Showing posts with label Campbell Kurt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Campbell Kurt. Show all posts

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Question: On Japan -

Philip J. Crowley, Assistant Secretary
Daily Press Briefing, Washington, DC
April 28, 2010

: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- I’m wondering if you have anything further on Assistant Secretary Campbell’s talks there. Specifically on Futenma, are the two sides getting any closer together? And have we actually received a Japanese plan now for Futenma? I know in the past, you talked about them floating ideas. Are we still in the ideas stage or is there actually a plan that’s being discussed?

MR. CROWLEY: I think we’re still in the consultation stage.

QUESTION: And is there any way of saying whether the two sides are coming any closer together?

MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn’t characterize it at this point.

QUESTION: You wouldn’t characterize it as saying that they’re coming together? Because I think the bottom line here is that we’ve been left with a distinct impression that you want it to remain in the consultations phase forever.

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think that’s true. I mean, we understand the impact that our operations have in the region. We also understand the benefits in terms of --

QUESTION: But isn’t it --

MR. CROWLEY: -- regional security and Japanese security. We both seek an arrangement that is operationally viable and politically sustainable, and that remains the subject of our ongoing consultation with the Japanese Government.

QUESTION: Right, but isn’t your position that something that is sustainable and – or was it something sustainable and politically viable?

MR. CROWLEY: And viable.

QUESTION: Right. Isn’t your position that the current arrangement is exactly that? Isn’t that still your position and that there’s been (inaudible) changes?

MR. CROWLEY: We have not changed our view on the existing agreement, but we continue our consultations which (inaudible) --

QUESTION: All right. Which means that you’ve gotten nowhere?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I would --

QUESTION: You’re not any – you’re not any – this issue has still not been resolved; you’re exactly where you were a year ago --

MR. CROWLEY: Well --

QUESTION: -- or whenever the new government came; correct?

MR. CROWLEY: We continue our consultations with Japan. I don’t think – to Andy’s question, I don’t think we’ve arrived at where Japan has offered its final understanding. They promised to do that in May, but that’s one of the reasons why Kurt Campbell remains – or is in Tokyo as we speak. All right – no, I’m sorry, he’s left Tokyo and he’s on his way back – but why he stopped in Tokyo yesterday and today.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Call me

He looked back from the elevator. The Japanese reporters’ gaggle was still blocking the hallway. He was clearly weary of the repeated questioning of the reaction to the Hatoyama Administration's proposals.

But now the camera's were off and the questions had been parried. He gave the current standard that the US was waiting for a concrete proposal and one that reflected the wishes of the Japanese people. I suspect he found the basement of CSIS as stifling as everyone else.

Away from the reporters, he tried to catch the eye of his old friend and former business partner. He shouted “Mike, Mike,” and then raised his hand to his ear gesturing as if it were a telephone handset while saying “Call Me.” Then he disappeared into the elevator.

There you have it, the Obama Administration’s Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific Kurt Campbell had just asked the Bush Administration’s Japan National Security Council Japan manager and CSIS Toyota Japan Chair Michael Green to call him.

No wonder the Hatoyama Administration is failing so miserably. They have no friends in Washington. The same old Alliance Managers are consulting with the same old Alliance Managers. These men still wallow in the illusions and money created by generations of gaijin handlers. Their believed their select Japanese friends that the US and Japan were moving toward a working military Alliance. 

Stripped of their gaijin handling intermediaries, the Managers are adrift when confronted with the reality that the Japanese are not keen on the Alliance or the United States. In an understated essay, Weston Konishi (who of course cannot find a permanent position in Washington) found that US-Japan relations were not "as rosy" as they are said to be. His analysis of public opinion data finds "Barring a removal of Marines outside of Japan, it is reasonable to assume that the United States will take a PR hit in Japan no matter what course is taken on Futenma, furtherweakening America’s standing amongst the Japanese public."

Adding to the confusion, is the added reality that American Alliance Managers have few skills in understanding or working with Japanese who actually act Japanese, as do Mr. Hatoyama and his populist followers.

The result seems to be a constant, condescending assault on Japanese sensibilities. American impatience has manifested itself as bullying and punishing the Hatoyama government. A new strategy is emerging, which is simply to embarrass publicly the prime minister, whether by denying him a private meeting with the President or leaking the following to the most-read writer in the Washington Post--the gossip columist Al Kamen:
By far the biggest loser of the extravaganza was the hapless and (in the opinion of some Obama administration officials) increasingly loopy Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. He reportedly requested but got no bilat. The only consolation prize was that he got an "unofficial" meeting during Monday night's working dinner. Maybe somewhere between the main course and dessert?

A rich man's son, Hatoyama has impressed Obama administration officials with his unreliability on a major issue dividing Japan and the United States: the future of a Marine Corps air station in Okinawa. Hatoyama promised Obama twice that he'd solve the issue. According to a long-standing agreement with Japan, the Futenma air base is supposed to be moved to an isolated part of Okinawa. (It now sits in the middle of a city of more than 80,000.)

But Hatoyama's party, the Democratic Party of Japan, said it wanted to reexamine the agreement and to propose a different plan. It is supposed to do that by May. So far, nothing has come in over the transom. Uh, Yukio, you're supposed to be an ally, remember? Saved you countless billions with that expensive U.S. nuclear umbrella? Still buy Toyotas and such?

Meanwhile, who did give Hatoyama some love at the nuclear summit? Hu did. Yes, China's president met privately with the Japanese prime minister on Monday.

For whatever reasons, by intent or ignorance, the Obama Administration Alliance Managers are feeding into the forces that wish to discredit and destabilize the Hatoyama Administration. Whether members of the DPJ's Seven Magistrates or the ultra-right spin off of the LDP, The Sunrise Party, they are old onsen friends of the American Alliances managers.

It is indeed as Lady Gaga sings in Bad Romance: 'Cause you're a criminal; As long as your mine; I want your love...

N.B.: In case you are wondering, Mike Green and Kurt Campbell were together again in the basement conference room of CSIS scoring points with their next clients, the Malaysians. Once an Alliance Manager, you can become an expert on any Asian country. The new Malaysian government has hired expensive advocates in Washington. One result was the Prime Minister meeting with Obama, another a lunch with Congressional leadership, and a perfunctory conference at CSIS. Grateful for the fresh cash and the smell of more, Green showed off his old friend now the Assistant Secretary to a sleepy group of maybe 30 people interested in US-Malaysian relations. It was not the usual CSIS crowd, too many people only marginally employed. But it must have made money for CSIS as there was no food or drink, no substance, no coherence, and no handouts. To be sure, it is hard in these situations to judge if this was mismanagement, cheapness, or just condescension to the audience.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Child Abduction Politics III

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Don't Forget the Abductees

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

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

The letter's text is HERE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 24, 2009


The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing on International Child Abduction has been postponed. It had been scheduled for the 29th. I am still trying to find out why, but I have a strong suspicion that it will be delayed until after President Obama goes to Japan.

It is unlikely that the Japanese welcomed the hearing as the Embassy and MOFA are yet to get clear guidance as to how to pursue the issue. Thus, they are in their usual delay and deny mode. Japan's new Justice Minister Chiba appears to have indicated a that she will push to have Japan sign the Hague Convention and to change child custody laws. But with so much else going on, this issue might be getting lost in the fray.

It is equally unlikely that the U.S. State Department welcomed the hearing. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, by the way, was not scheduled to testify. It was to be someone from the Bureau of Consular Affairs who works on children's issues. The hearing would have highlighted but another intractable, unpleasant issue the U.S. has with Japan. A summit with lots of expectations and no deliverables, it not desirable.

