Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lived to See the Day

Here is a video* of Japan's Ambassador to the United States Ichiro Fujisaki giving the Government of Japan's regrets for the tremendous damage and suffering caused the POWs by Japan as well as his personal apology and condolences for the many deaths.

Studies have found that American POWs of Japan have had the worst Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms of any World War II veterans. These problems have lingered and even reemerged in their old age.

This article gives a sense of the atmosphere during the Ambassador's historic presentation.

For a snap analysis of this historic event, see this blog.

Later: Although this apology and expression of regret can be viewed as weak and formulaic, it is nonetheless extremely historic. It may also signal a new Japanese attitude toward resolving the importance of war issues in order to cement the US-Japan security relationship.

The Ambassador's statements paired with the Cabinet Decision reply to Upper House Member Yukihisa Fujita's question about an apology to the POWs can be considered a solid, official and formal apology to ALL POWs of Japan. This is only the second time such an official apology for Japan's wartime misdeeds has been offered and it is the first time, in this form, for a specific group harmed by the actions of Imperial Japan.

A profound and heartfelt thanks goes to all those who worked both publicly and privately, in the spotlight and behind the scenes, and known and unknown to help make this day happen and to put the souls of the POWs of Japan to rest. On behalf of my great uncle Fletcher Wood (Yale '10S) who as a civilian mining engineer in the Philippines became part of the fighting force on Corregidor at the start of the war and who died a POW in Bilibid Prison Camp in January 1945, I thank you.

*I have had no luck embedding the video clip into this blog, thus I can only give you the link.

Friday, May 29, 2009


Japan's Ambassador to the United States Ichiro Fujisaki, after receiving two invitations to attend the last convention of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, has agreed to come to the last day of the event to read the apology he wrote to the ADBC's last Commander Lester Tenney.

This is a historic event. 

The Ambassador's apology, however, is merely a rewording of the 1995 Murayama war apology by replacing "the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations" with "those who have undergone tragic experiences in the Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor Island in the Philippines." It is simply a linguistic legerdemain by MOFA.

More significant is the official, formal apology given by the Japanese Government twice in February in an answer to DPJ Upper House Member Yukihisa Fujita. Here, the Government gave an apology to all POWs:  "to the people of former Allied nations and other nations including former POWs " of Japan. 

This was a Cabinet Decision. And it was only the second time a Cabinet Decision has been used as a war apology and the first time for a specific group. It is also more inclusive than merely those who became POWs from fighting on Bataan and Corregidor.

Will the Ambassador have the courage and character to read the second more important apology to the surviving POWs of the ADBC and their families?

We will see.

 But no matter what he says, on Saturday, May 30th, history will be made.

We Still Got Nuttin

White House Press Briefing by Robert Gibbs on May 28th,

Q Thanks. And second, does the administration have a sense as to whether China is ready to cut banking ties with North Korea, as the U.S. and Japan are pushing?

MR. GIBBS: I know that actions surrounding infrastructure at both banks and ports is part of discussions that are being had in the process of dealing with the reaction to North Korea's actions over the past few days. The Chinese have been helpful in those discussions, but I don't want to get ahead of where the U.N. might be or where the individual government might be. But I think they -- I would characterize overall their actions and their reaction to the events of the past few days as being very helpful.

Q Does the administration want China to go beyond words of condemnation, though?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think that's exactly what the countries are working on right now.

North Korea responded the next day by test-firing another short range missile.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

White Men Are Back

It was family movie nite on Saturday. Well, my daughter refused to join us, as she is 12 and it would be just too embarrassing to be seen with her parents and older brother. And she had to watch Twilight for the 27th time. I have tried to make it clear to her that I do not want her dating the undead. But, as with most things, she knows I know nothing.

Anyway, we went to see Star Trek. It was great and we recommend it. It was fun, exciting, interesting, and very affirming for white Iowan farm boys. Not only will they still be in charge centuries from now, but the hot women will be even more mysterious and exotic--more colors, more facial types, more...

Don't get me wrong, there do seem to be several women in important positions. There are female students and officers; Spock has a mother; Kirk has a mother; and a green-skinned, red-headed girl takes Ensign Kirk to bed. Lt. Uhura still steams the screen with her boots and mini skirt. She also seems to have some talent with languages and oral stimulation.

James T. Kirk is extremely handsome, bold, strong, and assertive. He is a natural leader raised fatherless on an Iowa farm and the sort of bad boy that attracts all the ladies. His father was a hero and died in battle as his mother was giving birth. He has a swagger, but is vulnerable. You want to have his children and take care of him all at once. My daughter really missed something by not joining us. She did Google the actor, Chris Pine, and I believe I detected a sigh; from both of us.

Despite all the new worlds and cooperative aliens, the Federation still has to rely on American men to get the job done. When the rogue Romulan attacks it is always the steely blue-eyed American boy who becomes a man in the battle. First it is Kirk's father, and then himself. While extremely intelligent, in the end it is always his brute strength that wins that day whether it is hand-to-hand combat after a space jump or proving to Spock who is the better man. He bleeds but does not sweat.

In the end, so the movie shows us, there is something behind that self-assured white male that wants to right the world. If there is a crisis, especially one that needs seat of the pants improvisation and a fist-fight, our man is white and mid-Western. He is Gary Cooper, Clint Eastwood, Kevin Costner, and now Chris Pine.

As Alex Baldwin in the popular sitcom, 30 Rock, reprimands his warring staff,

"I'll tell you who has it the hardest: White Men. We make the unpopular, difficult decisions - the tough choices. We land on the moon and Normandy Beach and they resent us."

So white boys, you are back. You are still needed. There is nothing like you; there is no need to change.

But, I am going to have to change. I have to figure out how to make myself more exotic.

We Got Nuttin

On Monday, May 25th, North Korea tested "successfully" a nuclear device and three short-range missiles. The Norks like holidays, especially those of capitalist running dogs. It was Memorial Day in the US, as well as Star Wars Day. Thus, people who would have liked to enjoy the holiday had to come in to work. But the joke was on the Dear Leader. It was cold, dark, and rainy in Washington and whoever could escape from the kids and the house chores welcomed it.

The next day, North Korea test-fired three more short-range missiles. The Japanese PM said that Tokyo had the legal right to a pre-emptive strike in self-defense and the South Koreans discussed getting their own nuclear weapon and joined the Proliferation Security Initiative. The US Ambassador hissed that North Korea will "have to pay a price" for its provocations. All very reassuring.

Yet, what can be done? As Our Man in Abiko, I need to turn to lifting ideas from others. Washington's information source, Chris Nelson points to blogger Andy Borowitz for an answer:

May 26, 2009

U.S. to Respond to North Korea with 'Strongest Possible Adjectives'

Obama: 'We are Prepared to Consult Thesaurus'

One day after North Korea launched a successful test of a nuclear weapon, President Obama said that the United States was prepared to respond to the threat with "the strongest possible adjectives."

In remarks to reporters at the White House, Mr. Obama said that North Korea should fear the "full force and might of the United States' arsenal of adjectives" and called the missile test "reckless, reprehensible, objectionable, senseless, egregious and condemnable."

Standing at the President's side, Vice President Joseph Biden weighed in with some tough adjectives of his own, branding North Korean President Kim Jong-Il "totally wack and illin'.

Later in the day, Defense Secretary Robert Gates called the North Korean nuclear test "supercilious and jejune," leading some in diplomatic circles to worry that the U.S. might be running out of appropriate adjectives with which to craft its response.

But President Obama attempted to calm those fears, saying that the United States was prepared to "scour the thesaurus" to come up with additional adjectives and was "prepared to use adverbs" if necessary.

"Let's be clear: we are not taking adverbs off the table," Mr. Obama said. "If the need arises, we will use them forcefully, aggressively, swiftly, overwhelmingly and commandingly.

OK, so you got anything better?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Finally, A Normal Country

For quite a while, Japan's elites have wanted their country to be a "normal" country. They want to be like all the other major powers with a voice in international organizations, money that gets respect, and a legitimate military. They complain that they are not an equal partner with the United States, and say they yearn to be the Great Britain of Asia.

Ok, and so the Obama Administration has begun the process of treating Japan like Great Britain and like a normal nation. It is about to nominate for ambassador to Japan a presidential crony and big money fundraiser--just like the traditional emissaries to the Court of St. James or France or Italy or Bermuda.

