Sunday, September 20, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
Press Availability at U.S. Embassy Tokyo Auditorium
Kurt M. Campbell
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
September 18, 2009
QUESTION: Do you have…(inaudible)?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Yes. But I also think we have a new team in place. I've been fortunate over the course of the last several years. For many years I was out of power. The Democrats in Japan have been out of power. So we got to know each other, and so it’s been good. Many of these relationships for us are not new ones. We’ve had dialogue over many years, and I think we will see a range of discussion taking place at the political level and also at the Foreign Ministry. I will say that you will see over the course of the next several weeks very intensive discussions with Americans coming to Tokyo and also Japanese interlocutors coming to the United States. I think that's important, and I think it will be valuable to make sure that we are in the closest possible consultations.
[Now please understand, my inbox just filled up with this. For a moment I thought it was spam.]
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
I have been inspired by Our Man in Abiko's effort to explain the DPJ victory. He is not generally known for sober analysis; but that is what makes it worth reading.
As I am not allowed yet to drink, I fear the observations below will not be as interesting. You will have to do the drinking yourself, first.
It should not have been a surprise to anyone that the DPJ won the August 30th Lower House election. By this summer, all the polls showed that the voters had simply no faith whatsoever in the too-long ruling LDP. The Japanese called them for what they were: out-of-touch, corrupt nincompoops.
Yes, the Japanese people are skeptical of the DPJ and they should be. But the vote finally reflected the values and opinions of the average Japanese, as gauged by myriad social and political surveys over the past 15 years. None of these polls ever showed an affinity to the LDP’s proto-nationalist, glorious history, military-security agenda. None showed any interest in foreign policy, changing the constitution, or strengthening any alliance with the U.S. And certainly no one wanted to go back to Tokugawa feudalism or Showa’s police state.
It is not that Japan has suddenly changed. It has not. Japan’s money politics and back-room wheeling and dealing is not over. For a while, however, a few ideals will guide the new policymakers. The desire to have the people’s will reflected in bureaucrat’s decisions is democracy in its purest form. It is difficult to attain and more difficult to maintain.
The record 54 women now in the Diet are no fluke or merely manipulative male politics. This election was an election on “women’s issues.” The focus was home, health, and family. This is how the Japanese people have identified their insecurities and defined security. National prestige and threat-based military power—the LDP’s measurements of security--fell flat with the voters. Japan is looking inward.
The Japanese people have long mistrusted, resisted, and even undermined the U.S. The failure to move Futenma, the wavering faith in America’s nuclear umbrella, and the demise of the U.S. auto industry are reflective of these feelings. Surveys show a positive albeit fast dropping confidence in the U.S. No matter who is in power in Japan, the U.S. is destined for a great deal of obstructionism on foreign policy and trade.
The DPJ is likely to focus it foreign policy on defusing regional tensions in Asia. They will not do it, however, through the misuse of history, threats of nuclear armament, or building any sort of security architecture. They plan to approach Asia at its most fundamental, essential emotive level. The DPJ will hopefully and finally make the appropriate apologies and compensation for Imperial Japan’s Pacific War. The DPJ will dial down its rhetoric with North Korea, untangle the Abductees issue from the Rightists’ agenda, and focus on denuclearization. And whatever the DPJ means about making the U.S.-Japan alliance “equal” it is foremost about taking on new responsibilities, not merely about shedding old ones.
The task Obama’s White House has with Japan is the same it has worldwide: rebuilding trust and confidence in America’s words and deeds. For now too many DPJ foreign policy bigwigs believe that 9/11 was a conspiracy and discount American security requests as self-serving. As Obama’s Japan team has found with the LDP, a lot of work needs to go into reassurance and confidence building. The DPJ’s supposed anti-globalization tack also reflects larger, global distrust of the uncertainties of international economic interdependence. Again, Japan is turning inward.
With the new DPJ government more work and creativity needs to go into defining what responsibilities Washington expects Tokyo to assume. It was disheartening earlier this month when well-known Alliance Managers brushed off declarations by visiting DPJ members that they were going to work to resolve the history issues. It was equally disconcerting that the Administration’s strongest public statement to the newly elected DPJ was a list of things Washington would not consider or negotiate. There is much to encourage among the DPJ’s aspirations; and to not do so will certainly undermine any alliance.
Maybe the real surprise in the election it is that official Washington has been so resistant and uncomfortable with change in Japan. The new Japanese government was met with reprimand and hesitancy. The U.S.-Japan Alliance is due in for some reexamination. Democracy is messy.
Published: September 9, 2009, The New York Times, Letter to the Editor
Yukio Hatoyama (“A new path for Japan,” Views, Aug. 27) indicated a desire to move Japan closer to Asia and an intention to adjust the U.S.-Japan relationship to that of two equals.
Implicit in this shift is Mr. Hatoyama’s desire for Japan to play a large role in building a more cohesive and influential Asia. But Japan is still a country burdened heavily with debts from the past.
As Mr. Hatoyama, who is likely to become the next prime minister of Japan, navigates through the rivalry between the United States and China, he should keep in mind that no matter how hard Japan may want to play a meaningful role in Asia, to the eyes of so many Asians, Japan’s leaders too often look back to its imperialistic past with considerable nostalgia.
In order to bring Asia together, Japan must first correct this.
Sung-Chull Junn, Seoul
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
At the end of each report, it lists some of the better jokes by American late night comedians. This small section help makes the day more bearable. You can sign up for this bulletin HERE.
David Letterman: "There's rumors that Dick Cheney, Vice President Dick Cheney, may run for president in 2012. 2012. No, no. That's his cholesterol."
David Letterman: "I remember when the Obamas first moved in and the Bush girls were given the Obama girls a tour of the White House. And the little girls got scared because they heard the organ music coming from Dick Cheney's underground dungeon."
Conan O'Brien: "Earlier today, President Obama delivered a speech to America's schoolchildren. And he encouraged them to work hard and study hard. ... Yeah, then he said if that doesn't work, grab the seat next to the Asian kid."
Conan O' Brien: President Obama "told them, this is a quote, 'Be careful what you post on facebook.' That's what he said. Obama then told them about bad things that could happen, like the time he accidentally friended Joe Biden."
Craig Ferguson: "Some Republicans were so mad" about Obama's speech to schoolchildren, "they had Dick Cheney give a rebuttal. He showed kids the proper way to stuff a geek into a locker."
Jimmy Fallon: "The President also said that kids -- he told them if they study hard, the United States will continue to prosper. Then he added, 'But just to be safe, bone up on your Chinese.'"
Monday, September 7, 2009
“In general, it seems as if criticism is very hard to take in contemporary American culture,” Professor Kitayama said. “It’s seen as a threat or an attack on self-esteem or as violating social rules. In Japanese culture, self-esteem is important, but more important is improving yourself.”
Another scholar noted that "failure feedback is motivating for Japanese while success feedback is motivating for Americans."
With this in mind, I read Washington Post editor Jim Hoagland's Sunday, September 6th op ed "Change They Can't Believe In."
He was critical of political change in Japan and wary of the expected challenges it would pose to American security goals. As he writes:
But Japan's upheaval also presents Obama with a significant challenge in Asia. The president will have to walk a fine line in correctly identifying and strengthening the moderates in the new government while containing the coalition's left- and right-wing extremists.
And the president has done himself no favor at this moment by choosing John Roos, a California lawyer and a mega-fundraiser for Obama in 2008, as his ambassador to Tokyo. Over time, Obama's complicity with Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in stuffing the most important U.S. embassies with campaign bagmen instead of experienced foreign policy professionals will come back to haunt this White House -- nowhere more so than in Japan.
The complaint that a non-Japan hand is U.S. Ambassador is ironic. Recent ambassadors who have been, such as Armin H. Meyer (1969-1972) and Michael Armacost (1989-1993) , were reportedly greatly disliked by the Japanese government and found their efforts obstructed at every turn.
Hoagland was also skeptical that the DPJ would temper its rhetoric, as
that assumption neglects political reality: Elections for the Diet's upper house are only a year away. The Democrats need to win a clear majority to consolidate their power, and they are unlikely to risk being caught abandoning campaign promises before then.
