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.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Faulty Assumptions

Michael Penn, executive director of the Shingetsu Institute in Japan on Japan-Islamic relations wrote a comment yesterday (11/2/09) for the popular Nelson Report on US-Asian relations. He observed that Washington policymakers seemed to hold a number of surprising assumptions about the new Japanese government that are not shared by their counterparts in Japan.

He writes:

Assumption #1: The DPJ electoral victory had nothing to do with alliance policy: Although domestic Japanese issues dominated the August 30 elections, the Japanese public was also moved by appeals for overall "regime change." There was the sense that Japan was moving in the wrong direction. This belief was linked to Tokyo's post-9/11 alliance policy.

When the DPJ talked about its unwillingness to support any more "American Wars," it did so because it resonated with the general public. More than once I have had young Japanese ask me, "Why do Americans like war?"

In short, the public rejection of the LDP was in part a rejection of the Bush-era "Britain of the East" military-centered model for the US-Japan alliance.

Assumption #2: The alliance burden on Japan is low: The Japanese do not believe that they receive high benefits from the US alliance at a very low cost. If you consider both direct as well as opportunity costs, Japan actually pays quite a lot for the alliance.

For example, when the Bush administration pursued its questionable 2003 war against Iraq, they expected the Japanese government's full support even though 80% of the public were opposed. The DPJ is responding, finally, to Japanese public opinion in a way that the LDP-to its cost-would not.

Assumption #3: The DPJ doesn't support the US alliance: If the DPJ really didn't support the alliance, they are currently in a strong enough domestic political position to openly say so.

They DO support the alliance, but demand that it must change the way it functions. They expect the right to make up their own minds about what constitutes the Japanese national interest, rather than have it decided for them by Washington.

In short, anger at the DPJ is misplaced. The politicians only reflect the realities of Japanese public opinion, the people who democratically elected them.

Maybe the lesson here is that US administrations will now have to work harder to appeal to the Japanese people whereas in the past they had only to appease a small, self-selected group of conservative politicians and bureaucrats.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Assume Nothing

On Saturday afternoon, October 31, the State Department revised the Secretary of State’s weekly calendar. In the morning it read that Foreign Minister Okada would meet with the Secretary of State at 11:30 on Friday, November 6th. By afternoon, the appointment had disappeared without explanation.

According to The Cable, the meeting is off. Okada has been reined in as his expectations about the power of his personal diplomacy to America's civilian leaders may have been too great. Or he may have simply been off the reservation.

As Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano said in a Monday press conference, ''The Diet must be the top priority. There should not be any trips abroad (by ministers) that could influence Diet deliberations.'' Yet, The Cable, State, and the Nelson Report all say that Secretary Clinton's schedule is still open...

Monday, November 2, at the Daily Press Briefing with Ian Kelly:

QUESTION: Do you have any information about Secretary Clinton meeting with the Japanese Foreign Minister Okada?

MR. KELLY: Well, what I do know is that the Secretary has time on Friday to meet with him, but that I think I have to refer you to the Japanese foreign ministry about the plans of Foreign Minister Okada.

QUESTION: But you can talk about the plans of Hillary Clinton. So you’re saying it’s on their side, that scheduling is --

MR. KELLY: I’m just saying you would have to – you have to talk to them about his schedule. I only know the schedule of my Secretary.

QUESTION: Well, does she plan to meet him?

MR. KELLY: She’s ready to meet with him.

QUESTION: Is he going to meet with him?

MR. KELLY: That’s up to the Japanese foreign minister to – up to the foreign ministry to decide.

QUESTION: You’re suggesting that the Japanese foreign minister is snubbing the Secretary?

MR. KELLY: No, I’m not saying that at all.

QUESTION: What are you saying, then?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think one thing I’ll say is that when we put out a week ahead schedule, it is intended be for planning and not for publication.

