Japan from the inside out


Posted by ampontan on Sunday, April 15, 2012

SOME wise guys in China think they know the reason for the failure of the North Korean missile launch on Friday after seeing a Chinese news agency photo of the North’s control room. Here’s the photo, which shows a computer monitor at the top, and an enlargement below of what they suspect is the logo visible at the bottom left hand corner of the monitor.

The first four characters are 家電下郷. That’s the name of a Chinese stimulus program for providing subsidies to people living in agricultural villages to purchase consumer electronics equipment. The phrase on the enlarged sticker identifies the location as a designated shop selling that equipment.

Some on the Chinese Internet wondered whether it was aggressive salesmanship on their part or aggressive purchasing on the Koreans’ part. As you might expect, the comment sections became Comedy Central:

* “So, North Korea is a Chinese agricultural village?”

* “North Korea is China’s largest agricultural village.”

* “North Korea is part of a Chinese agricultural village that can’t be subdivided.”

* “Ah, so it was Chinese-made. Now we know why the launch failed.”

* One person replaced the character for village or township (郷) in the logo 家電下郷 with the characters for North Korea: 家電下北朝鮮

* “The rocked was launched with Chinese tax money.”

Some people in Japan also saw the humorous aspects of the situation. The political cartoonist in my local newspaper replaced the North Korean missile with a caricature of Kim Jong-eun and showed him veering off course after being launched.

Most Japanese, however, were angry rather than amused. The following timeline explains the reason.

7:38:55: The missile was launched.

7:40: The missile exploded and fell into the sea. This was confirmed by an American early warning satellite. The American confirmation of the launch was communicated to the South Koreans and the Japanese before the missile failure.

7:42: The failure was immediately relayed to the crisis center in the Kantei (Japan’s White House), and to Prime Minister Noda and Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura Osamu in the prime minister’s office.

7:50: South Korean television reported the launch and its failure.

8:03: The Japanese crisis center issued its first report, which was sent to local governments using the Em-Net system: “We are unable to confirm the launch of the missile”.

Yonemura Toshiro, deputy chief cabinet secretary for crisis management, was assigned responsibility for making all official government announcements. It was his decision to send that message with that content. For some reason, he thought there was confusion between the information received internationally and that received domestically, so he decided to be cautious. He didn’t tell Mr. Fujimura what he did.

8:10: The South Korean government announced the failed launch.

8:16: The Defense Ministry reported the launch to the crisis management center.

8:23: Defense Minister Tanaka Naoki suddenly appeared before the media and read a short statement announcing the failed launch of a “flying object”. He left without taking questions.

Had the missile not failed, it would have taken about 10 minutes to enter Japanese airspace. Mr. Fujimura later explained they were “double-checking”. That’s what they had decided to do in advance before making any statements.

The crisis management center personnel complained of delays in receiving radar information from the Self-Defense Forces. Noted the Yomiuri Shimbun:

“The process was designed so that the center would be notified only when all necessary pieces of information became available. As a result, the government missed the opportunity to use the J-Alert system, which instantly transmits emergency warnings across the country, as the system cannot be activated until the information is received by the center.

“Though the J-Alert was considered an important tool for the government to quickly warn the public, the utilization of the system was hampered.”

Shortly after 10:00: Mr. Noda was angry, and he has a reputation for keeping his temper. He told aides, “We need to be more clear,” especially because they received the proper information promptly.

But the government was prepared for any eventuality. Here’s a photograph taken in Tokyo at 10:56, about three hours later:

The excuses started not long thereafter. Tarutoko Shinji, acting DPJ secretary general, said,

“It probably fell before it came into view of Japanese radar. This happened before it could have had an effect on Japan, so our initial response was not delayed.”

Said Mr. Fujimura:

“We had to verify it, including what content we should release and whether it should have been released.”

He added that they were being cautious because the government relayed info on Em-Net after North Korea’s previous missile launch in 2009, though the information hadn’t officially reached them yet. Finally, he explained that:

“The principle is to provide information when there’s danger of damage to Japan.”

No one was relieved.

Mr. Tanaka spoke to the media on evening of 13th:

“The defense ministry and the SDF performed its mission to protect the lives and property of the people against the launch.”

The Defense Minister didn’t show up for work on the 14th, as he had no official duties. It was left to Deputy Defense Minister Watanabe Shu to submit to interviews by six television programs. The most likely reason Mr. Watanabe was sent to make the rounds is that Mr. Tanaka is already viewed as buffoon by the opposition politicians and the media alike. (He was chosen for the post because his wife Makiko is an ally of Ozawa Ichiro, and Mr. Noda thought preventing a split in the party was more important than competence.) After a series of misstatements that revealed his ignorance of security matters, he’s been refusing invitations to deliver speeches.

Mr. Watanabe explained they weren’t able to eliminate all the possibilities right away, including the firing of a different, short range missile. He also said there were concerns that the North might fire off more missiles, and that a crisis could result if South Korea tried to recover the missile parts and the North tried to block them.

Despite those concerns, the government ordered the withdrawal of the recently assigned Land Self-Defense Forces from Okinawa with a swiftness that surprised the military men on the ground.

The reaction at the Seetell website summed up the national sentiment:

“The Japanese government spent the better part of 3 weeks preparing for the launch of a North Korean rocket, cancelling an annual cherry blossom party this weekend, ringing Tokyo with anti-missile batteries and positioning Self-Defense Forces on land and sea, all the while telling the public to remain calm. It even created one of its infamous but, apparently, ineffective expert panels for the event. Yet, despite this advanced preparation and hype, and in an inept replay of its failure to use the SPEEDI system to warn the public about the spread of radiation from Fukushima just one year ago, the government botched it.”

It’s even worse than that: Those were Aegis-equipped ships and Patriot anti-missile systems deployed in Tokyo and Okinawa to prepare for the launch. But:

“While the government was “double-check(ing)” the event was already over. While the government was “double-check(ing)” the rocket was fulfilling its destiny. It is only fortunate for this inept, elitist, consensus-driven, and always politically opportunistic government that the rocket disintegrated minutes after liftoff, falling harmlessly into the sea.

“The end result is that all this preparation was for nothing. All the hype was for nothing. All of the wasted money was for nothing. The government wanted to be seen as organized, commanding, and ready to defend the nation while sending a strong message to neighboring nations that Japan could not be bullied. Instead, the Japanese government got about the same result as the North Korean government, a failed attempt at political chest thumping.”

LDP Diet Affairs Chairman Kishida Fumio wants to conduct an investigation in the Diet to determine what happened. He discussed that with his counterpart Jojima Koriki of the ruling DPJ. Mr. Jojima told him:

“No parts from the missile fell into Japanese waters, so there’s no need for a Diet review.”

Others slammed the government’s continuing preference for keeping secrets about serious matters from the people, as they did during the Senkakus incident with China and the nuclear accident at Fukushima.

Here’s Seetell again:

“The evidence shows that this government, from politicians to bureaucrats, is not capable, either because of lack of intelligence or lack of ability or lack of a moral compass or simple unwillingness, to protect the Japanese people. The truth is that the greatest danger facing the Japanese people is not the Chinese red menace or the isolated North Koreans, but the Japanese government itself.”

Indeed, one could make a case that the DPJ government might think the greatest danger is the Japanese people. The National Police Agency on the morning of the 13th instructed all of its headquarters nationwide to be on the lookout for any “right-wing activity”. They were given three instructions:

1. