Japan from the inside out

Rocket science

Posted by ampontan on Monday, April 20, 2009

THERE’S AN OLD AXIOM that events reveal character rather than shape it. The wisdom of that adage was demonstrated yet again with the recent North Korean launch of a missile over Japan into the Pacific Ocean.

Pyeongyang claimed they launched a satellite into earth orbit, and if anyone doubted their word, they could tune in to 470 MHz and listen to the music it was broadcasting from outer space.

The response of various individuals, political parties, nations, and global institutions to the event will do nothing to change North Korean behavior, but did everything to reveal their identity.

For example, the Japanese government wanted a unanimous Diet resolution condemning the launch of the North Korean missile–except they didn’t call it a missile at first. That’s because the multi-stage transportation device sitting on the launch pad had a bulb-shaped nose of the type used to launch satellites, rather than the conical-shaped nose of the type used to deliver warheads.

The United States avoided the nomenclature problem by choosing not to call it anything at all. They just referred to the incident as the North Korean “launch”.

The Japanese initially called it a hishotai (飛翔体) or “flying object”. All the newspapers helpfully included the pronunciation of the unfamiliar word for its readers. Presumably an aide did the same for Prime Minister Aso.

So rather than call a spade a spade and report that the North Koreans were gassing up a missile, the United States and Japan chose to be politically correct with the least PC regime on the planet and regard the potential weapon as an IFO: Identified Flying Object.

Regardless of whether the North Koreans were launching a satellite or conducting an experiment to determine the effect of zero gravity on kimchi, Japan, the United States, Britain, and France objected because the missile could just as easily have been used to deliver a nuclear device. With Iranians observed hanging out at the launch site, it was unlikely that the point of the exercise was to create the Joseon version of the Sirius radio network.

But the Japanese government failed to get the united front it sought from the Diet. The opposition Democratic Party of Japan was willing to cooperate (for a change), as was an allied splinter group known as the People’s New Party. The objections came from other quarters instead.

The Communist Party of Japan

Japan’s Communist Party voted against the resolution for two reasons:

  • First, they said, there should be no determination that the North Koreans launched a missile. They bought the IFO cover story and stuck with it.
  • Their second reason was the premise that if the North Koreans had actually launched a missile, it should not be considered in violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution.

Here’s part of the text of UN Security Council Resolution 1718:

The Security Council…demands that the DPRK not conduct any further nuclear test or launch of a ballistic missile.

Maybe the JCP meant some other Security Council resolution.

The opposition of the JCP didn’t come as any surprise—this isn’t rocket science, after all. Unlike their Red brethren elsewhere, they still choose to call themselves communists almost 20 years after the Berlin Wall was dismantled brick by brick. They’ll stick up for their comrades in the few remaining shards of the international movement and pretend that the North Koreans have (or need) a space program–even if it means putting the lives of their fellow citizens at risk.

Social Democratic Party

Unlike the JCP, the Social Democratic Party of Japan actually did change their name. They traveled as the Socialist Party until 1996. But despite the rebranding, their policies are still a mix-and-match of the Red-Green combinations often seen throughout Europe on the left.

The SDP abstained from the resolution, which shouldn’t have come as a surprise either. The party retained favorable references to Karl Marx in their platform right up until they changed their name. They maintained close ties with the North Korean government and denied for decades that the North Koreans were abducting Japanese nationals until Kim Jong-il made them look like fools by publicly admitting it. One of their representatives in the lower house of the Diet, Tsujimoto Kiyomi, started a program of Peace Boat cruises to Pyeongyang in her youth, and there is circumstantial evidence that she made financial contributions to the Japanese Red Army terrorist group.

When the Diet passed a resolution asking the North Koreans to show restraint before they launched its IFO, the SDP Diet Policy Committee convened a meeting with all members present and—with a straight face–formulated the following questions:

  1. Will it be possible to determine whether it is a flying object, a missile, or a satellite?
  2. Is it a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions?
  3. Will strengthening sanctions have an effect on the six-party talks?

In the third question, the SDP was referring to the six-party talks that the North Koreans walked out of and aren’t participating in. Therefore, it wasn’t clear what the SDP meant by “effect”.

Democratic Party of Japan

The SDP abstention caused some to head for the liquor cabinet earlier than usual at the headquarters of the primary opposition group, the Democratic Party of Japan. That’s because they expect the SDP to be a junior partner in a DPJ-led coalition government if they can cobble one together after the next lower house election.

But the problem is obvious—the Japanese people will not be happy about the participation in government of a party incapable of fulfilling the primary mandate of national defense. Even the Ozawa Ichiro-led DPJ, which never lets principle get in the way of taking power, found this too much to stomach.