At his "town meeting" with the left-behind parents and grandparents, Campbell made a point of saying that there seems to be some progress on the subject with Japan. And he preferred to wait and see what will happen. However, he assured the families that if nothing materialized in the next few months, the U.S. would rethink its strategy. One mother's sobs were audible.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


QUESTION: Hi. Charlie Reed, Stars and Stripes....One more question, too. Is the Hague Treaty part of the talks that are going to happen – the Hague treaty on international child abduction?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Yes, and we had deliberations about those today. Yes, we did.

QUESTION: Can you give me any indication of the progress? The new government has said that it seems to be an issue that they would support and that treaty seems like something that would move forward with it. Is that what you are hearing as well?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I would say we were pleased with the initial discussions we had today.

Back in September, when Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell was in Japan to meet Japan's new government, the child abduction issue was merely a nuisance. His answer above was hedging at its best. Although the issue was the subject of the first question by Senator James Webb (D-VA) during Campbell's confirmation hearing, the Assistant Secretary had avoided following up on his promise to meet with abductee families.

It is unclear if he was familiar with the March House Resolution 125 or August House bill 3240, which mention Japan prominently. These congressional bills call on countries to sign the Hague and request the State Department to monitor compliance. In May, four ambassadors (U.S., the United Kingdom, France, and Canada) held a press conference after a symposium on Japan's child abduction problem.

There is an active and increasingly organized movement of left-behind parents and grandparents advocating for Japan to sign the Hague Convention and for the State Department to seek some solution for at least some sort of visitation. One of the movement's leaders literally sat behind Campbell at his confirmation hearing and talked with both Campbell and his wife. They have three little girls.

Child custody, however, was a soft issue that only exposed the fragile ties between the two countries. It was up there with the history issues, medical devices, dolphins, and whales. Minor interest groups concerns that complicate the Alliance. They should not be dignified by high level political attention is the conventional wisdom.

But on September 29th that all changed. One American father tried to kidnap his children back and found himself in jail. For the first time, the Japanese press reported on the Hague Convention and growing discontent of left-behind parents. To be sure, it is hard to be sympathetic to the arrested father. He understands Japanese and understands their legal system; he had a mistress; he lured his wife back to the middle of Tennessee to purposely get a U.S. divorce. He used all the resources available to a rich, white, male bully. Attributes, he knew, were useless in a Japanese divorce court.

This messy divorce story is more complex than one paragraph, but the fallout has highlighted a raft of human rights and emotional issues in Japan at a politically uncomfortable time. These include Japan's approach to child custody, childrens' rights, detention, and international law. In all, Japan appears out of sync with the practices and values of other modern industrialized countries. On October 16th, the Ambassadors of Australia, Canada, France, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States issued a joint statement asking Japan again to sign the Hague.

In the past, it was easy for Japanese to dismiss these complaints as Western assaults on Japanese customs and values. At worse, Japanese expressed resentment at the aggressive Western men who pressed these issues. Yet, Japanese practice is incongruent with many UN-sponsored treaties and conventions. The Hatoyama government now wants to champion the UN and show that it is responsible advocate of international human rights.

All this and time conspire against Dr. Campbell's plans to paper over these many inconvenience political and emotive differences between the U.S. and Japan. In mid-November, he has to ensure that the Obama-Hatoyama summit is a success. With the Alliance under review, the dollar sinking, North Korea hostile, Iran uncooperative, and cows still mad, Campbell has little positive to work with. He only has left the "soft" issues.

Thus, on Wednesday, October 21st, he will finally hold a "town hall" meeting with a number of left-behind American parents. On October 29th, he will be called to testify on the child abduction issue to a hearing before Congressman Bill Delahunt of the House Committee on International Organizations Human Rights and Oversight. All the countries where the Hague does not apply or is not enforced will be reviewed, but the hearing will likely highlight Japan. After all, Japan is the country with the second highest number of child abductions of American children, 101 in 2008. Mexico is first.

The back story to the arrest of the American father will be a spotlight on Japan's legal system, especially its incarceration and interrogation procedures. The pre-sentencing detention of the American father, and other Americans who tried to see their abducted children has not been pretty. This is not an unknown problem. Only now, it is a very public, nasty one.

In October 2008, the UN Human Rights Committee examined Japan’s detention system under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Committee reiterated concerns raised in 2007 by the Committee Against Torture that the daiyo kangoku (a system of pre-trial detention) did not comply with international standards. Concern was expressed that Japan's system, which allowed for the detention of suspects for 23 days with limited access to a lawyer increased the risk of abusive interrogation methods to obtain confessions. These are the same concerns voiced by the U.S. State Department's annual Human Rights report and Amnesty International's annual report.

Dr. Campbell is an Alliance Manager. To him, those issues of human security, whether they be legal protections or historical injustices, have little place in maintaining a military security alliance. Unfortunately, a shared enemy does not mean there are shared values. And with the Hatoyama Administration and its desire for a more independent foreign policy it is unclear if the U.S. and Japan still share an enemy.

Yet, it may be Japan's new interest in modern values that will save the Summit planning and the Alliance. If the U.S. and Japan can begin to cooperate on contemporary legal practices and empathize over their children and the weaker members of their societies, a stronger, deeper foundation can be built for an alliance that now only depends on a "cornerstone." And maybe, this will be the last time that Dr. Campbell judges something insignificant.

That's karma.

Friday, September 18, 2009

"For many years I was out of power"


Press Availability at U.S. Embassy Tokyo Auditorium

Kurt M. Campbell
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Tokyo, Japan
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.]

Friday, September 4, 2009

One Fine Fall Day

As I am still struggling to put a complete thought together, I will follow Our Man in Abiko’s strategy of borrowing content. In fact, I am going to borrow from him.

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.

To add to this lack of imagination, Asst. Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell
at the CSIS program 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.

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.

You can watch the video or get the transcript HERE.

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.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Washington Loves Elections

Washington loves elections: any country's elections. Commenting on these are much more fun than policymaking. No hard knowledge necessary, the expert merely needs a sense of "politics," an authoritative tone, and personality.

The City's election pundits seem to follow the same rules as those running for office. Get your name out there, don't commit to too much, throw out a few sound bites, and most important suck all the air out of the room. And the goal is to get invited back or at least on network TV.

As Japan's lower house parliamentary elections approach (August 30th) self-promotional pieces have appeared in the in-boxes of Washington's Asia crowd and foreign desk editors. I cannot bring myself to link to these vanity essays as they are a tired lot of hedging on a "new day dawning" and how it will damage the U.S.-Japan alliance--maybe.

And in case, the turgid prose does not impress, there is a flood of programs on Japan's elections next week. The announcements are actually cheat sheets for desperate news editors who need a talking head or a quote. Although the blogosphere is alive with speculation on the social and cultural implications of the vote as well as how women may be represented in the Cabinet and Diet, it is unlikely that the men speaking throughout the week will note those subjects. Yes, none of the programs below include women.

The first to advertise was SAIS's Resischauer Center with JAPAN’S HISTORIC GENERAL ELECTION: IMPLICATIONS FOR US-JAPAN RELATIONS on September 1st with the very tedious Professor Kent Calder and very dull former State Department Japan hand Rust Demming. Calder, however, is considered a bit of an outsider in Washington as he does not ascribe to Team Armitage.

The conservative American Enterprise Institute is hosting the next day, JAPAN’S ELECTION: DEMOCRATIC BREAKTHROUGH? with State's head of the Japan Desk Kevin Maher; University of Virginia political science professor Len Schoppa; and CSIS's Nick Szechenyi who is Mike Green's bag carrier. The moderator, of course, is AEI's Michael Auslin, who must have been annoyed as heck that immediately after his program CSIS is holding its own talk fest, albeit with bigger names.