He continues by doubting the new government's commitment to the U.S.-Japan alliance and again the new American ambassador's ability to manage the change. Hoagland assumes (incorrectly I might add) that the Hatoyama Administration will not have an alternative to the refueling mission for supporting coalition (not just American) troops in Afghanistan.
Chances are slim to none of the Diet renewing Japanese refueling operations that support U.S. forces in Afghanistan. That decision, due in January, could open a difficult passage in America's most important bilateral relationship in Asia. Let's hope that Ambassador Roos is wise enough to let the experienced Asia team Obama has assembled in Washington steer the policy ship.
And Hoagland concludes by echoing the speakers at the CSIS Japan event mentioned below who emphasized that the bureaucrats were essential to managing the Alliance. They should be appreciated not cast aside, as
Among them are individuals who have served their country honorably while being faithful U.S. friends. For official American words or acts to undercut or discredit them would diminish one of the great diplomatic successes of the 20th century and gain Obama nothing lasting with the new bosses in Tokyo.
It seems to me, that by taking cause with Japan's career officials, Hoagland and others are criticizing the DPJ politician's ability to make informed governing decisions. And by praising the ties with these "permanent" government managers, Hoagland is warning that the DPJ is not destined to last long.
This is maybe just the kind of criticism the DPJ needs to become motivated, if you believe the Times.
Later: One of my commentators believes that the translation company FLC was actually, GlobalLink FLC. This makes more sense. I will ask again.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Q: Hi. Paul Wolfowitz, AEI. This has sort of been addressed, I guess, with the last question, but I’m curious whether any of you think that the desire to improve relations with China might push Japan to do something more than just fewer visits to Yasukuni Shrine. It’s striking, when you compare Japan and Germany, what a great job the Germans have done in addressing their past and what a poor job the Japanese have done. And they talk about improving relations with China and yet, this always comes up as an issue with China. Do you think there’s any possibility, with all the other issues they have to address, that they might do something more than, just, not too many visits to Yasukuni?
MR. GREEN: Joe Nye said, in the early ’70s, that this history issue would take at least three generations to reconcile. And I’ve never known how long a generation is, but I don’t think we’re there yet.
MR. CAMPBELL: Twenty years.
MR. CLEMONS: Twenty years.
MR. GREEN: Twenty years? Well, not too long from now. The difference, obviously, I think between Japan and China and France and Germany is that the Chinese have not done what France obviously could do, which is internal reconciliation about their own history and the history of the Communist Party. And in my view, until China can reconcile internally, it won’t happen with Japan – not to put all of the burden on China, but that’s one big obstacle. On the Japanese side, the more taboos fade and the more debate there is, the harder it is to keep people quiet and the more voices will come out on history issues that make it difficult. But as I was saying earlier, I think we are entering a period where, at least, there will be some thawing, and maybe we’ll sort of ratchet it down for the longer term. Or maybe we’ll be in for a roller coaster a little while.
The above question was offered at the CSIS program on September 2nd examining the Japanese election. There is so much wrong and discouraging with the above one does event know where to begin.
The exchange begins bizarrely with a question from a man who has his own issues with war responsibility. Maybe, Amb Wolfowitz can be interviewed on the issue of shame vs. guilt?
Generations? Well, most scholars who study Japan's history issues believe that the critical change for Germany to confront its history was the shift from the conservative Christian Democrats to the more liberal Social Democrats. This now appears to have finally happened in Japan. Is a Hatoyama kniefall next? On the technical issue of what is a generation, scholars generally say it is about 30 years.
France has reconciled with its own history? Since when? It has only been essentially within the last decade that the French have admitted that not everyone was a noble resistance fighter. And the infamous Holocaust transit station Camp des Milles is only now being restored as a museum and research center. A major contributor to this is the building materials giant LaFarge. This is the same company that now owns most of Aso Mining and the mines which employed Chinese and POW slave labor.
