The three noes
Posted by ampontan on Friday, March 19, 2010
WHEN THE Democratic Party of Japan was in the opposition, their critics often charged they couldn’t be entrusted with the reins of power because their members were irresponsible kvetchers capable only of fomenting political crises. Observing their behavior when they became the largest party in the upper house following the 2007 election, Ibuki Bunmei of the Liberal Democratic Party famously commented that they behaved like a bunch of grade-school boys with a loaded pistol.
After the DPJ formed a government, they devoted considerable energy to search for any secret agreements with the United States that permitted American military forces to pass through Japanese territory carrying nuclear weapons without prior consultation. That would have violated Japan’s so-called three nonnuclear principles of not producing, not possessing, and not allowing nuclear weapons on its territory.
Japanese governments successively denied the existence of any such agreements, most recently under the last LDP government of Aso Taro. The DPJ kept looking, however, because they—and everyone else—assumed the governments were lying. It’s somewhat analogous to the case of Israel and nuclear weapons. That country wisely chooses to neither confirm nor deny that it has them, but most people take it for granted that they do.
The DPJ is now pleased as punch they discovered a secret agreement did exist from 1960 to 1991, when the U.S. Navy stopped deploying nuclear weapons on its ships.
One of their senior members, Japan Teachers’ Union veteran Koshi’ishi Azuma, has been especially generous in his self-congratulation. He crowed that the discovery was “one of the successes of the change of government.” There is some irony to his pride; Mr. Koshi’ishi was opposed last year to inspecting North Korean vessels suspected of transporting missile parts or nuclear materials. He said the Aso government should be inspected instead.
In other words, it’s terrible when Washington does it, particularly to protect Tokyo, but it’s no big deal if Pyeongyang does it to help obliterate Tel Aviv.
Leave it to Eda Kenji of Your Party to put the DPJ attitude in perspective:
The exposure of the secret treaty between Japan and the United States is not insignificant. History will bear this out as a positive achievement.
But I do wish people would wipe off those smug expressions as if they were conquering heroes for opening the lid to Pandora’s Box, even though they are incapable of basic diplomacy, or a forward-looking diplomacy with a broader strategy, while piling blunder on top of blunder with the Futenma Base issue. Courage is certainly needed, but if one has courage, opening the lid is an easy matter.
There have been similar instances in the past, such as the exposure of the files in which was hidden information about the AIDS cases caused by contaminated blood products, or the den of corruption involving the secret entertainment expenses of the bureaucracy. That in itself is needed, but politicians such as these are incapable of the more complicated and difficult task of “creating”.
But soft! What flicker of intelligence through yonder window breaks? It is Foreign Minister Okada Katsuya, offering his opinion this week at a session of the lower house Foreign Affairs Committee.
During the session, Mr. Okada reaffirmed that the Hatoyama administration was committed to the three non-nuclear principles, but said:
In those instances in which a situation arises that Japan’s safety cannot be defended unless we temporarily allow ships with nuclear weapons into our ports, the government at that time should resolve to risk its own fate, and explain to the people (how best to protect the country).
In other words, a Japanese government could allow a temporary exception in case of emergency.
He added that the government is not thinking of writing the non-nuclear principles into law as demanded by—natch—the Social Democratic Party of Japan, one of their junior coalition partners.
One problem is how to guarantee that Russian and Chinese ships carrying nuclear weapons do not cross Japanese territorial waters. Unless problems such as these are clearly settled, it will not be possible to make that legally binding.
Bully for Mr. Okada. There is sentient life in this government after all.
But that seems to have been too much for some people. Apparently the DPJ has a three-no policy of its own: Do not say, do, or allow anyone else to say or do anything sensible or of practical utility.
At a news briefing that afternoon, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirano Hirofumi was none too pleased with the foreign minister:
The government is not in a position to allow that. Prime Minister Hatoyama has said we will maintain the three non-nuclear principles…I don’t think (Mr. Okada was saying) that we would allow that…but I don’t know what sort of emergency he’s talking about. The government must refrain from making references about hypothetical cases.
The function of the Chief Cabinet Secretary in Japan is to serve as a coordinator among the members of the Cabinet and the ruling party or parties.
It would be understandable if one of the junior coalition members had said something out of line, particularly as the two in the tow of the DPJ seem to relish making life difficult for the government. But Mr. Okada and Mr. Hirano are senior members of the same party, and they should have reached a consensus on an issue this critical long before they came to power. It doesn’t seem as if Mr. Hirano is doing much in the way of coordinating.
It’s been six months since the DPJ formed a government. Considering that its approval ratings have fallen from 72% then to 32% now, it would seem the electorate no longer expects the DPJ to act like one.