Congress held hearings, and Senators placed holds on crucial trade legislation.

The grandmother told CNN Wednesday it was "very sad, a country that exchanges children for economic agreements."

According to CNN, while the chief justice was still studying the case, Brazilian Attorney General Luis Inacio Adams said the executive branch of Brazilian government sided with Goldman. The Attorney General reportedly said:
Once we stop cooperating and start breaking our treaties andinternational obligations, Brazil risks the chance of not having its own requests in the matters regarding international judicial help granted, based on the principle of international reciprocity. 
Not releasing the minor into the custody of his father could bring sanctions against Brazil. It could damage Brazil's image before the international community.
Yes, it is a triumph for the rule of law.

Monday, December 21, 2009

New Journal Hopes to Buy a Clue

The National Defense University just launched a new, quarterly foreign policy/defense journal. Called the PRISM, it says it is:
tailored to serve policy-makers, scholars and practitioners working to enhance U.S. Government competency in complex operations by exploring whole-of-community approaches among U.S. Government agencies, academic institutions, international governments and militaries, non-governmental organizations and other participants in the complex operations space. PRISM is chartered by the Center for Complex Operations (CCO) and it welcomes articles on a broad range of complex operations issues, especially those that focus on the nexus of civil-military integration.
Hans Binnendijk and Patrick M. Cronin in the Journal's introductory article, Through the Complex Operations Prism explains the journal's mission:
It has been over 12 years since the Bill Clinton administration released Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) 56, “Managing Complex Contingency Operations.” PDD 56 was issued in May 1997 to direct the institutionalization within the executive branch of lessons learned from such complex operations as Panama, Somalia, Haiti, and Bosnia. Our recent frustrations in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention the deaths of over 5,000 American soldiers and civilians, and multiple trillions of dollars in war-related costs have caused us once again to scrutinize the failures of our approach to complex operations and to reapply ourselves to a better understanding of those operations and the environments they are meant to address.
In the spirit of neo-cons admitting that they have failed, which appears to be the real theme of the journal, the first issue features an interview with former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. It also appears to be the only article that anyone in DC has read.  Tom Ricks gently lists the highlights in his blog.

By "gently,"I mean he simply lists, but does not comment on, some of Armitage's surprising slaps at the Bush Administration including that there did not seem to be any real presidential consultation to invade Iraq. Ricks also does not note that Armitage admitted to failing to understand soon enough that there was a difference between the fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Armitage also does not have much use for female leadership and was delighted when folks told him that the "Rice years were terrible." He felt she failed to develop that military espirt de corps that Powell did; and he did not think that Hillary Clinton could either. You know, the girls were not "inculcated" with this.

Maybe someone should tell Armitage that the new president of the National Defense University is Vice Admiral Ann E. Rondeau, USN, who assumed duties as the 13th President of from Lieutenant General Frances C. Wilson, USMC, on July 10, 2009. Probably, those girls know a thing or two about espirt de corps.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Child Abduction Politics III

David Goldman has been invited to have Christmas with his son in Rio de Janerio. Mr. Goldman is in a rancorous custody fight for his son with the husband of his ex-wife who died in childbirth last year. Maybe, an agreement can be reached on the child’s status simply between the families.

By international law, the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abductions, which Brazil is a party to, the son should have been returned to his father. The Brazilian courts, however, have issued contradictory orders and in the end the boy is prevented from returning to the U.S. and his father.

The issue of parental child abduction is even greater in Asia. Almost no country in Asia has signed The Hague Convention (Hong Kong, Macau, Australia and New Zealand have). Japan, Korea, China, Indonesia, and the Philippines are all safe havens for parents who want to disregard court orders and to continue to pain their former spouses. So it was no surprise that it is a father of a child abducted to Japan, Patrick Braden, who is a leader of the left-behind parents. As Mr. Goldman languished in Brazil waiting to see his son, Mr. Braden spoke with compassion and solidarity on his behalf on the TV news last Friday.

Japan holds the single largest number of abducted American children in Asia. Japan is also the only G-7 country that has not signed The Hague nor has an extradition treaty with the U.S. The Government has been"studying" the issue for a number of years and it is one of the top subjects being fought against by the Japanese Embassy's lobbyists.

The past few weeks have been active for those trying to heighten awareness of the parental child abduction issue. On December 1st, Japan’s Foreign Ministry set up a new division to study and handle international child custody issues. On the same day, the Ministry signed a MOU with France establishing a Consultative Committee on Issues Related to Child Custody to exchange information on cases. The press release was careful to note “The purpose of this Committee is not for the actual resolution of disputes between the involved parties.”

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tamogami to New York

As noted last month, prematurely-retired Japan Air Self-Defense Forces Chief of Staff General Toshio Tamogami is coming to New York City in March. Some introduce the General as "disgraced." I doubt, however, if he or his supporters believe him disgraceful. At least, they have no shame.

This week (12/15), Washington's much-read Cable on the politics and personalities of foreign policy picked up on the Tamogami visit: "Why is Mike Huckabee flirting with a Japanese WWII revisionist?".

The advertisements for the General's visit featured former governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee as the event's moderator. The reporter contacted both the Governor's office as well as event organizers to find out more.

Not unexpectedly, the organizers had not been quite forthright in explaining the event to Governor Huckbee and the Governor's staff did little to understand invitation. After all, Huckabee, a future presidential candidate, might benefit from speaking alongside an anti-Chinese Communist general from an ally's air force.

Here it should be noted that Japan's Self-Defense Forces do not seem to have any rules as to when a retired or fired military official can wear his uniform. Tamogami is seen throughout his website and the event's website wearing his Air Self-Defense Forces full dress uniform.

The result of The Cable's reporting has been Huckabee bowing out of the Tamogami engagement and the event organizers taking down their English-language website. The Japanese site is better anyway. I guess they do not know that non-Japanese can read Japanese, including the reporter who called. There is also translation software...

The Tamogami event is still scheduled. There will be a dinner cruise and a talk at New York's University Club. It might now take a little longer for the University Club to realize that it is hosting a speaker who would be the Japanese equivalent of Holocaust deniers David Irving or Cardinal Williamson.

Later: The above photo is of Chief of Staff of the Air Self-Defense Force Toshio Tamogami receiving the Legion of Merit Degree Commander Medal from Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force Norton A. Schwartz at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Virginia on August 19, 2008. This date is only a few months before General Tamogami received his infamous prize for his essay on the truth of Japanese history.

