Saturday, June 27, 2009

I Can See Hawaii From Pyongyang

Finally, some sanity about North Korea. 

Ever since June 6th with Secretary of State Clinton's musing that it may be necessary to relist North Korea as a terrorist state, Americans and Japanese have persisted in crazy talk. Each has tried to outdo the other in describing the coming danger of the DPRK. In Tokyo, the Prime Minister talked publicly about preemptive strikes and others about Japan considering a nuclear option.

Americans picked up on Japanese speculation that Pyongyang will lob its next missile at Hawaii! An excellent expose of this viral foolishness can be found on the indomitable Shisaku's blog. Senator Brownback (R-KS) held up confirmations of two State Department nominees (one being Kurt Campbell for Asst Sec for Asia) to express his strong desire to punish North Korea and to emphasize human rights issues. Adding to the frenzy, in an op ed last Sunday The Washington Times accused the Norks of fronting for China's military ambitions and nuclear proliferation.

Fortunately, the saner folks at the Pentagon decided that all this rhetorical escalation just plays into North Korean paranoia about threats to its sovereignty and security. On June 24th, at the daily DoD News Briefing, press spokesman Geoff Morrell put all the worries about the North Korean threat into perspective by describing them as "silliness":

Q     Geoff, the North Koreans today, they threatened to wipe the United States off the map.  Are you not taking that threat seriously? 

                MR. MORRELL:  I don't even know how I -- how I even respond to such silliness.  I don't -- I -- "wipe the United States off the map" -- for what and with what? 

                Q     "If the U.S. imperialists start another war, the army and people of Korea will wipe out the aggressors on the globe once and for all."  The official Korean central news agency said this. 

                MR. MORRELL:  Yeah, I don't think I'm going to dignify that one with a response. 

                Q     Can you stop North Korea behaving like this or affecting the region or regional relations without the help of China? 

                MR. MORRELL:  Oh, I think China is obviously key to this.  I'm not so sure that anybody has tremendous influence over Kim Jong Il or his regime, but if anybody does, it would be the Chinese.  Obviously they are crucial to our efforts to try to bring about a multilateral approach to preventing the North from developing a nuclear weapon, developing long-range-ballistic-missile capabilities, and from proliferating.
                They are obviously a linchpin to our efforts.   

                But as we talked about at Shangri-La last month, we are proceeding on a multilateral basis, a bilateral basis, even a unilateral basis, to take measures to protect ourselves and our friends and allies and partners in the region. 

                Q     Is China with the U.S.?  Because there was (an op-ed ?) in the Washington Times very recently that North Korea -- it was not North Korea's nuclear test but it was China's nuclear test in North Korea. 

                MR. MORRELL:  I think I got what you were asking.  You're saying somebody in the Washington Times wrote that it was a Chinese test in North Korea?  This is -- I think this falls into Jennifer's category.
                Q     Is China with the U.S.? 

                MR. MORRELL:  Is China with the U.S. -- ? 

                Q     On North Korea. 

                MR. MORRELL:  On North Korea?  Well, they voted with us in -- they voted with us and the rest of the world unanimously to pass United Nations Security Council Resolution 1874, which gives us unprecedented authorities to deal with the North Korean threat. 

So let's all take a deep breath--later we can ponder China as a "lynchpin" and Japan as a "cornerstone." That's security architecture talk...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Axis of Weasel

Today, the Japanese Foreign Ministry added more pain and confusion to the Aso Administration by backpedaling on the historic apology its Ambassador to the US gave to the American POWs of Japan barely one month before. Maybe not unexpected, but the sheer public callousness is simply overwhelming.

As you read the press conference below, you will wonder if the Gaimusho bureaucrats understand anything about 21st Century foreign policy. In a terse series of sentences, the Ministry briefer diluted the official nature of the apology carefully delivered by Amb Fujisaki and narrowed his statements to only an issue of Japan-Philippine relations. Somehow the American POWs disappeared. The goodwill generated by this long-sought apology evaporated.

Worse, the spirit of reconciliation and sense of responsibility that the ambassador had worked so hard to foster, imploded at the briefer's podium.

In regard to a possible meeting between PM Aso and a visiting Australian former POW who was a slave laborer in his family's coal mine, the briefer seemed to say that a meeting would be planned with officials from the Foreign Ministry. However, all visitors from the POW delegation featuring Mr. Coombs left Japan this past weekend. And to add insult to injury, the MOFA spokesman implied that the visitors were less than sincere.

But, please read this for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

Press Conference by the Deputy Press Secretary Yasuhisa Kawamura (pictured)
25 June, 2009

IV. Questions concerning the POW issue

Q: If other people have any questions directly related to today's issue, I have some completely different questions.

Mr. Kawamura: Any questions, please.

Q: I would like to ask about the POW issues. One, about the official apology, so-called, by Ambassador Fujisaki in the US in the end of May; The apology was a so-called official apology from the Japanese Government, but is it projected only for Bataan and Corregidor? Because he came over to the convention and made the apology. Also, how serious is the Japanese government's thinking about their demand which is educating Japanese young people to know what happened about POWs and also the program exchange inviting them, because Americans were excluded. The program covering Dutch, Australian, British POWs, inviting them to Japan and let them visit camps they used to be in. Those are two questions about the Fujisaki apology.

The second question is about very recently a POW from Australia and the son of a POW from Scotland who were made use of in the Aso mines visited. Prime Minister Aso did not meet them, he refused to meet them. What is the real reason he did not meet them?

Mr. Kawamura: Before I forget, let me start with the last question.

Q: OK.