LATER: Foreign Minister Okada cancels his plans to visit the U.S. Hatoyama reminds him who is in charge. Asst. Secretary of State for East Asia Kurt Campbell will be in Tokyo on Thursday.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Peacekeeping in Afghanistan

As Japan debates its role in Afghanistan, it may want to examine two decisions made last week by American allies.

The first is that the Germans have accepted the conclusion of a NATO investigation on an airstrike ordered by German commanders against a pair of hijacked Afghan tanker trucks that confirmed the attack as appropriate. The second is Seoul’s agreement to reintroduce Korean troops into Afghanistan to guard their aid workers.

Both allies are adjusting their policies to the realities of the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan. They now “protect” their humanitarian and reconstruction efforts. They will pursue "peacekeeping" by all mean.

Like Japan, Germany is constitutionally forbidden to participate in any war, unless as an act of defense. And like Japan, Germany’s history makes its people hesitate in any use of force. This restraint is slowly giving way to the demands of modern counter-insurgency. The German-ordered air strike and a change in their rules of engagement to not wait until they are fired upon are examples of this change.

The South Koreans had pulled out of Afghanistan two years ago after Korean Christian missionaries were kidnapped and two murdered. On Friday, October 30th, the South Korea government announced that it would expand its reconstruction team now helping to rebuild Afghanistan to 130 to 150 workers (from 25). A Foreign Ministry spokesman emphasized that “Our troops will not engage in battles except for the security of our workers and for self-defense,” Mr. Moon said.

The Japanese I have met who focus on Japan’s Afghan policy are convinced that they can be “honest brokers” in the region. They believe the Japanese are perceived as apart from the Americans. Thus, they plan to send aid workers in unarmed to the less restive areas. And they are committed to working with all parties to create a safer Afghanistan, claiming to have developed ties with even the Taliban.

The Times questions if Americans will ultimately fight one kind of war and their allies another. Yet the open-ended and escalating war may require a fundamental reconsideration of our allies’ no-combat principles. As the Times notes “The Germans may not have gone to war, but now the war has come to them.”

Child Abduction Politics

On the front page, above the fold of Saturday’s New York Times, admittedly not the most read edition, was an intriguing article on child abduction. The U.S. State Department and U.S. government, which has long been accused of doing little about international parental child abduction cases, comes out looking good. Yes, not as good as the very determined mother and her immigrant family, but better than usual.

Most interesting, it is a case involving China, a country that has not signed the Hague Convention on international child abduction, and does not enforce custody orders issued by foreign courts. Nor does it consider parental abduction a crime or have much interest in the rights of children. This is a situation similar to Japan, South Korea, Russia, and India.

It is ironic, that Mexican diplomats in China had worked hard to help the mother, an illegal Mexican resident of the United States whose abusive American had had abducted their daughter to China in December 2008. Mexico currently harbors the largest number of abducted children from the U.S.; and Japan is the second (depending on how you count). Mexico, although a signatory to the Hague Convention, is regularly cited as noncompliant.

Significantly, it took an extraordinary international effort, including months of legal and diplomatic advocacy, criminal investigation and Internet sleuthing, to locate the little girl — who was found last Sunday, abandoned in an orphanage many miles from Beijing — and bring her safely home to New York this past Thursday. The FBI, the Immigration authorities, Justice Department, New York State law enforcement, and the State Department all worked together to ensure that the mother received her green card, a sole custody agreement inked, and the errant husband issued an arrest warrant.

All this was, in turn, pushed along by New York’s new Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand who saw an incredible opportunity to show concern for her Hispanic voters and to sign onto the political wave in Congress on the child abduction issue. Congressional pressure on the State Department has made a difference in how Foggy Bottom now views the international parental child abduction problem. It is no longer a private matter or merely a consular issue.

China’s cooperation on helping resolve this child abduction was also unique. They seem to have gotten the message, that Congress and the White House are watching this issue. Signing and abiding by the Hague Convention is fast becoming a marker in a state’s commitment to being an international stakeholder.

It is a message that I am sure that the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs is trying now to convey. If not, he will be.