White Out

Forget Al Qaeda, climate change, H1N1, the Chinese, Joe Lieberman, what really scares Washington? A SNOW STORM! And we got a real one coming down.

Washington is covered with snow and 18 inches are expected by Saturday afternoon.


Later: 12/20/09 The District got 16 inches and where my daughter is stranded at a sleepover party got 21 inches. The City is shut down. It is indeed very beautiful outside my window. For pictures see HERE.

Even Later: The Federal Government in Washington, DC will be closed on Monday, December 21st due to the snow storm.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Hanukkah

Did you know that Judaism is not one of the five recognized religions in the People's Republic of China?

Marc Chagal (French, b. Belorussia, 1887-1985)
Aaron and the Lamp, The Story of the Exodus suite,  

1966 Lithograph on paper
19 7/8 x 14 1/2 in. (50.5 x 36.8 cm)
The Jewish Museum, New York
Gift of Herman and Sietske Turndorf, 1982-231.15
© 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Monday, December 7, 2009

Zeros over the Bow

President Obama’s Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day proclamation is to be commended. It recognizes the elephant in the room of U.S.-Japan relations. It reminds everyone that there is a history to the relationship. The many recent missteps in the “alliance” can be attributed to the failure to address the history issues between the two countries.

Obama’s apparent habit of elaborate greetings, which don’t necessarily follow traditional egalitarian U.S. protocols, is likely to have been behind the President’s bow to the Japanese Emperor. I suspect the exaggerated, awkward ‘bow’ was merely an instinctive act of what Obama felt are good manners and culturally sensitive.

Unfortunately, it was an inadvertent slight to the new liberal Hatoyama government that has little use for the Imperial Household or the rightists that support it. The bow appeared to insiders as a sly nod of support to those who promote the U.S.-Japan Alliance. It was not lost on the DPJ that these out-of-power LDP conservatives also want a return of Imperial power.

But whatever Obama’s intent, its potential damage may have been lessened by today’s Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day proclamation. The President clearly points out that “the surprise attack by the Imperial Japanese on Pearl Harbor was an attempt to break the American will and destroy our Pacific Fleet.” He acknowledges that Imperial Japan was the aggressor in the war.

The Bush Administration and President-elect Obama last year failed to mention even once Japan in their statements on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. For Bush it was the “enemy” and for Obama it was the “danger.”

There is no longer any need to do this. If Obama had again ignored the fact that it was Imperial Japan that bombed Pearl Harbor, he would have further insulted both the new government in Japan and the Americans that died on that day and after.

Tacitly exonerating Japan from starting the Pacific War and elevating the Emperor panders to the conservative LDP and the rightists that believe what Imperial Japan did was right and support an “alliance” merely to further their own nationalist goals. The U.S. no longer needs to appease these people. They are no longer in a position to help with American security objective in Japan or Asia.

Even those conservatives in the Hatoyama Administration such as Maehara (a Nippon Kaigi member) and Nagashima (who denies Nanking) are being marginalized. Maehara is relegated to promoting airports and selling trains, while Nagashima gets reprimanded regularly by the Chief Cabinet Secretary. Supporting these conservatives in and especially out of government merely antagonizes the DPJ and confirms their suspicions about American Japan handlers as wanting to undermine the new government.

Part of being a modern equal to the U.S. is not being treated as a quaint, fragile Oriental. Bowing to the Emperor poked at the DPJ by catering to the antiquated sensibilities of the LDP and Japan’s conservatives. The DPJ is in power, not the LDP. It seems a bit pernicious to encourage Japan’s Right this way. Note, despite the American neocon outcry against the “bow”, none of the neocon Japan experts objected or commented. Their Japanese friends were delighted.

The Futenma issue festers because neither Tokyo nor Washington has successfully confronted the bitter war history of Okinawa. The prolonged American occupation of Okinawa (until 1972) and unwillingness of the Japanese government to do no more than bribe Okinawan leaders has allowed a deep hostility toward both powers on the Island.

It was only two years ago that the LDP government ordered textbook revisions to indicate that some Okinawans committed suicide or were forced to commit mass suicide, but not 'by whom.' And it was the LDP government that has failed for 14 years to relocate Futenma. For its part, Washington naively thinks Okinawans still can be persuaded by Tokyo.

The Emperor by putting out his hand tried to give Obama the hint as to what was the right thing to do. The Emperor who has been trying to humanize and modernize the Imperial Institution must have been puzzled by the President's inelegant bow. His Highness knows that the voters now count in Japan.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Who to Believe

There is a persistent belief in Washington that the old, familiar ties with Japan's security policy community still matter. With few ties within the DPJ, the Alliance Managers trust that their conservative DPJ friends will overcome the party's resistance to continuing the US-Japan security relationship as is. Unfortunately, it is unclear how powerful these allies in the DPJ are.

Former security guru, Seiji Maehara is now Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister. He is tasked with being the "top salesperson" for international purchases of the Shinkansen technology. The other well-known security expert, Akihisa Nagashima, is Parliamentary Secretary to the Defense Ministry. Reports circulating in Washington that the Defense and Foreign ministers fought over retaining him were untrue. Neither wanted him on their team.

It is not that there is much teamwork in the DPJ. Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada has indicated that the Futenma issue must be solved by the end of this year, while Hatoyama retorted that they are not at the stage of being able to come up with a decision by the year-end.

On TV program Monday morning (11/30/09) with the LDP's Shigeru Ishiba, Akihisa Nagashima indicated that members of the government
mostly share a view that moving the facility outside Okinawa or Japan is realistically difficult to achieve.

''It is easy to say, 'Move it outside the prefecture or outside the country,' but realistically difficult -- that is a view mostly shared by the government,'' Nagashima reportedly said.

At a press conference later that day, however, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano said he does not think that such a view is necessarily shared within the government.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

One Dark and Stormy Night

Washington has had a very unusual fall. It has been dark, cold, and wet. Many evenings are punctuated by violent thunderstorms that uproot trees and set roofs on fire. The thunder is so loud that it shakes the house and sets the cat racing about.

It was one such night that I was reading about contemporary Japanese society. It is now nearly banal to say that the country's recent elections reflected the need for politics to catch up with modern society. Laws, regulations, and social services have not kept pace with Japan's profound and uncomfortable social changes. Right and Left both complain that Japan has lost its sense of identity.

The laws maintained and the attitudes preserved as upholding the "Japanese" system were merely those of a small group of elites who managed Japan through the LDP. This ruling class had evolved to focus solely on maintaing its privilege, and not the greater social welfare. It did not govern. These politicians had ruled so long that Washington believed the LDP when told the party was the only legitimate representative of the Japanese people.

Many analysts like to point out that the DPJ is composed of many former LDP members. The new government is simply a recast LDP. After all there are quite a number of ultra-conservatives in the DPJ. Hatoyama's Cabinet has five members of Nippon Kaigi, which wants to revive the role of the Emperor and believes Japan was tricked into the War (Kamei, Fujii, Maehara, Nakai, and Matsuno). It is also common to say that the election results were a judgement on the LDP faults, rather than support of any positive action from the DPJ.

Nonetheless, the LDP does know something big has happened. In a recent Sentaku article, a conservative magazine, the author admits that the LDP did not and may not adapt to the changing circumstances. He notes that "Taro Aso, then prime minister and LDP president, attributed the loss to 'citizens' accumulated dissatisfaction and distrust toward my party over the years.'" Reviving the party may not be possible as "its eventual collapse or disintegration cannot be ruled out."

This political upheaval reflects an unhappy Japan. Nearly two decades of economic malaise and technological revolution have exposed some raw edges in Japanese society. Urbanization has stylized village-centric social rituals into meaninglessness. Globalization has undermined the traditional way of work. And the extended work-day of the average salaryman has undermined the family. The ageing population combined with inadequate care for the elder has seriously strained many families. Nearly 40% of jobs are temporary; young people isolate themselves; women don't want to marry; and men seem to prefer women with boyish attributes (unjaded young girls). There is little room for children in this world.

In Private Worlds: Lives spent lurking too long in the shadows of the virtual, Roland Kelts observes:
What the pathologies affecting Japanese all have in common is a rejection of active engagement, a refusal to participate in the actual world beyond the confines of specifically tailored, intimately controllable private spaces – a bedroom, a booth in an internet café, an online chat room or a bulletin board site. It’s something I’ve taken to calling Japan’s “Bartleby rebellion,” after Herman Melville’s eponymous 19th-century law staffer in his novel Bartleby the Scrivener, whose refusal to accede to societal expectations eventually results in his rejection of sustenance itself. He starves himself to death in his prison cell. Bartleby’s irreverent mantra? “I’d prefer not to.” Tell that to the cops.
Kelts finds a deep pessimism in Japan. There is a younger generation not only unwilling to take risks, but also given few opportunities to take them. Anxiety has overtaken desire. And unfulfilled desire leads only to disillusionment, resignation, and anger. Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the industrialized world.

Technology has further stylized the minimalist Japanese aesthetic. Whereas the private world was idealized, it is now ensured by the computer screen. Strangely there is a deeper isolation in social networks, gaming, and blogging. Kelts finds
The Japanese have also proven particularly adept at cultivating private virtual worlds amid very crowded public realities. Author and translator Frederik L. Schodt, a veteran authority on Japanese pop culture media, has used the term “autistic” to define the characteristics of a comparatively inward-looking, narrowly focused sensibility.
Yet, and this is a big yet, all this ennui has produced some great creativity in the arts and literature. It also voted the LDP out of office. As the late economist Herb Stein, liked to say, If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.

And it did.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Birthday

Today is Tobias Harris' birthday.
He is not yet 30 and, as he noted, he has been blogging
Observing Japan for three years.
Happy Birthday!

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Today, Thanksgiving day in the U.S., is the year anniversary of when I became part of a new "social" trend. The New Oxford American dictionary institutionalized it earlier this month.

I was “unfriended.”

It was more than the destruction of a friendship. The greater ruin was of a powerful professional alliance. It had already produced incredible results. And more was possible.

But as it was explained to me, sharing values does not make us friends.

I thought over time things would change. Maybe he would become as anxious as I was over the opportunities missed. And personally, surely, my being in the hospital on my birthday warranted an email or a card.

I was wrong.

[Photo courtesy Museum of Modern Art, Adam Frank, Lumen Oil Lamp.]

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Child Abduction Politics II

Members of Congress have been searching for ways to keep attention on the international child abduction issue. Not enough countries have signed onto the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction that calls for the immediate return of children to the country of residence prior to the abduction. And many of those that have do not always comply with it.

Diplomatic efforts organized through the State Department have not been effective. It is difficult for the state to intervene in what has traditionally been an intensely personal problem. No left-behind parent has the patience to wait for years of "process."

So far, however, they have had to wait.

Congress can hammer on the White House and State Department to work harder and faster. It can also use its internationally-watched bully pulpit to highlight an injustice. But to do this, it must first see the fight as winnable. Congress must also believe that the issue has universal appeal.

To work in this atmosphere, the advocates for the left-behind parents need to be: an united group that speaks with one voice and able to convince Members of Congress that they are fighting for some higher goal than carrying out individual divorce decrees. Both are difficult to achieve.

The effort to address the issue of a "higher goal" and to show how child abduction violates established international norms, the Tom Lantos Human Right's Commission will hold a hearing on International Child Abduction on December 2nd at 10:30 am on Capitol Hill. At least two of the parents testifying will discuss child abduction to Japan.

The Commission was created in 2008 to formally institutionalize the Congressional Human Rights Caucus (CHRC). Its mission is to promote, defend and advocate internationally recognized human rights norms in a nonpartisan manner, both within and outside of Congress, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights instruments. Congressman James P. McGovern (D-MA) and Congressman Frank R. Wolf (R-VA) co-chair the Commission.

The Commission is to develop congressional strategies to promote, defend, and advocate for international human rights norms. Child abduction is now a human rights issue.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Nothing to See Here

This morning I received an email from a noted expert on Southeast Asia. She asked me if I knew of any appointed positions in the Obama Administration's Asia Team that were filled by women.

The basis of her question was that she had been a campaign adviser on Asia as had quite a number of other women she listed who did not get positions in the Administration.

HaHaHa, I replied. The Obama Asia team is no different than the Bush team. I fact, I believe there were actually a few more women working on Asia during the Bush years than now. These women were especially good at toeing the party line and keeping a low profile.

This situation has gone on so long, that it is accepted not to see women interviewed by the press, represented on panel discussions or invited to those private meetings at "onsen and in the mountains at Aspen." And if you are not at the private meetings you do not get noticed, cultivated, and remembered.

Worse, by not attending the meetings you don't get to understand the dialogue of what is acceptable and what is not. Your opinions are not tempered by personal ties or practice. And if you are invited, you learn quickly to agree, to follow and to not stand out. Questioning the senior managers is career-ending.

This past Sunday the Washington Post featured on its Opinion page, Topic A: "Obama in Asia: Foreign policy experts assess the president's trip." The Post asked nine "experts" of which two were women. Only four experts made the print edition of which one was a woman.

Those interviewed were: Michael Auslin, Michael Green, Victor Cha, Danielle Pletka, Douglas E. Schoen, Richard C. Bush, Elizabeth C. Economy, David Shambaugh and Yang Jianli.

No matter, none were particularly supportive of the President. The former Bush Administration officials slammed him for being too accommodating to the Chinese and not focusing enough on trade. Michael Green, seemed bit too condescending, "Obama's trip to Asia should be a wake-up call to the White House about the limits of using the president's biography as foreign policy and the realities of power politics in the Pacific."

Michael Auslin, who appears to the spokesman for the Alliance Managers, summed up their position best, "The optics of the president's trip fulfilled his stated intention of announcing that the United States was "back" in Asia, but the lack of tangible policy results suggest it was a success of style over substance."

The rational voice, was Richard Bush of Brookings who said:
The major goal of this trip was to make the case for multilateral cooperation regarding the pressing challenges of the global economy, climate change, proliferation and Afghanistan-Pakistan. America cannot solve these problems alone. We cannot order others to help us. We cannot seek their help while ignoring their interests or giving disproportionate emphasis to human rights. The president understands this; his critics do not.
See, even I did not mention what the women said.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Not to be Missed

Sedition is not a word usually associated with the U.S.-Japan Alliance. It is especially not considered in reference to Japan’s Self-Defense Forces. They are Washington’s solid partners in Asia.

So it is always interesting to learn how members of Japan’s armed forces refer to World War II and their former American foes. A lot of emotions can be at play in these references. And in some countries their expression can be considered inflammatory and even seditious.
At Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Forces Fleet Week in October, a Japanese friend was taken aback by the historical narratives given to the guests on board the ships he visited. The JMSDF briefers referred to the War in the language of Imperial Japan. It was the Great East Asian War (Daitowa Senso) and not the contemporary, alliance-friendly Pacific War (Taiheiyo Senso).

This elderly Japanese Baron wrote me: “I had considered Japanese Navy having slightly better conscience than our Air Force until I heard the announcements on board. No self-reflection. No grip of history. No realization of the great divide of August 15, 1945, the paradigm shift. Great disappointment!”

Language matters.

Former Japan Air Self-Defense Forces Chief of Staff Toshio Tamaogami, won an award last year for an essay calling Japan’s Daitowa Senso just and the Americans deceitful. His strident, revisionist views were brushed aside as an aberration in Japan’s armed forces. After all, experts pointed out, he was fired from his post almost immediately.

Yet, he remains vocal and a hero to many. His slick website , where he appears in uniform (picture above courtesy of this website), promotes a constant stream of speaking engagements. There is even an upcoming dinner cruise in New York City (March 26, 2010) He continues to make news. Worse, those who question him are attacked and threatened.

The story of one such instance will be told on November 26th at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan. Pierre Pariseau, President & Founder, ONG Terre des enfants* and his lawyer, Shunji Miyake, will hold a press conference on M. Pariseau’s encounter with General Tamogami.

On August 15th, the Japanese speaking Pariseau, a French Canadian citizen and resident of Japan, was on the grounds of the Yasukuni Shine. There he found Tamogami speaking to supporters. After his speech, Tamogami was interviewed by Channel Sakura, a satellite outlet sympathetic to right-wings views.

Pariseau apparently could not contain himself any longer and decided to pose the General a question: "Do you realize that if you would be in Germany you would be in jail for what you said?"

Pariseau was referring to Germany’s hate speech law or Volksverhetzung ("stirring up the populace," "agitation of the people," seditious speech). It is a concept in German criminal law that bans the incitement of hatred against a segment of the population. It often applies in, though it is not limited to, trials relating to Holocaust denial in Germany.

The question set off a commotion that saw Pariseau head for the exit of the Yasukuni park. But he was pursued by a Channel Sakura camera and several of Tamogami's supporters. M. Pariseau got shoved around a lot.

The melee attracted the police who began questioning Pariseau and eventually took him to a police station. You can hear the rightist sounds trucks outside playing nationalist songs. He was forced to write apology statements. Sakura TV shows one of these letters that apologizes for disturbing the peace. Oddly it is in English, not French or Japanese.

According to Pariseau and his lawyer these acts are illegal and lasted for about three hours and involved over 50 officers, detectives and riot police. He has decided to sue the Japanese Government and seek damages from the Police.

Amazingly, Sakura TV put the entire broohahah on a YouTube clip. See below.

*My French is not good enough to find a solid reference linking Pariseau to this French nonprofit. Further information is welcome.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lack of Money Talks

Is this really true? Stateside it is difficult to confirm.

Greenpeace reported on November 12th that the end of Japanese whaling in the Antarctica's Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary was near.

Apparently, the Hatoyama government's Government Revitalization Unit charged with cutting 3 trillion yen from Japan's national budget has recommended that the Overseas Fisheries Cooperation Fund (OFCF), which gives loans to the Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR) to run Japan's research whaling program, have nearly all of its funding revoked. This stroke of the pen effectively ends non-coastal whaling.

A truly simple solution to a difficult and emotional problem.

The Revitalization Unit is a temporary committee that meets for only 11 days: November 11-18 and November 24-27, to discuss specific projects and programs under consideration to be cut from the national budget--"hidden treasure". Citizens can attend the deliberations or watch them on the Internet. An interesting discussion of the politics surrounding the formation of the Unit can be found on GlobalTalk 21.

Nominally, the panel's decisions are not final as the Cabinet of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has the final say on year-end budget compilation. Recently, Mr. Hatoyama stated that he hated whale meat.

LATER: On November 19th, Japanese whaling ships for Antarctic waters on an annual five-month voyage in pursuit of about 1,000 minke whales and a small number of fin whales. Australia's Environment Minister Peter Garrett expressed his country’s disappointment: “As we continue discussions on reform of the International Whaling Commission, we are deeply disappointed that the Japanese Government has again embarked on its annual hunt to the Southern Ocean. "The Australian Government has said repeatedly that we do not have to kill whales to study them."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Troubled Waters

Japan's new government is on a tear to redo the so-called U.S.-Japan Alliance. It is first trying to figure out how a security arrangement became an alliance. Next it is trying to discern why so many U.S. troops remain in so many former Imperial Army and Navy bases.

Most important, the Hatoyama government is discovering that a handful of essentially self-selected elites in Japan and the United States, nurtured by Japanese funding, have charted the course and character of the Alliance for over 2o years.

Last week's AEI presentation on "Troubled Waters for the U.S.-Japan Alliance" gave the audience a glimpse into this rarified world of Pacific strategists and Alliance Managers.

After reading, not paraphrasing, from his paper on the Looming Crisis in U.S.-Japan Relations and listening to Professor Kent Calder criticize the inability of a small group of elites to broaden the security dialogue, Dr. Patrick Cronin was in a defensive mood. As an "alliance manager" he respected the results of these men. He had just moved from a U.S. government research center to the Center for a New American Security, which had been founded by his friend, fellow Alliance Manager, and now Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Kurt Campbell. In the "private" sector he would have more time to write and to participate with little scrutiny in Alliance building meetings.

Cronin blithely jumped into the discussion after the presentations with a defense of the Alliance Managers. The Alliance he felt had been "tremendously successful," but he admited that it is in need of "a much wider public support base in Japan":
It [the Alliance] has been indeed managed by elites. I know I have had privileged conversations whether at the onsen or up in the mountains of Aspen with future prime ministers, defense ministers. And there is no doubt there has been a very candid exchange of views. There has been a very deep exchange of views on the most serious and sensitive issues. No doubt that takes place. [See 36.24 of the video of the event posted on the AEI website.]
Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs James Shinn was so bemused, that he interupted Cronin to ask if there were onsen in Aspen.

So there you have it: naked men with deep views at tony resorts conjured up America's lynchpin Alliance.

This is good to know, but I am still having a very hard time getting a picture of Patrick Cronin, James Kelley, Shinzo Abe, and Hisahiko Okazaki soaking together buck-naked in an onsen discussing Japan's potential defense posture out of my is not pretty. Not exactly the U.S. Men's water polo team.

After Dr. Cronin's comment, my intern whispered: What is an onsen?
Myself: A bath, a hot spring, usually outdoors.
Intern: I assume they have towels.
Myself: Very small towels.

Condolences from the Class of 1974

On Friday, November 13th, Amb. James R. Lilley, class of 1945, died. He was an inspiration and mentor to some in the class of 1974.

I believe he would appreciate the picture above.

Requiscat in Pace

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Bush Tank

Was that George W Bush in Tokyo earlier this month? Yes.

He was there for a baseball game with his old pal former Prime Minister Koizumi and a series of inspirational speeches. All this likely ended in a big fat "thank you" check to the new George W Bush Institute and maybe some envelopes of cash. Such is the tradition.

The Japanese, Koreans, and Chinese like to pay their speakers in cash and depending on your rank and value that amount can be quite large. I have always wondered how many former U.S. officials have failed to declare to U.S. Customs authorities that they are carrying into the country more than $10,000 in cash?

On November 12th, the day President Obama was supposed to land in Japan, former President Bush announced the creation of his new public policy institute at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas. The Institute will focus on education, global health, human freedom and economic growth. It will be part of the Bush Presidential Center, which will include the presidential library and museum.

“The Institute will be a vital hub of critical thought and practical action,” Bush said.

To its credit, within all four areas of focus, the Bush Institute will integrate the involvement of women and social entrepreneurs. In remarks following those of her husband, former First Lady Laura Bush, who will lead the institute’s women’s initiative, said, “Research shows that when you educate and empower women, you improve nearly every aspect of society.”

Groundbreaking for the facility is scheduled for the fall of 2010, with the opening and dedication in the spring of 2013.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Appalled, amazed, and bewildered seemed to be the feelings of the small group of Japan experts gathered at the Japanese Embassy. Mike Green was speaking about the success of the US-Japan relations under the Bush Administration and how much Japan was involved in the war on terror. He had been Asia director at the National Security Council in the White House.

I am afraid I do not remember the date or the exact topic, or even much of what he said. The evening talk was shortly after he left the Bush Administration. He began by highlighting the new strength of the relationship with three stories, each of which featured himself: in the oval office with President Bush talking to Koizumi, greeting Japanese troops after being dropped off in Kuwait by President who was on his way to Afghanistan, and visiting the Khyber Pass with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage only to find an intrepid Japanese aid mission.

Gosh, there was so much name-dropping going on in the first five minutes of that presentation is is near impossible to remember whatever else he said. Indeed, in the Washington "game" whoever can say he advised a sitting President wins. The player no longer has to name drop as the game has been won, hands down.

He then went on about how Japan was beginning to live up to its military responsibilities, that China was hegemonistic , and North Korea duplicitous. In all, he sung the praises of Bush Administration foreign policy and its close association with Japan's conservative LDP. The political costs of an "alliance" not welcomed among the Japanese people was never fathomed.

More important, the feisty, patronizing young conservative had put his elders in the audience on edge. Mike had been in Washington a long time. He was no Ivy-Leaguer and had gotten his PhD from Johns Hopkins SAIS in Washington. Everyone had seen him grow up.

Finally, Ayako Doi, a seasoned journalist, got up and asked the question on everyone's mind, but did not dare ask this now clearly powerful Alliance Manager. She stammered a bit and said that so much of what he had just said was so different from what he used to say. Before, he seemed to be more liberal, more open-minded, and more critical. "Mike," she said, "I thought we knew you....why have you changed so much?"

I swear everyone held their breath.

His answer was a broad smile, a laugh, and the comment "well, I drank the Kool-aide"!

Appalled, amazed, and bewildered everyone remained.

Today, November 18th, is the 31st anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre from which that political term is derived. As I tell my interns, it means that you have been so brain-washed, so weak-willed, so without independent thought that you believe your leaders so uncritically that you are willing to drink poison for their cause.