Tokyo is now like any other "glamourous" posting. A politically savvy First Friend will guide the "relationship" with parties and chamber of commerce meetings. Out of the hands of a small coterie of managers, American diplomacy with Japan will strive to treat Japan like all the other G-7 countries. No more specially trained diplomats like we send to trouble spots and Third World countries.

Japan has finally arrived, and finally, almost like a second chance, it is the 1950s:
U.S. ambassadors do more than-talk to foreign ministers. They are also public-relations men with a whole nation for a client. They make speeches, inspect public works, judge flower shows, organize charities. They talk to labor leaders, opposition politicians, businessmen. And while they talk, they listen. For the other side of their job is to be the U.S.'s eyes & ears. On their reading of tempers and political moods Washington bases much of its timing and many of its decisions. [Time Magazine, December 1951]
But somehow I don't think that Japan's elites and America's Japan managers are too happy. Exotic Japan cannot be understood by a personable, loyal confidante. There are special circumstances for Japan that allow it to keep out foreign investment, inhibit foreign imports, deny asylum to refugees, continue child porn, refuse to sign the Genocide Convention or the Hague Treaty on child abduction, and allow it to celebrate the lives of its worst war criminals in the middle of its capital. Would an average American understand this?

Again, I do not know how Tokyo is reacting. I can only guess from what the newspapers are saying. And that reaction is tepid and guarded. My one good resource for these sorts of answers "defriended" me six months ago, today. It was a bit like that Burger King promotion: you got a Whopper if you defriended ten of your "friends" from Facebook. In other words, you were worth 1/10 of a fast food hamburger.

Simply bewildering.

And this is probably how MOFA and the rest of Japan's elites feel for not being special any more.

And The White House Doesn't Know Either

Today's White House Press Briefing with Robert Gibbs, the last question:

Q I only have one question.

MR. GIBBS: All right, one more.

Q One question. The U.S. Ambassador to Japan was recently appointed to John Roos, California attorney. What's the background on this?

MR. GIBBS: I'm sorry, say that again? John Roos?

Q John Roos was appointed to Japanese Ambassador. What's the background on this?

MR. GIBBS: Let me get -- we'll get you information on his nomination and his background and experience.

Thanks, guys.

Q Thank you, Robert., thank yoou...

Later: The question was asked by Ms. Ayumi Hattori. She is TV Asahi's feisty new associate producer. Go Girl.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Yes, I Really Didn't Know

The all knowing source of information Japanese, now knows. 

Chris Nelson of the Nelson Report has confirmed that the ambassador-designate to Japan is California securities lawyer John Roos. Team Armitage members have been whimpering it to him all day. Hmmm.

I still will believe it when the White House issues the nomination announcement. 

It is interesting that this information was kept so secret from Chris. That is unusual. There is indeed a new sheriff in town. 

State says things will operate on the Bush/Schieffer model. There is a difference, however. This time the President is in the loop and knows where Japan is. Both Roos and Obama are lawyers who like to get things done and who understand financial issues. Tokyo has every  reason to be afraid.

The similarity is that Japan's economy is in as bad a shape as it was when Bush's first term began. And again, it is likely to provide Tokyo the security to say no, a lot. We forget how obstreperous Japan's leaders were before 9/11 and how little the Japan managers knew about economics. 

Talking about being afraid, Sentaku reported in its May issue that Aso may appoint Shinzo Abe as foreign minister before the election. The article's author describes Abe's political reemergence with provocative quotes and says he "took" Seiji Maehara to Washington earlier this year. A lot of money is going toward Abe's comeback. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I Really Don't Know, OK

David R. Andrews. OK! Now leave me alone.

I have been pestered with a steady stream of questions as to who will be the next U.S. ambassador to Japan. I have no idea, really.

However, I questioned those who questioned me. This process yielded a number of clues which pointed to Mr. Andrews the retired PP&E Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, General Counsel, and Secretary of PepsiCo, Inc. (food and beverage businesses). 

Prior to joining PepsiCo, Inc., Mr. Andrews was a partner in the law firm of McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen, LLP from May 2000 to January 2002 and from 1981 to July 1997. From August 1997 to April 2000, he served as the legal advisor to the U.S. Department of State and former Secretary Madeleine Albright. Mr. Andrews has been a director of PG&E Corporation and Pacific Gas and Electric Company since 2000. 