Mr. Kawamura: Those people visited Tokyo and requested a meeting with Prime Minister Aso. The meeting did not take place. You are asking me about the reasons, but I am not the right person to respond directly to that question, why the meeting did not take place.

Q: But the Ministry of Foreign Affairs offered to meet instead.

Mr. Kawamura: Right, exactly, but unfortunately, this proposed meeting did not take place.

I am going to touch upon the basic stance of the Japanese Government regarding the POWs. All the actions and the Japanese treatment of the POWs should be understood in the context of Japan's post-war announcements which clarify its official stance. As you recall, former Prime Minister Murayama expressed very clearly that we had a sense of remorse and apology for the conducts of what Japan did during World War II.

Regarding the government to government relations, we think that the issues related to World War II have been legally settled.

This stance together with the feeling of the Government and the people of Japan has been expressed by our leaders in the past.

The first question about Ambassador Fujisaki's statement should also be seen from the Japanese Government's fundamental stance concerning the World War II and the apology and feeling of remorse that should be applied to the case of Japan-Philippines relations during World War II. I understand Ambassador Fujisaki expressed his feeling in line with the above mentioned official Japan-Philippines relations.

There are two more questions about Ambassador Fujisaki's case, education and Dutch and other countries' invitation programs, I will come back to you. I need to do some research on this.

Q: About the second question, if the Foreign Minister tried to meet them instead of the Prime Minister...

Mr. Kawamura: The Foreign Ministry, not the Foreign Minister, I think.

Q: The Foreign Ministry, yes. How were you planning to explain to them the reason that you did not prepare any explanation why the Prime Minister could not see them or did not want to see them or whatever? Or did you try to repeat what you have just explained?

Mr. Kawamura: Well, it is really hard for me to predict what exactly happened in the conversation particularly with visitors and our officials. But I want to stress that we like to see those people with sincere minds and that we would be prepared to listen carefully to what they would comment on. I think a sincere dialogue should help retain trust.

Q: May I ask which section is planning to meet them? Who is going to meet them?

Mr. Kawamura: I will come back to you because this issue is related to not one but more than two divisions or bureaus.

Q: It would be very nice if I could know who is going to see them.

Mr. Kawamura: Yes, I will come back to you.

Any other questions? Thank you very much.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Washington Work

The work day in Washington ended about 2:45 this afternoon, as reports circulated of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's press conference about his five-day disappearance with this Argentine mistress.  The telecommunications grid nearly crashed as everyone tried to outdo the other in responding to the news. Folks were busy preparing copy for 4:30 deadline of the late nite talk shows.

Here is a sampling of my inbox, but I welcome your own additions. This is indeed work for Our Man in Abiko.

He didn't want South Carolina to have a stimulus package, but he wanted his own package stimulated.

"Hiking the Appalachian Trail" has a whole new meaning....So does "driving on the coast of Argentina."

Who knew the Appalachian Trail ended in Argentina.

There is no direct flight from Columbia SC to __ Georgia -- but there is a connecting flight with a stop-over in Buenos Aires.

“Too bad,’’ Senator John Kerry said, “if a governor had to go missing it couldn’t have been the governor of Alaska. You know, Sarah Palin.’’

There are many, many more but I will post them later along with the Late Nite show jokes.


Conan O'Brien:   Mark Sanford revealed "he had an affair with a woman from Argentina. ... People were shocked because Republicans traditionally don't do well with Hispanic women."

David Letterman:   Mark Sanford was "in Argentina with another woman. And here's what I want to know: Why can't he be like our former governor and use a local escort service?"

Craig Ferguson:   Mark Sanford "admitted to having an affair in Argentina. Great, now we're outsourcing mistresses."

Craig Ferguson:   "The past couple of years there have been a whole bunch of scandals involving governors. ... You know things are bad when the most normal governor of the last decade was Jesse 'The Body' Ventura."

Still later:

Conan O'Brien:   "At a press conference yesterday, in case you don't know, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford admitted to having a mistress from Argentina. ... Then there was an awkward moment as he waited for someone to give him a high five."

David Letterman:   Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "has declared himself the winner" of the Iranian presidential election, "and he came out at the victory party and he thanked...the 148 percent of the people who voted for him."

David Letterman:   Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, "during all those protests, is keeping a very low profile in Iran. His staff said he was hiking."

Jimmy Fallon:   "There's another new development in that Mark Sanford story. His wife, Jenny, kicked him out of their home when she heard about the affair. In response, Hillary Clinton said, 'Wait, you can do that?'"

Monday, June 22, 2009

Holbrooke Watch I

Richard Holbrooke is one of the most disliked members of the American foreign policy establishment. He is also the most successful. His talent at ingratiating himself to the rich and powerful while stepping on the little people who provide him with information is legend. He has a perfect sense of who he can use, offend, and discard and of who he needs to please. And he knows how to gravitate to the hot issues and keep his personal focus only on power.

Holbrooke has campaigned long and hard to be Secretary of State. And it appears that he is getting close to his goal. So that you can get a sense as to when this will happen, I will try to provide you with an occasional update of this relentless quest with "Holbrooke Watch."

From the moment he was appointed in January 2009 as State's Special Representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan he has managed to dominate the foreign policy news. He knows how to make news and to present nothing as news. He is also very charming and friendly with female journalists.

Thus, it should have come as no surprise that when Secretary Clinton broke her elbow last week, that he was the first to insist that he go to this week's G-8 meeting of foreign ministers in Trieste.