Buried deep in a special section on "Giving" of the New York Times on November 12th, is an article "Raising Morale Far From Home" that starts:
A SURVIVOR of World War II’s infamous Bataan Death March, Dr. Lester Tenney endured over three years of slave labor as a Japanese prisoner of war, with no word from home. “I would have been so happy to get a package of any kind,” Dr. Tenney said. “I wouldn’t have cared what was in it — just the fact that someone would think of me and send something. Oh Lord, that would have been exciting!”
Ninety-year old Dr. Tenney spearheads an effort in his retirement community to send care packages to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The nonprofit group he created, Care Packages from Home sends out 200 packages a month to the troops. A local San Diego TV station even featured his effort, see HERE.

What the Times article does not say, is that the Japanese military and Mitsui Mining, the company that purchased Dr. Tenney to mine coal, withheld their Red Cross boxes and letters from home. From the Bataan Death March to the Hell Ship to slave labor, there was not one minute of mercy from the Japanese to Lester Tenney and his fellow American prisoners.

Also unstated, is that the U.S. government essentially abandoned Dr. Tenney and his fellow POWs in all their efforts for justice. The San Francisco Peace Treaty cut off the POWs from suing for their slave labor wages. In 2003, the U.S. government successfully confirmed in the Supreme Court that the POWs could not sue individual Japanese companies. Worse, the U.S. Congress cannot find its way to offer token compensation to the POWs as have all other Allied nations for their POWs.

Although this has been a momentous year of Japanese officials making never-before conciliatory gestures to the American POWs, the Obama Administration and the U.S. State Department has done little to capitalize on these efforts. In January, then-Prime Minister Aso gave in to evidence found in the Health and Welfare Ministry basement that his family's mining company did use POWs for forced labor. Buried deep in the records of a February Diet discussion is the Japanese government's first ever official apology to all POWs. And no where on any official website or document in English or Japanese can be found the Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Fujisaki's May rewording of the 1995 Murayama Apology to include American POWs of Bataan and Corregidor and "other places."

"Other places" are the hundreds of POW camps through out the Empire of Japan. The best know was Mukden where General Jonathan Wainwright was held and American POWs were likely experimented on at the nearby notorious biological warfare laboratory Unit 731.

Dr. Tenney still wants justice and peace of mind for himself and his fellow POWs before the last of them die. He wants closure and understanding from their families and loved ones. He wants the Japanese government to accept the apologies given by its representative by publicizing these statements and including the American POWs in the long-standing Peace, Friendship and Exchange Initiative that funds visits, research, and projects for all POWs of Japan except Americans.

And he would like the over 60 Japanese companies that enslaved the POWs to run Japan's war machine to offer an apology. All these companies are now major multinationals. Indeed, the former head of Mitsui's Washington office, who spent a lot of his time fighting Dr. Tenney's lawsuit, is now rumored to be a possible pick to be Japan's next ambassador to the U.S.

Considering that the difficulties now exposed between the U.S. and Japan are all the result of unresolved history issues, both governments should welcome a larger project of exchange, research, and reconciliation on the Pacific War. It is unfortunate that the Alliance Managers in the State Department are not imaginative to see the opportunity.

For now they simply tell Dr. Tenney they feel his pain. Do they know he bears countless scares from beatings, lost all his teeth, and has a deep gash on his should from samurai sword? And like all other POWs of the Japanese he still cannot sleep through the night for his rest is disturbed by vivid nighmares. Studies have found that the former POWs of Japan suffer the worst PTSD of any WWII veteran.

Dr. Tenney, tells me, to be more optimistic. He is used to disappointment and the disingenuous. He never loses hope and he uses his sleepless nights for good. The American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan most certainly are better for it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month

Today, for the first time, a German prime minister attended France's Armistice Day ceremonies in Paris.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy speaking at a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe alongside German Prime Minister Angela Merkel called for “an ever closer association of French and German policies,” describing the reconciliation of the two countries as a “treasure.”

It was Mrs Merkel's first foreign trip after being sworn in as chancellor for a second term and the aim was to send a strong message about the depth of Franco-German ties. For Mr. Sarkozy, he wanted to show that there was initiative for a new cooperation and leadership in Europe for the two countries. Mr Sarkozy has been frustrated in his efforts to find substantive ways to deepen their partnership.

“The strength of reconciliation allows us to face up to new challenges and really assume our responsibilities,” Merkel said, referring to the economic crisis, social justice, global poverty and climate change.

Mr Sarkozy was careful to avoid a victor’s interpretation of history, describing war in the trenches as “murderous madness for which no one was responsible but which dragged everyone in.”

“We did not know how to make peace in 1918, not only because the winners lacked generosity, but because they refused to see the tragic destiny that bound them to the defeated and which the unspeakable horror of war had just revealed,” he said.

Ms Merkel did not dwell on the war, speaking instead of “history that has united the French and Germans for centuries, whether in happy or unhappy periods.”

Later: See the new report by Thomas U. Berger for the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, Different Beds, Same Nightmare: The Politics of History in Germany and Japan.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Europe and Denuclear Japan

Obama's April 5 Prague speech advocating the end of nuclear weapons has not yet stimulated the world's nuclear states to offer their own nonproliferation proposals. However, the speech has inspired our European allies and the new Japanese DPJ-led government to use denuclearization to press their own political agendas. Both seem to reject the deterrence effect of nuclear weapons, and both want to keep the peace by other means.

On October 14th, four prominent French politicians (Alain Juppé, former Prime Minister; Bernard Norlain, General, former commander of the air combat force; Alain Richard, former Minister of Defense; Michel Rocard, former Prime Minister) wrote a letter to Le Monde calling into question the necessity of nuclear weapons and efficacy of deterrence. For them, nuclear weapons have become mere expressions of state vanity.

In Europe and Japan, politicians want to take Obama at his word that nuclear weapons are "the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War" and that the U.S. has a moral responsibility to lead as the only nation ever to have used one. The Hatoyama Administration is busy readying a proposal on a Northeast Asian nuclear free zone. Currently, the DPJ government is trying to clarify what secret nuclear agreements exist between the U.S. and Japan.

Past Japanese administrations were fearful that the U.S. might withdraw its nuclear umbrella and end its policy of extended deterrence. Reportedly, government representatives went so far as to list what nuclear weapons they wanted the Americans to keep in Japan. Japanese diplomats submitted to the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States a memo outlining some of the nuclear capabilities they wanted retained, such as advanced nuclear warheads, nuclear submarines and B-52 bombers.