One of the more moderate DPJ members told the vernacular edition of the Yomiuri Shimbun:

“This has created doubts once again whether it would be a good idea to have them join a coalition. We should quickly sever our ties with them.”

While a former socialist MP in the DPJ told them:

“I thought it would be a good idea to merge with them eventually, but now I’ll have to rethink that.”

Let’s hope he does. Why did it take the North Korean launch of an IFO to reveal that elements in the DPJ were considering nuptials with a vanity party whose platform is an expression of the inability to come to terms with the real world? Why would they consider a merger with the SDP to begin with? How Japan could conduct a coherent foreign policy ruled by a party that includes (a) people who would amend Article 9 of the Constitution to enable Japan more leeway in military action and (b) former Socialists who wet their pants when they find out that Japanese soldiers might be allowed to carry arms for protection on peacekeeping missions, is something the DPJ doesn’t seem to have thought through.

And why should it require much thought? It isn’t exactly rocket science.

But it seems that some politicians can’t stoop too low to pick up an additional seven out of 480 lower house seats and five out of 242 upper house seats.

Of course both parties said they were opposed to the launch of whatever object it was that was flying over Japanese territory, and expressed their regrets. The JCP added that Japan’s sanctions on North Korea were a hindrance to a diplomatic resolution, even though the recognition of sanctions is also part of the same UN Security Council resolution they’re confused about.

The Aso administration

Someone in the LDP and the Aso administration finally spent a little time studying rocket science. Chief Cabinet Minister Kawamura Takeo stopped playing pretend and began calling the IFO a missile on the 10th. He had been referring to it as “a flying object related to a missile”.

Mr. Kawamura gave the following reasons for the change (other than embarrassment at using such a silly expression):

  1. Because there was no satellite and it was the launch of a missile in contravention of the resolution.
  2. The time of launch was different than announced. The North Koreans said the launch was at 11:20 a.m., but both the U.S. and Japan said it was ten minutes later.
  3. There were no musical broadcasts from a satellite at 470 MHz, as claimed by North Korea.
  4. The technology for rockets and missiles is the same.

They could have saved themselves and everyone else a lot of hot air by sticking to number four in that list before the launch–nothing would have changed. Except maybe North Korea will know better next time than to play footloose and fancy free with a ten-minute gap in missile launch announcements.

Despite its euphemism problems, the Japanese government understands that national defense is a priority and that the IFO could just as easily have dropped a dirty bomb on downtown Tokyo instead of a big stink in the middle of the Pacific. While the government was deciding how to deal with the situation, the North Korean Central News Agency quoted an unidentified North Korean general who said that Japan would be struck with a “thunderbolt of fire” if it attempted to intercept the rocket.

Chinese President Hu Jintao suggested that Japan handle the situation calmly, though President Hu and the rest of the Chinese leadership surely wouldn’t have been so calm had the North Korean IFO sailed west instead of east. And you know what they would think if they were threatened with a thunderbolt of fire by the likes of the Kim Family Regime.

Mr. Hu needn’t have worried; after all, Japan is the least bellicose of all the countries in Northeast Asia. They took what passes for the responsible course in today’s world by asking the UN Security Council to condemn the launch.

The United Nations

If there is a better description of the UN than institutionalized smoke and mirrors, I can’t think of one. Japan wanted the UN to cite North Koreans for violating Security Council Resolution 1718 of 2006. That 2006 resolution condemned the North’s multiple ballistic missile launches eastward into the Pacific and reaffirmed its own resolutions 825 of 11 May 1993 and 1540 of 28 April 2004.

That’s one heck of a lot of resolutions already, but evidently not enough. Japan was joined by the United States, Britain, and France in calling for yet another Security Council resolution condemning the launch. This time for sure!

The U.S. submitted a draft that also gave the North Koreans the benefit of the doubt by not specifying whether the launch was of a satellite or missile. They didn’t bother with the flying object business—they just called it a launch and left the rest to everyone’s imagination.

They also wanted the Security Council to designate entities and goods that should be subject to sanctions, though the U.N. has not enforced sanctions against North Korea since Resolution 1718 was passed in October 2006.

See what I mean about smoke and mirrors?

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said the draft was a:

“…strong message to the DPRK that their violation of international law will not be treated with impunity”.

Ms. Rice is new at the job, and so can be forgiven for not realizing that this is exactly the sort of situation that China and Russia treat with impunity. Far from even “condemning” the launch, neither country could bring themselves to approve a draft resolution that viewed the launch with “concern”.

Just a failed launch of a radio satellite, right? What’s to worry about?

Well, what no one has the moxie to say out loud, particularly those deluded enough to think the United Nations has a serious geopolitical role to play: Both of those countries want North Korea to launch those missiles. It creates international havoc and reveals the resolve, or lack of it, of the government currently in power in the United States. They approve because it allows North Korea to project destabilizing power in the region, which works to their advantage.