He is also on the board of the Asia Foundation, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Pacific Council on International Policy. He was a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague and is a member of the American Arbitration Association National Roster of Arbitrators and Mediators. Mr. Andrews is also a member of the American Law Institute and was a member of the ABA Standing Committee on Environmental Law and the Governing Council of the ABA Section on International Law. Mr. Andrews serves on the advisory boards of a number of academic institutions including the Environmental and Natural Resources Advisory Council of Stanford Law School and the National Advisory Board of the Ecology Law Quarterly of Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley.

All that as well as a First Friend. A more interesting clue, is the anxious activity at the Japanese Embassy on a number of issues that have been long shoved to the side. These are issues of  how Japan is "different" and will not change, ever.

Over the past two weeks, there has been surprisingly positive movement on issues of child pornography, child abduction, and even American POWs of Japan. It is almost as if they are rushing to get off the table some uncomfortable business that would defy explanation to a seasoned American lawyer and arbiter who has direct access to the President.

The Japanese press has even joined in the preparation. Both Nikkei and Mainichi have run stories on the American POWs of Japan and their quest for an apology. The articles (one a commentary by Amb Togo) have hinted that a resolution is near. NHK has contacted a number of parents of children abducted to Japan for a TV special. The Japanese media have never given these issues this much attention. To be sure, these issues are being reported sparingly and coverage is limited to a few news outlets.

I can guess with the best. 

Now, I do know the Japanese press is following Asahi's lead that John Roos is the nominee. He is a Silicon Valley securities lawyer and Obama fundraiser. He has a publicist. The Japanese Embassy is their reporter's source. But, this reporter has been wrong before. He has a penchant for believing his "inside" sources and moulding his stories to their interests. (Ouch you say, well too bad, and rumor has it that his job is on the line.)

No matter who is nominated to be U.S. ambassador to Japan,  it is clear that it is not Harvard Professor Joe Nye. Frankly, he was only a serious contender to Team Armitage whose members tirelessly advocated for him. Tokyo is most likely stunned, as there is another unknown ambassador who can bypass the State and Defense Departments. Even worse, he is unlikely to be familiar with the traditional Japan managers and their rationalizations of Japan's, the G-7 country, behavior.

Thus, the only thing I am certain about is that CSIS's Pacific Forum is going to have a hard time fundraising. 

Check in if you hear anything more. Email works both ways.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Major Major

This is “Major Major.” He is the People's Liberation Army Major assigned to take care of me. I think I drive him nuts. His English name is “Tony” and I, of course, asked him if he had ever heard of Tony Soprano. No.

I am in China for unknown reasons. I presented a paper on the European Coal and Steel Community as an example for scientific cooperation to a PLA university. The only problem is that in the middle of my research, which was pretty shoddy, I found out there was little S&T going on in the ECSC. No problem, I am an American, trust me, I will find a way to make it work.

So somehow I succeeded in suggesting that Jean Monnet and the ECSC has some lessons for Asian regional integration, even though every reputable scholar says no. Maybe not as an institution, but the process of cooperation needed to establish the ECSC is worth studying. The Monnet Method of gradual agreement over small objectives is effective and reflects how scientists work among themselves. Monnet did spend a few years in China. Yep, I was all over the map.

Major Major stayed up most of the night Sunday waiting for me to finish writing my presentation so he could turn it into a PowerPoint. The 14-some hours on the plane was not enough time. So I stayed up all night to get it done. He took my PowerPoint draft and turned it into a better one as I had no idea how. I did warn him it would not be done until 6:30am. My talk was at 8:30am.

It was very sweet of him and I really appreciated his help. But, I constantly pester him. Major Major, I ask: “so if I call the numbers on these cards shoved under my hotel room door will they talk dirty to me in Chinese? Why is the Chinese breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the hotel all the same? What kind of country does not get CNN on TV? Where can I get Lei Fang t-shirts? How about a Chairman Mao lighter? What, no Starbucks?!

The conference is all about national defense and scientific “cooperation.” The PLA apparently has a new policy: be nice to Americans, make one a friend. Thus, a theme is all about “mutual understanding” and “building trust.” I, of course, told them that “mutual understanding” reminds of the Japanese and that Americans will trust them when they stop their cyberattacks and do the right thing in Dafur. Jeeze, what did they expect…the food has been bad.