In an October 18 speech in Kyoto, Okada noted the central contradiction in Japanese policy on nuclear weapons: “Hitherto, the Japanese government has said to the U.S., ‘We don’t want you to declare no first use because it will weaken nuclear deterrence.’ However, it cannot be said to be consistent to call for nuclear abolition, while requesting the first use of nuclear weapons for yourself." (Katsuya Okada, Remarks at Atarashii Jidai no Nichibei Kankei [Japan-U.S. relationship in a new era], Kyoto, October 18, 2009) Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has been a bit more circumspect in seeking a nuclear-free world. He has indicated understanding about the need for a nuclear deterrent, calling it "one way of thinking to deal with current threats."

For their part, the Europeans are pressing for the removal of remaining nuclear warheads in Western Europe. Five European nations -- Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey -- are believed to house roughly 200 U.S. B-61 gravity bombs. On Friday, November 6th, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of his new coalition government's desire for the withdrawal of the 18 nuclear weapons that are speculated to be located on German soil.

The Germans have backing from the Belgians and Dutch. The new Norwegian government also called for a debate within Nato, as it revises its basic doctrine, known as the strategic concept, due to be completed in the first half of next year

"These moves bring out into the open a topic which for too long has been discussed by diplomats and technocrats only," said former British Defense Minister Des Browne, who now leads a group of British parliamentarians that focuses on nuclear disarmament. "(It) makes possible a genuine debate between allies about the role of nuclear weapons in the NATO strategy, as set out in the strategic concept which guides alliance generals.

Japan is often the outlier in international political and economic policy. Yet, in regard to the movement to rethink deterrence theory and press for denuclearization, the new Japanese government appears uncannily in sync with Europe. It is not that Japan is rejecting all things Western, it is that Tokyo is rejecting the American model. The "constant" of Japan siding with the Americans on security is becoming undone--likely to the satisfaction of the Europeans and others.

See: Opportunity to Lead: Japan's Critical Role in the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, Hiroshima Peace Media Center, Oct. 12 2009, by Joe Cirincione.

The Role of Nuclear Weapons: Japan, the U.S., and “Sole Purpose Arms Control Today, November 2009, Arms Control Association, by Masa Takubo.

Later: At a National Defense Forum breakfast on November 11th, Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton, head of U.S. Strategic Command said, "When looking into the future a basic question is ... will we still need nuclear weapons 40 years from now? I believe the answer to that question is yes."

Don't Forget the Abductees

U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Bob Corker (R-TN), and 20 of their Senate colleagues, sent a letter on November 8th to President Barack Obama calling on him to address international parental child abduction with Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama during his trip to Japan this week.

Specifically, the letter asks the Administration to work with the Japanese government to reunite children abducted to Japan with their American parents. They are less interested in persuading the Japanese to sign the Hague Convention on child abduction than on reuniting as quickly as possible the abducted children with their left-behind parents.

The letter's text is HERE.

Senator Jim Webb (D-VA), chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, East Asia & Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, was not satisfied with simply signing the letter. He issued his own press release. Webb is not one to miss an opportunity to pound on Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell for being disingenuous. Like many on Capitol Hill, Webb knows he has to keep Campbell's feet to the fire to produce results.

For now, Campbell says the Japanese Justice Ministry is a afraid of pressing for change to get the Hague signed or to do more. This is peculiar as Ministry Chiba has publicly said she was going to press on bringing Japan up to international standards on a host of issues. Diet members are also confronted daily by the complaints of their constituents negatively affected by the lack of Japanese laws for joint custody. There is a domestic movement in Japan for change. Maybe Campbell is just trying position any progress on the issue as a result his efforts.

Webb's press release moves beyond the stock introductory paragraph in the Boxer letter and adds:

For Webb, this letter builds upon efforts to help Virginia constituents whose children have been abducted to Japan. Webb, who serves as chairman of Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, also raised the issue of child abductions to Japan during Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell’s confirmation hearing this summer.

As the Senators stated in the letter, “Many parents have not seen or heard from their children in years. We cannot sit back and wait while these children grow up without one parent.”

The Senators noted that, while it is important that Japan accede to the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, the administration must also work with Japan directly to resolve current cases.

Currently, Japan does not recognize international parental child abduction as a crime and is behind only Mexico and India in the number of parental child abduction cases involving American children.

It is interesting that Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), often a defender of Japan, signed the letter. Both the Chair and Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee also signed.

The Senators who signed the letter are: Barbara Boxer, Bob Corker, John F. Kerry, Richard G. Lugar, Russell D. Feingold, Richard J. Durbin, Byron L. Dorgan, Dianne Feinstein, Lamar Alexander, Daniel K. Inouye, Jack Reed, Carl Levin, Sheldon Whitehouse, Mary L. Landrieu, Ron Wyden, Jeff Merkley, Maria Cantwell, Jim Webb, Roland W. Burris, Amy Klobuchar, Bill Nelson, Patty Murray.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Across the Pond

In all the American hang-ringing over Prime Minister Hatoyama’s yuai view of the world, I do not recall anyone in Washington asking what our European allies thought. This is ironic as the infamous Hatoyama essay, "A New Path for Japan," first appeared in the print edition of the International Herald Tribune, and never in the New York Times. As the owner of the Tribune, the Times simply placed the essay on its website.

The Financial Times, fortunately, does give us some insight in what Europeans might think. They are considerably more understanding than us Americans. Of course, there is that European smugness that they are not the only critics of the consumer-driven American way of life.

José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, sent Prime Minister Hatoyama, on September 15th a congratulatory letter praising Hatoyama’s criticism of US-style capitalism, as a sign of “converging” visions in Brussels and Tokyo. Barroso said it is now necessary to “shape globalization with values promoting human dignity.”

It was not lost on the EC President that the Japanese PM had praised European democracy and the essay seemed to support his proposed political guidelines for the European Commission. They too can be a model for Japan.

What better way, muses a European blogger, for Mr. Barroso to garner a few votes the next day from his socialist detractors for his reelection as Commission president. The vote was September 16th.

Or maybe he wanted to strengthen Europe’s position and influence at the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh the following week. The Europeans are greatly outnumbered in a G-20 setting. His Global Viewpoint essay had an appeal to the new Japanese government when he said “We must inspire the world with our vision of a future where open markets and the freedom to create wealth are framed within clear ethical and environmental principles, backed by strongly enforced global rules.