Modern China has never taken a positive step to benefit the international geopolitical order in its existence, and Russia hasn’t since the Soviet Union was among the first countries to recognize the state of Israel more than 60 years ago. (Some suspect the Soviets acted quickly to drive a wedge between America and Britain, but that’s another story.)

Rather than serve as a positive force in the world, China and Russia choose to act as malefactors who employ their privileged status in the U.N. to promote their own hegemonic interests, and everyone knows it.

It’s not difficult to understand. This isn’t rocket science, after all.

The United States

During last year’s American presidential election campaign, vice-presidential candidate Joseph Biden was banished to the political broom closet after admitting that a victory by his ticket would result in an international crisis in the first six months of office fomented by nations trying to test American mettle. Mr. Biden is best known as a chucklehead incapable of original thought and only a passing acquaintance with historical accuracy, but as they say, even a broken alarm clock is right twice a day.

So, how did the new President respond to the IFO launch that was obviously designed to see how he would respond?

His first step was to issue a statement with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak that agreed on “a stern, united response from the international community if North Korea launches a long-range rocket.”

Then North Korea launched the rocket, and his stern response turned out to be issuing another statement. That one said:

“The launch today of a Taepo-dong 2 missile was a clear violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718, which expressly prohibits North Korea from conducting ballistic missile-related activities of any kind…I urge North Korea to abide fully by the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council.”

In other words, Mr. Obama said that the North Koreans violated a UN resolution adopted in part because the North Korean violated two previous resolutions, so he “urges” them not to violate any more resolutions.

That surely eased the concerns of the Japanese defense establishment.

His statement also said:

“We will immediately consult with…members of the U.N. Security Council to bring this matter before the Council.”

In response, the Chinese and Russians told the other members that demanding North Korea behave responsibly was going to get their butts vetoed and to cut out this stern response crap immediately–which of course they did.

Meanwhile, Mr. Obama thought this presented an excellent opportunity for the world to reduce nuclear weapons, so he offered to kickstart the effort by cutting the U.S. stockpile. His reasoning is that going first will encourage other countries to support American efforts to denuclearize North Korea and Iran.

Is it just me, or has there been a sharp increase in unintentional humor coming out of the U.S. government lately?

The U.S., Japan, and South Korea insisted that North Korea was really testing ballistic missile technology. Even the Japanese finally called the missile a missile. But Ambassador Rice said:

“The U.S. view is that what likely was on top of that missile with ballistic missile technology was a failed satellite. I think most members of the council have come to the same conclusion.”

After she had initially said:

“We think that what was launched is not the issue; the fact that there was a launch using ballistic missile technology is itself a clear violation.”

How wonderful that someone in American government is studying rocket science! Now they can pursue a more nuanced foreign policy after eight years of that godawful cowboy diplomacy. What an improvement over the previous goofball, who actually said that North Korea was part of an Axis of Evil. With Iran. With whom it is sharing missile and nuclear weapons technology. Who sent technicians to North Korea to witness the launch of the IFO. And who in turn is talking about sharing all the technology with Sudan.

Japan and the United Nations, Part Two

To its credit, the Japanese government stuck to its guns and achieved a victory of sorts when it convinced the Chinese to back a Statement by the President of the Security Council condemning the launch. The U.N. still couldn’t bring itself to actually mention what was launched, however.

Most of the U.N. membership thinks a Security Council resolution is legally binding, despite the fact that they aren’t binding enough to stop North Korea from missile launches. So to alleviate the Chinese lack of concern, the solution was to issue a presidential statement, which most think isn’t legally binding. (Russia is an interesting exception.)

The President of the Security Council, incidentally, is that renowned international statesman Claude Heller of Mexico. Well, he is for April, anyway. If the IFO launch had come a month earlier, the President-for-a-Month would have been Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgham, the Permanent Representative of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya to the United Nations.

So in other words, the Presidential Statement was issued by an empty chair that time-servers take turns sitting in on a monthly basis to read documents written by other people and ignored by the people to whom they’re addressed.

This particular statement is particularly butch—it says that North Korea is in contravention of a Security Council resolution, which will come as a shock to the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party of Japan. It also demands that North Korea forego additional launches and calls on all Member States to comply fully with their obligations under the resolution.

That last part is unlikely to happen, because the Member States are already are ignoring the current call for sanctions from the previous Security Council resolution. You know—the legally binding one.

The new statement says the council agrees to expand the sanctions of the 2006 resolution. The old one ordered a financial freeze on the assets of companies and groups related to North Korean programs for nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and other weapons of mass destruction. It also banned the sale of certain goods for those programs.