My guess from the exchange below is that Clinton sent Special Envoy George Mitchell to Trieste simply to keep an eye on Holbrooke. Mitchell does not intimidate as easily as career officials like Under Secretary William J. Burns, who is attending the G-8 for the Secretary and who can easily have their career ruined by the likes of Holbrooke.

MR. KELLY: -- a big cast and a sling. And she’s a right-hander, so it’s – she’s got some dexterity and mobility issues. But she was on top of her game this morning.
QUESTION: Can you explain to us, Ian, why – Deputy Secretary Steinberg said that Special Representative Holbrooke and Special Envoy Mitchell would also be in Trieste. I think it’s well known, the Afghanistan-Pakistan related meetings.
MR. KELLY: Right.
QUESTION: But what is going to be Ambassador Mitchell’s – Senator Mitchell’s role in Trieste?
MR. KELLY: I believe there’s also a Quartet meeting. I hope I’m not out of ahead of myself by saying that, but I believe there’s also – yeah, they will be talking about Middle East issues as well.
QUESTION: So he would represent the United States at the Quartet meeting?
MR. KELLY: I’m not sure – I’m not sure what – I mean, he would participate.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Forbes Misses the Big Story

I was going to discuss North Korea or the new Japanese politics of apology, but then I made the mistake of reading Tim Kelly's new dispatch from Tokyo. It is rare that I do read his pieces, and I now remember why. They make no sense.

The "Dispatch" is a ramble about how Japan feels unappreciated and insecure as an American ally. Although opinion polls in the US show that the Japanese are respected and considered dependable, Tokyo is unconvinced. Some believe it is time for Japan develop it own a nuclear option to defend itself.

Ok, but then how did he jump to World War II's legacy in the US-Japan relationship? He notes that the US Senate [sic] passed a resolution asking for an apology to the Comfort Women. Kelly did not check his facts as it was the House of Representatives, not the Senate that unanimously passed H. Res. 121 in July 2007.

Maybe he is trying to say that Washington is sending Tokyo mixed signals when it asks the Japanese government to become more accountable and responsible in its treatment of its war history. He does not make the connection that a good, dependable ally to the US is also one that does not antagonize other key allies or the allied fighting forces set to defend it.

The last paragraph was probably why he wrote the piece. But it is one that made the least sense and come to a contorted conclusion. He suddenly veers away from the discussion of American trust or Americans to a focus on the war crimes by Japan against non-American POWs. In fact, I doubt if Kelly is even aware that American former POWs of Japan share similar grievances.  Here he notes that a 
Former allied prisoner of war Joe Coombs came to Tokyo seeking an apology for the time he spent shoveling coal as a slave laborer in an Aso-family coal mine. Coombs' is one foreigner’s opinion Aso might choose to ignore.
Kelly clearly attended or just heard about the Friday, June 19th press conference in Tokyo held by the Australian Mr. Coombs and the son of a former British POW. There it was noted that the Aso Company refused to acknowledge or apologize for Coombs' slave labor and that PM Aso did ignore the former POW by refusing to meet with him. If Kelly had attended the press conference, he would have known the latter.

Kelly also clearly missed the big stories in his haste to craft a story defending the Aso government's reliability as an American ally and  partner. He failed to note the new and unusual situation that the press conference was hosted by a senior member of the opposition DPJ, Upper House Member Yukihisa Fujita. It was neither a Communist nor Socialist who was pressing on making historical responsibility a mainstream political issue in Japan. This is a surprising change and is reflected in the new committee the DPJ recently formed for the settlement of POW issues.

As a business reporter for Forbes, Kelly also failed to note that the Aso Company is now in a joint venture with the French building materials conglomerate Lafarge. This socially conscious European giant soon will be hard pressed to rationalize protecting an once slave-owning partner.

Kelly neglected to note that Upper House Member Fujita had received from the Prime Minister's office in February an official, formal, governmental apology to all former POWs. What is odd is that this apology has only appeared in blogs and in the Diet record. Why the PM's office and the Foreign Ministry and the Japanese press have not wanted to publish this important, historic apology in multiple languages is a mystery. A journalist's question is definitely in order here.

But, he missed it all.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Japan's Changing Role?

Next Thursday, at 10:00 am, the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs will hold a hearing on Japan.

Titled, Japan's Changing Role, the hearing will feature Professor Joseph Nye from Harvard, Dr. Adam Posen from the Peterson Institute for International Economics, and Dr. Mike Green from CSIS (he had to rearrange his schedule). Professor Kent Calder from Johns Hopkins SAIS is likely to be added.  

First, what kind of question is that? Japan's role has not changed for years. It is the land of America's forward bases in Asia and passive aggressive acceptance of this situation. Japan's success at avoiding its responsibilities as an ally and as an Asian power are engrained deep in Japanese politics.

That said, it is merely wishful if not wistful thinking by Team Armitage to believe in change. And the change they desire--an effective Japanese fighting force supporting US foreign policy--is not the same change as desired by the majority of Japanese. 

Next, why is Team Armitage testifying? All, except Calder are Team members*. They are all critics of Obama's nascent Japan policy and appalled that Joe Nye was not made US Ambassador to Japan. They remain defensive and proud of their failed Japan policy. It is foolish to assume that Nye might say something interesting now that he is no longer campaigning for the ambassadorship. He is more political than scholarly, thus he is always marketing himself. Soft Power indeed.

Adam Posen is an monetary policy expert who has seen Japan from the back of a limousine and often predicted the collapse of its economy. None of his analysis on Japan is based reality nor has it ever been correct and he has not focused on Japan recently. He will be leaving the Peterson Institute this summer to join the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee. They can have him.