China has to confront its own history? Well, sure, but since when does that have to happen before there is a frank and honest discussion in a Japan that is supposedly an open, free, and democratic country. Green's statement is a near quote from so many Japanese ultra-rightist polemicists. These are the same guys who think the U.S. tricked Japan into the war, believe the Rape of Nanking never happened, and threaten people with bodily harm if they disagree. But these are the same Japanese who work with American administrations to secure the alliance, advocate for a strong military, and keep a hostile attitude toward China.
The fact is, the DPJ understands that if it is to move closer to Asia it needs to reconcile with Asia. The equivocal responses and defensive denials no longer are effective. The stock 1995 Murayama apology is stale and can be stretched only so far. It is my understanding that the DPJ leadership wants to make right by everyone: the slave labors, the comfort women, the Korean prison guards, and many others who were harmed by Imperial Japan's aggression and democratic Japan's denials.
It is sad, even alarming, that American Alliance Managers cannot see their way toward encouraging the DPJ in its promised efforts of war reconciliation. Cementing the peace is the prelude toward regional cooperation. Keeping Japan hostile-looking and slightly irrational seems counter-productive, if not a bit too cold waresque.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
Until September 7th, MOMA is featuring an exhibit of the contents of a Chinese home. As is noted on the website:
Beijing-based artist Song Dong (b. 1966) explores notions of transience and impermanence with installations that combine aspects of performance, video, photography, and sculpture. Projects 90, his first solo U.S. museum show, presents his recent work Waste Not. A collaboration first conceived of with the artist's mother, the installation consists of the complete contents of her home, amassed over fifty years during which the Chinese concept of wu jin qi yong, or "waste not," was a prerequisite for survival. The assembled materials, ranging from pots and basins to blankets, oil flasks, and legless dolls, form a miniature cityscape that viewers can navigate around and through.Gee, thanks mom for giving me an art career! Was my first reaction. But there is more to it, especially if you are interested in understanding your Chinese colleagues. How is their modern material universe different from yours? What do you really find when you open your home for all to see? You can find photos, videos (like the one above), and essays on the installation HERE.
As I noted, an important feature of MOMA is to promote good design for everyday use. To this end, MOMA provides e-cards to send and has a wonderful shop.
If you join the museum, there is a 20% off sale at the shop September 9-13, which features items from Muji as well as household items and clothing from Japan and Korea made exclusively for MOMA exhibitions. As you can imagine, I am a big fan of the sale!
So it was ordered and given to friend to hand deliver for Christmas.
But this story has a post-modern ending. I don't know if it was appreciated as it was never acknowledged. And neither was that or subsequent new years, my publications, my birthday, or my illness.
I suspect, unlike Song Dong's mother's house, it still sits in a box somewhere, unexamined.
Later: The NY Times review HERE.
It is at once a record of a life, a history of a half-century of Chinese vernacular culture and a symbolic archive of impermanence.
Although new Chinese art has a reputation for brash iconoclasm, loss is really its big subject. Political Pop painting may be big at auctions, but much of the most interesting new work is less about attacking the powers that be than about regretting the diminishment of the powers that were, or might have been: familial cohesion, social stability and spiritual certainty. In this respect, China’s new art is very much on a continuum with its old art, specifically with the tradition of landscape painting with reiterated motifs of changing seasons, parting friends and dreams of a golden age.
Frankly, all the things I have been storing up to say are really best summed up in two of his recent posts. There is indeed something to his belief that all that selective use of the facts by self-promoting pundits is bollocks (yeah, I had to look it up too).
Amusingly, the speakers at the September 2nd CSIS Japan event referred to themselves as pundits! Washington has media personalities, not scholars or experts.
Anyway, nothing better summarizes the rough start of the DPJ era and its icy reception by the Obama Alliance Manager than this video.
It should be noted that I have sat through many a school concert that sounded like that. I did feign pride.