Most likely to be on C-Span and Japanese TV will be CSIS's UNDERSTANDING JAPAN’S ELECTIONS: WHAT THE ELECTIONS MEAN FOR ASIA AND THE UNITED STATES. This invitation-only event (you need to be worthy) is moderated by CBS newsman Bob Schieffer and features CSIS's Japan Chair Mike Green and his former business partner and now Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell, with color commentary by the Tyler Brûlé (albeit with even more pretense and less talent) of Washington foreign policy pundits (he has long branched out from Japan) Steven Clemons, a blogger and fellow at the New America Foundation.

Coming in late on September 11th and having the audacity to charge ($25) but serving food is the joint Sasakawa Peace Foundation and Japan America Society of Washington POLITICAL CHANGE COMES TO JAPAN: WHAT LIES AHEAD with Columbia University's Gerald Curtis. Frankly, this is the only event maybe worth going to, but it is not free and after the news cycle.

Missing? Well there is Heritage, Brookings, Stimson, and the Council on Foreign Relations. The first two have weak Japan programs, and the latter two have small Japan programs headed by women: one pregnant and another a single mom--definitely not camera worthy.

With the exception of the Gerald Curtis talk, all the events are late afternoon and are unlikely to have even a cookie or a soda. How very disappointing.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Bully the Translator

Mike Green's July 7th interview with the Nihon Keizai Shimbun left the blogsphere and entered the rarefied atmosphere of the Asia policy cognoscenti on July 9th with a mention in the influential Nelson Report.

His statement that the U.S. should sell F-22s to Japan and F-15s to Taiwan left a few of his friends in Washington wondering. Both moves are potentially destabilizing to the region.

Green tried damage control in the Nelson Report on the 10th, with Mr. Nelson offering an apology for Mike having been mistranslated and misquoted. As Mike wrote in:
I assume you are referring to a Nikkei interview I did that was translated by the US Embassy in Tokyo. The interview was not about the F-22 per se and the editors garbled some of what I said. My position on this is not much different from Paul Giarra's.

We should have had a frank and detailed bilateral assessment with the JASDF of the tactical air threat and the shared capabilities and force structures we need to deal with China's rapid expansion of advanced fighter aircraft in the region. In that dialogue, we should have looked at all available options for Japan, including the F-22.

The outcome of the dialogue may very well have been that the F-22 is too expensive, too complicated, and too difficult for Japan to sustain. But we should not have started the dialogue by saying 'NO' on the F-22.

That is a far cry different from arguing that the United States 'must' sell the F-22 to Japan. You can quote this.
Why we need a "dialogue" when the answer is going to be the same as before the dialogue--NO--I don't understand. I guess there might be some economic benefit to the wining and dining and whoring that goes with the dialogue. Seems like a time waster to me and most women, however.

Anyway, it was a petty and nasty gesture to cover himself by blaming the hardworking U.S. Embassy translators. And strangely, like many Japanese, he believed that no one would go back to check the original Japanese.

The Monday, July 13th Nelson Report, proved otherwise. Nelson wrote:
However, Green said, he did not flat-out recommend "yes", as the newspaper originally reported.

Fair enough, running Mike's rebuttal we ended up leaving an impression that the excellent and invaluable US Embassy translation service in Tokyo may have messed this one up.

Not so!

We are reliably assured by two fluent Loyal Readers that they have compared the Japanese original with the English translation done by the Embassy ("should sell")...and, they say, Bill Brooks' Embassy service is 100% accurate to what appeared in the Tokyo press.

As to the original conversation, we will take Mike's word for what he says he meant.
Ok, but remember Mike was likely in Tokyo at the time meeting with clients, some for CSIS and some for his consulting company StratAsia. One does not care much what Mike says about anything regarding what the Obama Administration should or should not do. He is after all a Republican from a discredited regime.

However, his business partner was Kurt Campbell who is now assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. In fact, Campbell's bio is still up on StratAisa's website on the "Our Team" page.