Finally, the House of Representatives is supposedly controlled by the Democrats. Thus, I am at a loss as to why the House Committee on Foreign Affairs finds it beneficial to attack the Democratic Administration. The hearing as structured can be interpreted as nothing else. It certainly is not going to introduce any new ideas. Unlike the North Korea hearing mentioned below, there are no expectations for Chairman Eni Faleomavaega to hold a thoughtful discussion. But still, to challenge the Administration on Japan at a delicate time in Asia seems foolish, at best.

Anyway, the hearing will be webcast for you to judge yourself.

*Calder does not agree with many of Armitage's premises about Japan. Armitage is also a competitor for consulting contracts and Tokyo's affections.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

It's Not Just Me

Just in case you think I am the only one in Washington who is weary of the "game," you should check in with today's Nelson Report. Mr. Nelson's near-daily observations are the must-read for the Asia policy crowd in Washington. Every major Asian government subscribes to his report and any analyst, policy official, or scholar worth anything is on his mailing list.

He was appalled by the lack of preparation of the Congressmen holding the hearing, North Korea's Nuclear and Missile Tests and the Six-Party Talks: Where Do We Go From Here.  It was jointly held by two subcommittees of the House Foreign Affairs Committee: Asia and Terrorism. 

Unfortunately, the heads of these subcommittees are among the dumbest in Congress. Both have excellent, knowledgeable staff to advise them, but it is completely lost on the two Ranking Members' ability to absorb complex thought or even to read correctly what their staff has written for them.

Nelson bluntly criticized their shear inability to ask a reasoned question. More subtly, he criticized the men who testified as having a bit too much self-confidence in their ability to repeat common knowledge off the cuff. He writes:
Today's joint House HFAC subcommittee hearing on N. Korea policy (by Asia & Pacific, and Terrorism) could have made a real public service today, had it been interested in serious discussion with highly experienced, very diverse policy advocates including Sig Harrison, Richard Bush, Scott Snyder, and Tom Hubbard.

It wasn't, so the opportunity was lost. 
Neither Hubbard nor Harrison appeared to have written statements ready for distribution at the time of the hearing (you can find them all now online along with a video and transcript here). Guess the interns were slow in writing it. Amb. Hubbard was also so practiced at repeating his thoughts on Korea, that he merely spoke off the cuff. Harrison, a former Washington Post journalist who discovered North Korea, tends to sensationalize and focus on a "story lead."

Nelson continued:
Bush, Snyder and Hubbard patiently outlined the critical issue of China's evolving views...and angst...over NK actions this year; the rising pressure on Japan and S. Korea was cogently analyzed; each explained why they now have, reluctantly, concluded that the game has changed and the DPRK is no longer interested in negotiating its nuclear program.

Harrison paradoxically agreed, but said that's entirely the US fault because the US won't renounce the possible use of force, including nukes, against the DPRK.  A tautological argument, to be sure, but a very important point meriting serious debate.

Not from this group of Members.  Rather, the only real passion came with demands to immediately effect the rescue of the two women, the absolute nadir of which was Chairman Faleomavega's final remark after a long, 2.5 hour exercise:

"We need to wonder whether the 6 Party nuclear talks are more important than these two women..."

Having thus trivialized the nuclear issue beyond any rational point of recognition, Faleomavega earlier, correctly noted that N. Korea and Iran seem to be held to a different standard than India and Pakistan.

But he went on to suggest a practical and moral equivalency between the US and NK nuclear arsenals.

This is taking objectivity to new heights, one might suppose, but as serious discussion of reality, including US treaty commitments based on reality, it begs a few questions...none of which were articulated by Members.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Nominee

Novelist, soldier, and Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) chaired Wednesday's (June 10) confirmation hearing for Kurt Campbell, the nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. For weeks, the Senator had held up the nomination with questions about the nominee's service record and consulting contracts. Something makes the Senator uncomfortable.

Dr. Campbell, a Marshall scholar and Russian expert, had been a Naval Reserve officer with barely three months of active duty. His consulting work for Asian governments and firms as well as Western defense contractors is legend. Much of the work is shared with or referred from Richard Armitage's consulting firm. CSIS's Mike Green is Campbell's consulting firm partner in StratAsia. Both capitalize on their many contacts and on the "likely"* free intern labor at their respective think tanks (Japan Chair at CSIS and Center for New American Security, Armitage and Green are on CNAS's board and board of advisors respectively).

Webb, although seemingly satisfied with the vague answers to his questions on these subjects, was clearly adamant about getting it all on the public record. And as if his "don't mess with me, you wanker" attitude was not clear enough, he preceded the Q&A session with a surprise statement, pointedly not a question, on the child abduction problem with Japan.

The Senator told Campbell that his office has heard from a number of individuals with American children abducted to Japan. He noted that there was "a frustration level with respect to the progress that they are concerned about in terms of dealing with the Japanese government on this issue" and he asked, no told Campbell that "at the time of your confirmation you get on this and get something back to us." Campbell must have regretted just before praising the Senate Foreign Relations staff "as the strongest and most committed on the Hill." They had not warned him.

Campbell is not particularly interested in these issues of human security. He and Team Armitage believe they are tangential to the more important security relationship. The child abduction issue undermines the "shared values" narrative the Alliance managers promote as the heart of the US-Japan Alliance.

But as noted before, although startled (he was briefed, however), Campbell is quick on his feet. Careful not to use the word "abductee," he responded by promising Senator Webb that he would "commit to you directly that one of my first acts, if confirmed, I would met with with them [families of the abductees] and if they like I would like to speak with them.....I will raise it in my first meetings with my Japanese colleagues." He also noted that he has, in his "private capacity," discussed this issue with his "Japanese interlocutors." Why am I skeptical?