If there is harmony in the US-Japan relationship is mainly among Washington’s Alliance Managers. They are downright, visibly worried about the DPJ coming to power. They are fearful of change. They see their rolodexes, contracts, and air of exclusivity evaporating.The initially curt White House and State Department spokesman’s statements welcoming Hatoyama were followed by nearly shrill--no, never, ever, nada, not gonna do it, don’t make me bitch slap ya--declarations that the US will most certainly not reconsider or renegotiate security-related agreements.
at the CSIS program
To add to this lack of imagination, Asst. Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell
made an astonishing (i.e., desperate) point of emphasizing that European allies of the US were pressing the DPJ to appreciate the importance of the Alliance. I am sure everyone involved was delighted with their roles in that one. You can watch the video or get the transcript HERE.
Hey guys, democracy has come the Japan. Maybe you should lighten up and hear what these politicians have to say.
Fortunately, albeit long after other heads of state had contacted Mr. Hatoyama, someone came to his senses and advised President Obama call the new leader of Japan. Soon after, U.S. Ambassador Roos rushed to meet with the presumptive prime minister, wedging himself in before the Russian ambassador. I guess someone remembered that the grandpa Hatoyama had a soft spot for the Russkies while thumbing his nose at Americans.
Now, all is good…that is until the next CSIS briefing trashing the DPJ. The program was all about doubt—doubt that this unproven, unknown group could fall in line with the U.S.
For a summary of the CSIS program see New Government in Japan—implication for US-Japan relations by Stimson’s Yuki Tatsumi. Although it looks like analysis, it is only a review of the conventional thinking aired in meeting albeit without quotes and attribution.
Tatsumi aptly ends her summary with a nod to CSIS’s Japan Chair Mike Green’s slip that the DPJ government might only last six months. As you will note on page 14 of the transcript, Mike says in a bit too animated a manner (hey I was there):
Kurt makes a very good point about where they’re going to focus their political capital. And I think, as Kurt suggests, they’re going to focus on changing the domestic political economy. Because the reality is, we’re all excited about this big change, but it’s possible that in three months or six months, these guys will be gone – that some crisis or some mismanagement could cause realignment. They have to win in the upper house election next summer.
Another theme of CSIS meeting was a warning to the DPJ to better value the bureaucrats. The speakers sang their praises, especially Dr. Campbell. I can imagine how hard it is to lose such long-cultivated contacts. This did produce one of Green’s rare good jokes, “I’m thinking now of the headline from this panel, which is “Former and Current Bureaucrats and Staffers Tell Japan Be Good to Bureaucrats and Staffers.”
And since I have gone this far, I might as well mention the third speaker, Steve Clemons of the New American Foundation. As usual he was charming, affable and unmemorable. He was a bit more sympathetic to the DPJ and tried to note how much Japan has to offer the world. It is that leadership thing. Unfortunately, one of his examples was the Japanese head of UNESCO, who was raked over the coals this week by Le Monde in both French and English.
For analysis actually written the hard way, before the CSIS briefing, see what Our Man has to say HERE about the conservative Heritage Foundation’s Bruce Klingner’s New York Post op ed, America’s New Japan Challenge.
Our Man found it a bit tedious, at best. I suspect finding someone called “Bruce” was simply too much temptation for Our Man. As a Brit, he likely associates “Bruces” with Australians and Brits somehow feel superior to them. Our Man is spot on. It was a plodding and contradictory piece. Yet, Bruce did try to provide some original analysis and draw some conclusions. Although he echoed all the angst and confusion of the established Alliance Managers, he still tried to think through the possibilities. This process of thinking, of course, exposed some contradictions that he could not resolve if he was to continue to bow to the Alliance Managers.
Bruce is a truly decent guy who is burdened with coming from the analytical side of the intelligence community. This has made him cautious, knowledgeable, thoughtful, soft spoken, and colorless. The in-crowd Alliance Managers rarely think to include him in their games even though he tries hard to toe their line. Part of the problem is that Bruce is a Korea expert and Heritage has not mattered in Washington since the first term of the Bush II Administration (and we all know how well that worked out).
This is all too bad. Maybe they should be a bit more afraid of him. After all, he is active in Korean martial arts and has attained third degree black belt in tae kwon do and first degree black belt in hapkido and teuk kong moo sool.
Later: What about the AEI program held just before the CSIS event that featured second tier Alliance Manager, you ask? Well, they had cookies and CSIS did not.
You can watch the video or get the transcript HERE.