Letter bombs (12): They’re just filled with secrets
Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, October 19, 2010
READER PaxAmericana asks me if I have any “thoughts on the bit in Aera about the secret pact between China and Japan regarding how to handle incidents in that area (The Senkakus).”
He’s referring to an article in the weekly Aera, which is described in this AFP article:
Aera magazine reported that under Japan’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party, which ruled for half a century until last year, Tokyo and Beijing had made “secret promises” to each other over the territorial issue.
“Under the secret promises, Japan was in principle to prevent landings (of Chinese nationals) on the islets and not to detain them unless it develops into a case of grave concerns,” the magazine said, citing unnamed government sources.
“The Chinese side promised to block (anti-Japanese) protesters’ boats from sailing off to reach the islands,” the weekly added.
In an illustrative case, Japan in 2004 immediately deported seven Chinese activists who had landed on one of the rocky islands, Aera said.
When power changed in Japan last summer, the earlier promises may not have been mentioned to the new centre-left Democratic Party of Japan government, an unnamed government source was quoted as saying by Aera.
Here they are, PA:
One of the nicknames the Japanese media has given Prime Minister Kan Naoto is “Nige-Kan”. The nige means “escape, evasion, flight”. In other words, stepping up and taking responsibility for its actions is not high on the Kan Cabinet agenda. That goes double for this issue, which might have inflicted a fatal wound on both the Cabinet and the party.
Note that this story is from an “unnamed government source” (i.e., someone in the DPJ) who says the promises “may not have been mentioned”.
It strikes me as a third-rate attempt at CYA for several reasons..
First, one would have to assume that the agreement was known only to a few at LDP party headquarters. Does that mean the secret was communicated through personal contact as in some initiation rite?
One would also have to assume that no one else in government circles knew, particularly anyone in the Foreign Ministry. That is implausible on the face of it. The article cites the 2004 incident in which the Koizumi Administration deported seven Chinese bravos after they landed on one of the islets.
That was six years ago. No one in the Koizumi administration told anyone in the Foreign Ministry the reason for its handling of the incident?
Other sources say this is similar to the secret deals made between the LDP governments and the U.S. to allow American ships to carry nuclear weapons when in Japan. The practice stopped in the 1990s. The new DPJ government turned up the documents for these secret deals after it assumed office. Where did they find them?
In file cabinets at the Foreign Ministry.
In addition, it has been widely reported in Japan that the Kan Administration intentionally did not follow the Koizumi precedent (though many second-guessers thought they should have) because they believed it was an extra-legal action and therefore improper. They wanted to impress on the Chinese that they were a nation governed by the rule of law. Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku Yoshito—seen by many as the real power in government—insisted on it. Again, this report has been all over the Japanese media.
Also, Foreign Minister Maehara Seiji was anxious to demonstrate a tougher attitude toward the Chinese and insisted on detaining and arresting the captain. (Mr. Sengoku was apparently ambivalent about the arrest.) Yet again, this report has been all over the Japanese press.
Further, the sea captain was not arrested immediately after he was detained. That decision was made in Tokyo several hours later. (About 8-12 hours later, IIRC. In fact, the sequence of events and the timing is another matter of contention. At first, it appeared that Mr. Kan wasn’t even told about the arrest for six hours, but the DPJ is now trying to rearrange the history.) The DPJ did not conduct the due diligence required during that interval, including consultation with the Foreign Ministry?
Still further, if there was a secret deal, the Chinese knew about it too. They summoned the Japanese ambassador to complain about the arrest six times. It would be elementary common sense to assume that the first thing the Chinese would have done is to ask the ambassador, or anyone else, through back channels, “Hey! What about our deal?”
If you believe the Aera account, you would have to assume either the Chinese didn’t do that, or that the Kan government ignored them when it did.
Finally, little leaks through a second-tier magazine published by the politically friendly Asahi group is not the DPJ modus operandi. They’re not that subtle–they’d have made a much bigger deal out of it than that, either in a more widely read publication, or bringing it out in the open themselves. Their very legitimacy is at stake.
To return for a second to the secret deals over the nuclear weapons, the reason the new DPJ government found the documents is that they already knew about the stories that such deals existed and created a panel to make a specific search. But we’re supposed to believe they didn’t know anything about a deal regarding the Senkakus.
Keep in mind, this is the same government that has been saying all along they had nothing to do with the release of the ship captain—it was a decision by Okinawa prosecutors. Also, the Japanese Coast Guard recorded a video of the incident, yet Prime Minister Kan still insists he’s never watched it. And Prime Minister Kan just happened to bump into Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in a Brussels hallway a couple of weeks ago.
Credibility is something else that’s not high on the Kan Cabinet agenda.
On the other hand:
There are also reports—again, all over the Japanese media—that the DPJ is upset with the Foreign Ministry as a result of frictions that occurred over the issue of moving the Futenma Base in Okinawa during the Hatoyama Administration, and that Mr. Kan and Mr. Sengoku decided to keep the Foreign Ministry out of the loop. The DPJ government wanted to make all the decisions this time without any input from the bureaucrats.
Therefore, the Foreign Ministry would have had no chance to tell the Cabinet about any secret deal. If true, that would mean the government was hoist by its own petard.
Meanwhile, in other news, the Foreign Policy website is rapidly becoming the “stay-away-from” site for people interested in reading about Japan. Joshua Keating writes:
(I)t’s certainly starting to seem like the LDP had been trying to avoid public outcry on some of Japan’s most contentious foreign-policy issues and that after decades of unquestioned rule, didn’t anticipate having to let the opposition in on the secret.
Memo to Foreign Policy: Slurping up the froth off English-language journalism about Japan is no substitute for spending some time—a lot of it—with the original sources.
Here’s one more thing to consider. The AFP article calls the LDP “conservative” and the DPJ “center-left” (though left-center is more like it). The extent to which the MSM will go to discredit any government or group of the first persuasion and deflect criticism from any government or group of the second persuasion should not be underestimated. It is always a factor in their coverage.