Sitting directly behind Dr. Campbell at the hearing and in the camera's view, I believe, was Patrick Braden a powerful advocate for the return of abducted American children. Sources say that this persistent Texan actually spoke with Dr. Campbell's wife and she promised to give her husband the materials about Braden's abducted daughter. My guess is if anyone can keep Campbell to his promises, it would be this 'don't f- with me' scion of prominent Texas ranchers.

In the questions for the record, which Campbell must answer by next week, there were several on child abduction. Webb was not the only Senator interested in this issue. There is bi-partisan concern. The Committee Asia staffers are surprisingly well-read on Japan and Pacific War history.

Campbell will have a hard time side-stepping the issue as his Japanese interlocutors hope. President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and countless other government official have all brought the child abduction issue up to their Japanese "interlocutors."** It was a talking point for Deputy Secretary of State James (Jim) Steinberg's recent trip to Japan (but not brought up). On May 21st, the US, UK, France, and Canada hosted a symposium in Tokyo on the issue. They jointly urged the Japanese government to sign the Hague Convention. The US and other G7 countries are determined to persuade Japan to sign the Hague as soon as possible.

But if there is anyone who can make it seem like he is doing something when he's not, it is Kurt Campbell.

Japan has also been sending its lobbyists at Hogan and Hartsen (former Viriginia Senator John Warner is of counsel) to combat the problem with pleas for understanding of Japan's different culture and that these things take time. The lobbyists have also been tasked with promoting Japan's bid for a UN Security Council seat, often at the same meeting. After all, Japan is a responsible member of the international community.

Vice Minster for Foreign Affairs Kenichiro Sasae and Special Government Envoy Shotaro Yachi have been assigned to put out the fire. Sasae reportedly told senior officials at the State Department that even if Japan signs the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of Child Abduction***, Japan would continue abiding only to the decisions made of the Japanese civil courts. This, of course, undercuts the spirit and intent of the Convention. Japan, he adds, does not have nor favor joint custody. It is not Japanese culture.

So, it does not matter what the foreigners advocate. Heck, China, Russia, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Mexico haven't signed the convention either. "The attitude of the government is non-involvement in civil affairs," said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' International Legal Affairs Bureau to a Mainichi reporter.

Dr. Campbell, it should be noted, is the father of three little girls under the age of seven.

For the hearing video: HERE
For the hearing prepared statements: HERE

*6/15 - Threatening Commentator [likely someone's lawyer] prompted amendment. My experience has found the use of interns for consulting projects to be a common practice in Washington think tanks. I have been on the receiving end of many calls from desperate interns seeking answers for questions that could only be for private clients. And it is entirely possible that Dr. Campbell does not use interns, as he has a very capable, female scion of one of New England's great families to do his work.
**This is a very popular noun in Washington's foreign policy community, although its use is not quite correct. It is a bit like saying you have go to the lavatory...
***Note "abduction" is the internationally accepted legal term for one parent taking a child away from another without consent. This is NOT a term concocted by children's advocates simply to annoy the Japanese, who have used "abductee" in a very different context in regard to North Korea.

Betrayed by Wisemen

To commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre, Washington think tanks and Congress had a full week of programing and choreographed protests. The Carnegie Endownment for International Peace held a special luncheon program, Twenty Years After Tiananmen, that put the historic day in perspective. It was not the usual sentimental mourning of China's democracy movement, instead it praised the Bush Administration's success at maintaining the US relationship with Beijing.

Besides featuring an excellent buffet with seared tuna, chicken satay, and a very nice green bean and potato salad, there was TV commentator Ted Koppel "interviewing" foreign policy wiseman Brent Scrowcroft. A second part to the program was a discussion with lesser lights, but few stayed for that. The food was gone.

Skip the Carnegie summary of the event. It misses General Scowcroft's message. Instead, go either to the transcript or the video. There he describes President George H W Bush's adamant desire to maintain the US-China relationship, at all costs.

Koppel prodded Scowcroft to repeat to the crowded room what he had written in his book with Bush, A World Transformed. This was that the President had sent Scowcroft on a secret mission* less than two weeks after the Massacre to reassure Beijing that the fundamental US-China relationship was strong and would be maintained. President Bush believed strongly that the lines of communications needed to be retained.

Fundamentally, the Bush I Administration supported the Chinese government and clearly signaled to Beijing that there would be few repercussions for its harsh suppression of its citizens' rights. Protests condemning the Chinese suppression and massacre were mere background noise to the importance China to the US.

At the time, there was little to bind the two countries. The US had minimal financial or trade ties with China. The disintegration of the USSR decreased Washington's need for a Chinese security counterbalance to Moscow. There was little that China could do to threaten back and much that they wanted from the West.
This situation gave the US choice: support the protestors in China or support Beijing's efforts to restore order. Either way, it was an opportunity to affect Chinese behavior. But, it was an opportunity considered too risky, or maybe one the White House did not really believe possible.

No matter, the result is that Beijing learned early there was little risk for bad behavior. China was reassured of US support and that repercussions would be light. Moreover, with ties with the West still so limited, few of sanctions would matter.

Essentially, the human rights advocates never had a chance.