And maybe his support of Hatoyama was just good business. The change of the old guard in Tokyo might finally open Japan’s markets to Airbus and the Eurofighter. That’s one way toward “rebalancing global economic growth.”

“Liberté, égalité, fraternité!”

Yeah, whatever.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cornerstone, Lynchpin, Band-Aid

President Barack Obama is expected in Tokyo shortly (November 12-13). By any analysis, the American and Japanese leaders will not have much to discuss. The best they can try for is to make some sort of personal connection.

The military/security relationship is on hold. Uncomfortable agreements between the LDP and the U.S. Governments are exposed nearly daily. Washington takes for granted that Tokyo will pay grandly for reconstruction aid in Afghanistan and is thus unimpressed. Surprised by the disagreement over the Futenma relocation, the Obama Administration is unlikely to expend any political capital to press on the social, historical, and economic issues (child abduction, American POWs of Japan, yen manipulation, trade barriers) that now gnaw prominently at the U.S.-Japan relationship.

Since the second term of the Clinton Administration, the U.S. has largely confined its interactions with Japan to the management of a security relationship. Tamped down were issues of Japanese economic manipulation, trade dumping, industrial espionage, tax evasion, and failure to abide by international standards. These were all unimportant in an effort to create a reliable, economically stable military partner in East Asia that can counter China and its satellites.

Now, the cork is out the bottle, so to speak. Everything is up for discussion. Both the Americans and Japanese might be surprised as to what constitutes an "equal" relationship to the other. If Japan defines "equal" as pursuing issues of human as opposed to military security, it will find itself viewed as wanting as it did when it only the issue of collective security was a problem. And for the Americans, the broad range of difficulties between the U.S. and Japan will extend far beyond the abilities of any small group of managers who move effortlessly between parties and administrations.

Thus, it may be welcome by all if President Obama had to cut to one day his Tokyo visit in order to attend the memorial service for the slain soldiers at Ft. Hood. As you can see from the White House Press Briefing on Friday, November 6th, not much is expected of the President's trip to Asia and honoring sharing the country's grief with the Ft Hood families is a greater priority.

Q One other question on the Asia trip. He's making several stops. But when the President comes back, is there anything at all that he wants to come back with? Is there an issue --

MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think that the President is going to have an opportunity over the course of this trip to meet with important -- important leaders. Obviously, we start in Japan. We will go to APEC. We will visit China before going to South Korea and home. You can understand what I think the President will be discussing -- I should mention, at APEC, there will likely be some important bilateral meetings. I think what will be on the docket will obviously be the health of the world economy. We will discuss, obviously, North Korea. I anticipate Iran will come up in meetings. Nonproliferation obviously will be something that is discussed, certainly as it relates to those two previous countries that I mentioned. And, finally, energy and climate change will also be part of what's discussed. I know we delayed a briefing call on this. It was originally supposed to be today. We'll probably do that likely some time early on Monday.

Q But are you looking to get anything at all, reassurance from one of these leaders about any one of these issues? Anything in particular that you're looking --

MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I'll wait for the call to go through exactly what we see as part of each day on this. Again, I think you've got a very important part of the world to our economy and to the economies that we're going to see. I think obviously economic health and well-being and jobs will be a significant part of this. Yes, sir.

Q On Fort Hood, you said that when a service is scheduled, he will attend?


Q Did I understand that -- you mean, before or after the Asia trip?

MR. GIBBS: I anticipate -- we will attend a memorial service at Fort Hood when it is scheduled. I anticipate that that will likely happen prior to Asia. But again, this is, again, somewhat in flux based on the scheduling of this -- there are families that would have to come in from all over the United States, and our schedule is -- will be formed around that.

Q And they're not building the schedule around his schedule, I take it, for memorial services, as far as you know.

MR. GIBBS: We have communicated with the Department of Defense that our schedule is built around the families that suffered tragic losses yesterday.

Q Well, if they were to delay it until Tuesday or Wednesday or something like that, he could end up changing his schedule on the Asia trip.

MR. GIBBS: We anticipate going to Asia, and we anticipate -- we will got to a memorial service. I hate to get into hypotheticals --

Q Right, but you're not ruling out the possibility of changing the departure.

MR. GIBBS: I'm not ruling -- I'd prefer to talk about the schedule when we have a better sense of its formation.

Earlier in the day, National Security Council Asia Director Jeffrey Bader gave a speech at Brookings. He was not much more hopeful for any great progress. He emphasized the personal and focused still on the security alliance:

With new governments in place the time is ripe for our resilient alliance to be reaffirmed. The foreign policy platform of the Democratic Party of Japan called for a more equal partnership with the U.S. It raised questions about the Futenma replacement facility on Okinawa, about the future of refueling provided to allies fighting in Afghanistan, and about other aspects of the security relationship. Six or seven weeks into its debut in governance, the new Japanese leadership is assessing all these questions. At the same time, Prime Minister Hatoyama has said repeatedly that he considers the alliance with the U.S. as the key relationship in Japanese foreign policy.

President Obama and Prime Minister Hatoyama had a warm meeting in New York and spoke on the phone, getting their relationship off to a good start. In their meeting last month in the U.N., and in subsequent high level meetings, we demonstrated that we can listen to a critically important ally, understand its political needs, and articulate our thinking in ways that we hope will be persuasive to Tokyo.

Our approach is meant to ensure that the alliance is not reduced to a series of difficult negotiations and transactions when in fact it is a bond understood as critical to both our nations requiring sacrifices of narrow self interest. We will need to be persistent and clear as we deal with some of the complex alliance issues in the months ahead. As we do so, we both need to keep our eye on the larger picture, that is how much the U.S.- Japan Alliance means for both of us, both regionally and globally. American’s should not forget what Japan does on global issues is often critically important to us. Besides the U.S. there has been no larger contributor, for example, in foreign assistance to Pakistan and Afghanistan than Japan. Japan is a model of energy efficiency and is playing an important role in the climate change negotiations.

Fortunately, the President will return from Asia with his decision on Afghanistan and a new news cycle will begin.

Later: The U.S. government has asked Japan if the President's visit can be pushed to one day, Friday to allow the President to attend the memorial at Ft. Hood.