The real question, therefore, is how much does Dr. Campbell share his friend's views on this issue and communicate them to Dr. Green.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Blow Out the Candle
Today, July 8th is Dr. Michael J. Green's birthday.

While some have celebrated CSIS's Japan Chair Dr. Green's birthday a bit early, I fear I am almost too late, just one minute to midnight.

It appears, however, that he is celebrating in Tokyo where his friends are. As Shisaku has noted, he is busy giving interviews to the Japanese press. Yes, they are tired old interviews with the same tired responses, but Tokyo loves the answers.

His many Japanese friends and clients probably felt assured that he was quick to mention the China threat and Tokyo's need for the F-22 Raptor. After noting* that he did not think China had much political power, he went on to observe:
But China's military buildup worries me. The reason is because the country has significantly increased its capabilities in such fields as satellites, cyberspace, and submarines. The aim is to demonstrate China's presence in the South China Sea, the Taiwan Strait, and the East China Sea. The United States should sell F-22 fighter jets to Japan and F-16s to Taiwan to maintain the power balance. It would be better for Japan, the United States, Australia, and India to conduct maritime exercises. There is a need to give the impression that the more China pursues its unclear military buildup, the tighter the solidarity among its neighboring countries will become.
This is what Green's hosts want to hear, but it is a dangerous declaration. Starting last week, there has been a rigorous debate publicly and privately about selling the F-22 to Japan. The answer is NO by the greater majority of government officials and analysts of Asian regional security issues. The discussion started by two CSIS Pacfic Forum newsletters played out on the pages of The Nelson Report and a number of defense-related publications, both open source and classified. All agreed that it was dangerous if not irresponsible to allow Tokyo to use the F-22s as a test of the U.S.-Japan Alliance and to give the Japanese the impression that it was possible and reasonable for them to acquire these advanced strategic aircraft.

In short, Dr. Green, formerly of the Bush Administration's National Security Council and best friends with the new Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Dr. Kurt Campbell, is providing misleading analysis to his Japanese friends. He is setting them up for disappointment, either by design or ignorance.

Thus, the birthday candle only for one.

LATER: *Sorry, but I neglected to note the newspaper citation for the Green interview. It is the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, July 7, 2009, p. 5.

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.

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.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Undermining Market Confidence

This evening, Kurt Campbell and his Center for a New American Security held a big briefing and small reception in the Willard Hotel to introduce his "bi-partisan" report on why Obama should rely on the same men who advised George Bush on Asia. The US and the Asia-Pacific Region: Security Strategy for the Obama Administration is the collective wisdom of five Washington think tanks, of which three are DoD affiliates and taxpayer funded.

But this is not the blog post to discuss the report, which was out-dated on delivery because of the global economic crisis. Anyway, far more witty and knowledgeable bloggers will do that.

Instead I want to relate to you a story of regional cooperation told at the briefing by Dr. Patrick Cronin, director of the Institute for National Security Studies at the National Defense University.

Dr. Cronin talking about, I think, how economics was bringing Asians together, used a quintessential Washington-point-making strategy (if you are keeping score), he noted a conversation he had with MR. TARO ASO THE PRIME MINISTER OF JAPAN AT DAVOS. Gosh, an unlikely foreign leader talking to an obscure think tanker at an important conference. I almost did not listen to the story I was so overwhelmed.

"Cronin-san," TARO ASO said.
"You would not believe what just happened. I was with Chinese President Hu Jin-tao. He saw me and grabbed two chairs and asked me to come sit and talk with him. He told me about how important it was to cooperate on economic issues and asked me to discuss with him the economy. And he sat there and took notes while I talked.
Never would I have believed that the President of China would sit and listen to a Japanese prime minister."

Now, I am not sure if I got every word correct of Dr. Cronin's anecdote, but the general idea was that Prime Minister Aso, the fresh prince of Tokyo, was explaining economics to the head of the largest country on earth.

Now you know why I could not get near the bar at the reception.