Or in his own words:

LT. GEN. SCOWCROFT:….I think one of the ways we need to think of the Tiananmen episode is one that is not talked about very much. And that is, it was a pretty fundamental watershed in not only the relationship, but in the evolution of China – because in the days before Tiananmen, Nixon had established a relationship, and it was a good relationship and very profitable for both sides. But it was very narrow. It dealt with Soviet hegemony – things like that – nothing else. We had no trade. We didn’t have any of the other things that go in international relations. Suddenly, that was broken.
The end of the Cold War meant that we had nothing to talk about, basically. And, at the same time, sort of, our ability to talk was destroyed at Tiananmen Square – or that was the danger. So when it happened, there were two things. First of all, we had to respond. We couldn’t just ignore what had happened there, so we had to take action. We took the action basically against the Chinese army – against the relationship we had with the Chinese army – which was pretty good at that time.
….But the president was adamant: This relationship is too important to sacrifice. So we tried to reach out, and I won’t go through all of that. Anyway, at the end we met, and we managed to rescue the dialogue part of the relationship.
….Well, we started out with a whole list of possible sanctions – from the State Department, Defense Department, so on – a whole big list of what we could do. The President was clearly ill at ease with it. He knew we had to do something – but foremost in his mind was the importance of this relationship.
….And he picked the sanctions that he thought would do the least harm to the psychological relationship. And then he immediately said: Now, what can we do to offset this?

[Scowcroft was then sent on a secret mission to see Deng Xiaoping less than two weeks after the massacre.]

MR. KOPPEL: And you guys are already trying to smooth things over.
LT. GEN. SCOWCROFT: And we’re already trying to smooth things over, and that was a big issue: Well, now, you know, we want to smooth things over, but Congress was in an uproar.
Everybody was in an uproar.
MR. KOPPEL: Right.
LT. GEN. SCOWCROFT: How does it look to send an emissary, as if you’re, you know, kowtowing [vague in the transcript but the word I heard]. So we said: Well, let’s do it in secret. So I got on a transport airplane – a military aircraft. Had aerial refueling over there. They parked the aircraft behind the terminal building in Beijing, so nobody saw it, and we went over and back completely clandestinely.
MR. KOPPEL: And you met with Deng?
MR. KOPPEL: Can you tell us a little about that conversation?
LT. GEN. SCOWCROFT: Yes. He met me warmly and said: You know, I have really relinquished my official position. I’m meeting with you as an old friend. And so we went in and we sat down. And after the pleasantries he said: Well, it’s wonderful to see you, but I don’t know why you’re here. He said: What we’ve done is our own business. It has nothing to do with you or anybody else. And why are you here interfering in our business? And so I said: Well, you’re absolutely right. What you did is completely your own business. But the consequences of what you did have great effect on the United States and U.S. policy, and that’s why I’m here. So we went through this. And, in the end, it became clear to both sides – we didn’t do a lot of business then. Both sides know: We want to retain that ability to communicate.
MR. KOPPEL: So the main thrust of this meeting – and this is – have you written about this? Forgive me, I should have –
LT. GEN. SCOWCROFT: Part of that is in the book President Bush and I wrote.
MR. KOPPEL: Essentially, your concern, quite literally, less than two weeks after the events of Tiananmen, and the concern of the Chinese government, is: We can’t let this relationship suffer.
LT. GEN. SCOWCROFT: Absolutely – yes.

For the transcripts and video: HERE.

*So secret, he claimed, that the flight to China had to be refueled in flight.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Happy Bloggers

Happy people do not blog. That is unless they are paid to do so.

This month, the MacArthur Foundation started a blog to support their Asia Security Initiative (ASI). They are paying selected bloggers $10,000/year to blog about the research supported by the Initiative. (I am not making this up.)

This blog, according to their website is to host "a discussion of current events and security challenges in the Asia-Pacific, drawing from the policy research of the Asia Security Initiative network. Anchored by six expert bloggers, the blog also includes contributions from leading Asia Security Initiative-supported experts."

As of yet, there is no Northeast Asia expert for the blog, but the Foundation is in the process of selecting him. Reporting on this region, for now, is by one of the MacArthur Foundation's ASI program administrators.

It is probably a good thing that this position is still unsettled. The primary job of the blogger is to promote the research of the specific think tanks ASI supports. This can run into a few difficulties. 

For one, most of the research and writing in Washington think tanks are mediocre reiterations of common knowledge by undergraduates hoping to please their status-seeking bosses. Another problem is that the think tanks selected feature people who have promoted a failed policy with Japan and the Northeast Asian region. They are all members of "Team Armitage." Last, the entire question asked by MacArthur, which is focused on constructing a "security architecture" in Asia may be wrong. It is a tired question that merely continues an old discussion rather than starts a new one.

Frankly, many of the reports to be blogged upon deserve the inattention they ordinarily would have gotten. 

Thus, blogging on the ASI is fraught with all sorts of dangers. The poor blogger is forced into the traditional Washington game of "log-rolling"--you mention me, I will mention you. Objectivity may become skewed as the blogger understands the price of a "bad" review. You either enrage the powerful (albeit unworthy) or embarrass the Foundation for having selected such posers. Having MacArthur's grant administrator blog on his grantees might actually be the safest tack.

The think tanks selected for the Northeast Asia policy blogger to follow are well-known. They house the top tier of policy insiders. Unfortunately, their opinions are culled more from access than knowledge, and their prose is more glib than analytical. They are heavily funded by foreign sources, dependent upon the information given them, and inbreed. Oh yes, they are all heavily alpha male driven.

These think tanks are safe and not known for innovative policy analysis or scholarship. NBR gives the impression that it works with scholars. In truth, it selects prominent scholars and policy officials to head its studies, but the research and writing is done by young RAs. CSIS and the CSIS Pacific Forum have no world-class scholars involved in their programs and rely on former government officials-in-waiting to select the right interns and RAs to do their work. 