This was this PLA university’s first international conference. They have a lot to learn, starting with getting better coffee and some souvenir t-shirts. I think the real objective was to expose PLA academics to all sorts of spoken English (American, Canadian, English, New Zealand, Greek) and survive through very boring presentations. I really think 99% of the young PLA university students attending the conference had no idea what was said. Lucky them.

Anyway, I have done my part for "mutual understanding." Major Major now knows how to say: schlep, chutzpah, and putz.

Trust? Well, I'll work on that another day.

[This is not actually a picture of Major Major, but it would look a lot like the one I would take of him if he let me take it. He said it was some sort of violation. Probably just plain silly. Anyway it is probably better.]

PS: Our Man, I am simply stunned that someone actually missed me. I have no capacity to understand this. The usual response is to block, defriend, and cast me off.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Holiday Greetings

“I think State threw a dart at the calendar...” was my friend Dan’s analysis of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s statement recognizing Children’s Day in Japan. No one could remember when last, if ever, State recognized this Japanese holiday. 

The press release on May 4th read:
It is my pleasure to offer warm wishes to boys and girls in Japan on the May 5 occasion of Children’s Day. On this holiday, Japanese families celebrate the joys of childhood and family life. Children are, indeed, a national treasure, and both the United States and Japan share a strong commitment to childhood health, safety, and education. It is a responsibility for all of us to work together to ensure the protection of children. It is our hope that one day children from all countries will be able to celebrate the carefree joys that children in Japan celebrate today.
State’s press office said the statement was merely part of a new policy of recognizing selected “seasonal holidays” around the world. He is probably right, but like most things Japanese what seem innocuous are not.

Children’s Day (Kodomo no Hi, こどもの日 ) is an annual Japanese national holiday. It is on May 5, the fifth day of the fifth month, and is part of the Golden Week. It is a day set aside to respect children's personalities and to celebrate their happiness.

It was designated a National holiday by the Occupation authorities in 1948 as part of the effort to eliminate militarism from Japan. The day was originally called Tango no Sekku (端午の節句), and was celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th moon in the lunar calendar. It is the festival for boys and warriors. The holiday’s symbols are the carp and the samurai helmet. The carp is supposed to symbolize success and the helmet is self-explanatory.

It is common today in Japan to see figures of Colonel Sanders standing in front of KFC in full samurai regalia for the holiday. This definitely makes you think twice about the benefits of globalization.

In addition, to the historical issues that surround this holiday, it is possible that Tokyo may read the Secretary’s statement as having some contemporary message. It does come on the heels of North Korea Freedom Week where rightist Japanese Diet members and Abductee representatives traipsed around Washington pleading for stronger sanctions against North Korea. Maybe the Children's Day message was a nod to the Adductee families.

On the other hand, pressure has been mounting from Congress for the State Department and the White House to take a strong tack with Japan regarding the child abduction issue. Draft resolutions are floating around Congress asking for action. The Secretary did mention the issue in her talks with officials in Japan. Last month, Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) and his chief of staff joined a protest on child abduction outside the Japanese Embassy. 

It was a cold and windy night for a candle light vigil, and although he received no publicity the Congressman stayed with the small group of heartbroken fathers for the duration. Maybe the message was a finger wag to the Foreign Ministry to speed up signing the Hague Convention.

And maybe it just meant nothing and was merely an ill-considered gesture.

Later: Sources say that there was simply no policy message of any sort intended. The holiday greeting is merely part of a new policy initiative to celebrate random cultural holidays with other nations of the world. Sources were annoyed that I thought it was ill-considered. Ok, how about a bit careless.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Golden Week

Cold, dark, and rainy marks this year's Golden Week in Washington. We are experiencing our own kan no modori [return of the coldness]. Yet the blooming azaleas and dogwoods remind us that spring happily is still with us.

Most welcome is that there will be no visiting Japanese Dietmembers in DC this week. Yes, the METI and Defense ministers have come. And there are likely some emissaries in town that I don't know about--remember I am unimportant. 

Diet delegation trips have been canceled and individuals are staying in Tokyo. What a relief.

It has been a record breaking tree pollen season in the Nation's Capital. All those allergy sniffles would certainly have given the visiting Japanese some concern. And we most certainly do not wear masks.