Unfortunately, no one got around to putting any North Korean companies or organizations on the list of groups subject to sanctions. But the U.S. and Japan say they’re making one now. And checking it twice.

Prime Minister Aso Taro took credit for his government talking the Chinese into backing the statement, assisted by the South Korean government. Russia, however, said the credit should go to China and the United States. That must make Japan the Rodney Dangerfield of governments—it can’t get any respect even when it does accomplish something. Then again, the Russians would sooner bite off their tongues than give credit to the Japanese for anything.

North Korea

Everyone is trying to pretend that some mythical “international community” has now sent a message slapping down the North Koreans by calling for the early resumption of the six-party talks, while the council hopes “for a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the situation” and “the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”

Instead, North Korea said it won’t participate any more in the six-party talks it already isn’t participating in and would start reassembling the nuclear facilities it had been dismantling.

Not that this response should have surprised anyone. This isn’t rocket science, after all.

Meanwhile, North Korea got to test its missile technology, even though the “international community” warned them before not to. Several times. It would seem they should consider themselves warned again. Until their next IFO launch.

Ozawa Ichiro

In the end, however, the one exposed as the flimsiest of paper tigers was Ozawa Ichiro, the head of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan. We’ve already seen that he thinks it’s a capital idea to welcome into a coalition government the SDP, whose domestic policy is fatuous Euro-leftism and whose foreign policy borders on the traitorous.

But there’s another aspect that his supporters and sycophants abroad avoid mentioning: Though Mr. Ozawa’s policies have changed as frequently throughout the years as the footwear of a female undergraduate trying on new shoes, he has consistently maintained one position. That is the condition that any Japanese contribution to military action overseas be subject to UN Security Council approval.

In other words, Mr. Ozawa would outsource one of the most critical and sensitive parts of Japanese foreign policy to China and Russia. It’s bad enough that a nation would give a foreign policy voice to another country to begin with, but it’s downright irrational when that voice—and veto power—is freely bestowed on two countries whose primary objective is to sabotage Japan’s interests.

This shouldn’t be hard to understand. It’s not rocket science, after all.

In fact, during a press conference last week, the Japanese mass media told Mr. Ozawa that he had some explaining to do. Here’s their question and Mr. Ozawa’s answer.


There was a declaration by the President of the Security Council in regard to the North Korean missile problem. Japan’s claims were included in the text, but the form was a Presidential Declaration and not a resolution. You’ve said (in the past) that we should not pointlessly take a hard line approach, but hold serious talks with China and Russia instead. What do you think of this Presidential Declaration?


Well, I think the content of the Presidential Declaration alone has some tough content, and as a result, I think that as a result, it will have its own effect. But it’s not binding, and for this North Korean problem, when the Security Council was convened to deal with it, the opinions of China and Russia just could not be reconciled, so it wound up being a Presidential Declaration. So, as you know from this process, both China and Russia, as you would expect, have an enormous amount of influence, particularly China, but I suspect that probably the Chinese thinking is the basic stance of maintaining the status quo on the Korean peninsula. Therefore, as a current issue, changing (the status quo) itself would be extremely difficult. But, I think they do not feel like cutting North Korea adrift, so I think it’s absolutely necessary to gain the cooperation and understanding of China and Russia, and China in particular, so that they don’t play the nuclear and missile card, the dangerous “playing with fire” card. Therefore, in that sense, Japan…well, the U.S. and China have the most influence on North Korea, and on China (sic), but Japan, in different ways, has a longer and more diverse relationship with the thinking of the people of China and the Korean Peninsula, more so than the U.S. In that sense, I have the feeling that perhaps Japan must play an even greater role.

That’s the explanation of a man who has been a member of the national legislature for 40 years, desperate to become prime minster before he heads to the big Nagato-cho in the sky, and defending the only policy he has consistently maintained throughout his political career.

Maybe he should take a tip from Mr. Obama and bring a Teleprompter to his news conferences.

For sticking with a domestic coalition strategy and a foreign policy that everyone knows is doomed to failure, the man must be considered the Japanese political version of Lucky Pierre. He’s getting it coming and going.

One Internet commentator thought the North Korean IFO launch wasn’t such a big deal after all because nothing bad happened.

Nothing bad? The launch revealed the treachery of the JCP and the SDP, the DPJ’s willingness to sleep with the picayune SDP on the off-chance it could help them gain power, Ozawa Ichiro’s incomprehensible faith in the Security Council, and the pie-in-the-sky silliness and irrelevance of the current American government. It provided another opportunity for the Chinese and Russian governments to demonstrate what they stand for. And it also exposed the pointlessness of relying on the United Nations for anything other than getting a free parking space in downtown Manhattan.

Events do reveal character rather than shape it, do they not?

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