The Peterson Institute, although having a better quality of scholarship than most in DC, is poor on Japan and North Korea. Their North Korea fellow is well-known simply because there is no one else; presentable that is. Also they are savvy enough to get substantive outside experts to assist or actually do the work. Peterson simply rebrands the outsiders' research--co-authors matter here. Peterson's Fellows have more the benefit of being in Washington and available than of really knowing anything--then again anything one says on North Korea can be right. The Peterson Fellows, however, are yet to be right on Japan or North Korea.

In Japan, the Japan Center for International Exchange is one of oldest governmental institutions to manage gaijin. It is the granddaddy of Japan's mutual understanding machine. I am intrigued that it is taking foreign funds. JCIE has played an important role in cultivating the Japan hands at CSIS and the Council on Foreign Relations as well as being a back channel to Japan's Foreign Ministry.

For the members of Team Armitage, especially at CSIS and CSIS Pacific Forum, the MacArthur grant may have come at an opportune time. Their traditional sources of funds have been Japan, Korea, and Taiwan as CSIS has been viewed as a backdoor to the White House and American Asia policy. Once this relationship is perceived to be broken, it is likely their funding and "specialness" in Japan will fade as well.

So important CSIS was viewed by Japan, that Japan's conservative nationalists positioned disgraced, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to begin his reentry into politics by speaking at their conference on maritime security in Asia.* Although Team Armitage members such as Kurt Campbell and John Steinberg hold key positions in the State Department, most of the Team members and believers have been shut out.

The nomination of John Roos, an unknown to these men, as ambassador to Japan was a wake up call to CSIS's supporters in Japan. The Japanese were convinced that it would be their friend and Team Armitage member Joseph Nye. As an article in the July issue of the conservative Bungei Shunju notes: reports were based on the impression of "Japan experts" like Armitage and former National Security Council director for Asia Michael Green [now CSIS]. These Japan experts monopolize contacts with Japanese companies and politicians and form a small circle of close acquaintances in a kind of "mutual admiration society." Even after the turnover from a Republican to a Democratic government, theirs is a mechanism to protect mutual interest by dispatching officials on Japanese affairs from their exclusive circle. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Kurt Campbell is also a member of this inner circle. 

Since they do not have any connections with Roos, both the so-called "experts on the U.S." and the "experts on Japan" are dissatisfied, calling his appointment a "downgrade." Yet, these very people are the culprits for the lack of stability in the Japan-U.S. relationship. Perhaps it is time to say goodbye to this inner circle. [emphasis added]

*The only thing funnier than that, was one of the conference's the keynote addresses by Vice Admiral William Douglas Crowder, which liberally quoted from a "futuristic" book about the coming war with a Japan allied with Turkey against the US allied with Poland.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Unique Japan

Yuko raged. She was furious at male doctors and she was furious with her home country. And it was reasonable. After all, a week ago she had a radical mastectomy.

Why after 30 years of research was the survival rate the same? Why was so little research funding going toward breast cancer? Why did every doctor she talked to have a different answer?

And what is this “nonsense,” she exclaimed that Japan has a low incidence of breast cancer. Too many of her Japanese girlfriends have had breast cancer. The water, air, and food here is not that different in the U.S. “The truth,” she railed “is that doctors in Japan do not require women to get mammograms.” She ticked off all her friends and family who had never gotten an exam. By the time cancer is diagnosed it has spread to other organs and thus not recorded as a death by breast cancer.

“There is nothing special or unique about Japan” she concluded, “just that women matter less.”

I was the maid of honor at her wedding years ago. We both had gone to Smith, a woman’s college, where we learned to speak up. She came to the U.S. after failing to become a JAL stewardess. She was told she was too tall, 5’9”, and that it would be impolite for her to look down on most of the airline’s clients.

I listened and hoped that the dinner and empathy I brought helped a little to one of my oldest friends. There was not much more I could do as my friend at Japan Without the Sugar tells me Japan is unique, it is after all the only country blessed with four seasons.

My mammogram has been scheduled.

Get Involved: Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is the world’s largest source of nonprofit funds for breast cancer research and community outreach programs with $1 billion invested to date. Although Komen has international affiliates, there are none in Asia,

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Lesson for All

End of school year picnic, 12 year old daughter moving from elementary school to middle school:

Father: Do you want us to stay with you?
Daughter: Glare
Daughter's Friend: Is that a serious question?

Now, substitute Father for China and DPRK for Daughter...

Friday, June 5, 2009

After The Death Marches

World War II saw many death marches. The Bataan Death March was one of many forced treks Japan's Imperial Army imposed on its prisoners of war. In some respects, it may be the most famous because it had the most survivors and witnesses.

Like so many of Japan's war crimes, the marches were all strikingly similar in conception and execution. No matter where in the Pacific Theater, Imperial troops with their Korean and Formosan conscripts inflicted horrors upon those in their care. Neither disdain nor indifference succeeds in explaining the inhumanity.

The Sandankan Death Marches in North Borneo match if not surpass the miseries of Bataan. Of the 2400 Australian and British POWs involved, only 6 Australians survived. Originally, moved to Sandankan to build an airfield, many POWs in January 1945 were forced to began a series of marches away from possible Allied landings on the island. This was partly to dispose of them and partly to use the survivors as mules for a retreat. Those left in the camp were murdered.

This atrocity was considered so infamous that in the movie, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence about a Japanese POW camp on Java, the director included an indirect reference to it. Toward the end of the film, one group of Australian prisoners was marched off to "build an airfield." It was a subtle reference to more horrors to come in a film about confusing Japanese brutality, male honor and homosexuality. The movie, starring David Bowie, was based on a moving book on war and forgiveness by Larens van der Post, The Seed and the Sower.*

On the Western Front, the best known Death March of POWs was only recently recognized. This was by 350 mostly Jewish American POWs who unlike other POWs of the Third Reich were sent to a concentration camp, Berga, a subcamp of Buchenwald. In the last months of the war, these POWs became slave laborers building air defense tunnels. It was "death through work" one of the survivors said. Like the Japanese, the Nazis tried to hide these starving and sick POWs by marching them away from the advancing American forces. And like the in the Japanese POWs, nearly one-third of the POWs perished.

It was very unusual for American POWs to treated like this by the Nazis. Although typical for POWs of Japan, this appears to be the only case where Americans were slave laborers for the German military. The typical death rate in German POW camps was one and one-half percent, unlike in Japan's POW camps, which was over 30%.

Unique to these POWs, is that they were finally compensated for their work and suffering. Because Berga was a concentration camp** and not a POW camp, these POWs received settlements from the German Foundation "Remembrance, Responsibility, and the Future" Fund as well as some an award from a lawsuit against the German Government. Neither have been options for the American POWs of Japan.

Similar to the American POWs of Japan, the survivors of Berga were also forced to sign gag orders threatening prosecution if they talked about their experiences. They also were ignored by the US Government and their stories suppressed. Just this year new photos of the graves at Berga surfaced.

This weekend, the US Army, pressured by Congress, will honor the surviving Berga veterans. Maj. Gen. Vincent Boles is to present these men with some sort of special recognition and an explanation as to why the US government commuted the death sentences of the two Berga commanders, Erwin Metz and his superior, Hauptmann Ludwig Merz.

As noted below, last weekend the Japanese government made its first step toward apologizing to and acknowledging the American POWs of Japan. Unfortunately, the Foreign Ministry nor the Japanese Embassy in the US have not published any press release nor transcript of the Japanese Ambassador's apology. More surprising, the Japanese press has not reported the story. Even the Mainichi Shimbun reporter present did not have his story published.

Maybe soon, the Pentagon will so honor the POW survivors of Japan's death marches and explain too why so many camp commanders and guards were never executed or prosecuted. This is not just for the American POWs, but also for Japan. The Japanese need to understand that these apologies matter and that these histories with its most important ally cannot be ignored, nor remain unexamined.

Later: Here is the CNN Report on this past weekend's Berga reunion attended by Maj. Gen. Vincent Boles, an emissary from the Army. He told the group that "These men were abused and put under some of the most horrific conditions, It wasn't a prison camp. It was a slave labor camp." As one Berga survivor responded, "It means a great deal -- that it's being recognized and understood."

*Strangely, Japanese pop idol Utada took the award winning music from the movie and produced a completely unseemly and irrelevant song
**As an aside, recent scholarship on Nazi concentration and extermination camps have found that the number of 5,000 to 7,000 to be conservative. The count is more than 20,000.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Hidden Behind the Apology

Outside my bedroom window, the catalpa tree has finally bloomed. Its broad leaves and large white flowers block my view of the crabapple tree under which my kitty is buried. The southern catalpa is a late bloomer.

Sixty-four years after the end of World War II and 14 years after the first Japanese apology for its brutality during the War, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States dared publicly speak an apology to former American prisoners of war.

As I note in previous posts, this apology on May 30th in San Antonio, Texas was historic and long sought. It took the persistence and goodwill of Dr. Lester Tenney the last Commander of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor (ADBC). It took the compassion, research, and cultural understanding of Ms. Kinue Tokudome who founded the US-Japan Dialogue on POWs to help Dr. Tenney negotiate the often confusing politics of Japan. And it took Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki's ability and courage to seize an opportunity.

When Dr. Tenney was first invited to meet with the Ambassador in November 2008, seasoned negotiators all warned that the meeting would be frustrating and designed to defuse but not solve the problem. He was advised "not to smile until he got into the taxi to return." To his credit, Dr. Tenney, a survivor of the Bataan Death March, a Hell Ship, and a Mitsui coal mine, ignored all the advice he was given. As Ms. Tokudome admonished the scholars and diplomats advising them: "Let Lester be Lester."

Sadly, few journalists or politicans have noted the significance of what happened in San Antonio. This has surprised some journalists, as you can see in this reporter's blog. More surprising to me, it the near complete lack of reporting by the Japanese press.

Aside from a wire report online at TBS and Kyodo, there has been no acknowledgement of the apology. There has also been no annoucement on the Japanese Foreign Ministry or Embassy of Japan in the US websites. Reportedly, the Japanese Washington press corps was briefed on 5:30pm Friday, May 29th, the night before the Ambassador flew down to Texas. The Mainichi Shimbun, which had a reporter at the ADBC Convention, is yet to publish an article.

When I asked a Japanese friend from a prominent family who lived through the war about this, he replied: "If Amb. Fujisaki's initiative ever meant something, it was devalued by the neglect by the media, letting the entire Japanese population miss a good chance to stop and think"

He is right. The real point was not so much the apology, but the opportunity for the Japanese people to begin the discussion about the Pacific War and how it has shaped the US-Japan Alliance. The two country's often dramatically different views on the causes and conduct of the War have unrecognized affects on the security dialogue. It is not enough to supposedly share values. The dissimilar lessons learned from the War highlight that Japan and the US have entirely different analytical frameworks from which to consider national security.

Later: Here is a transcript of Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki's apology statement on May 30, 2009.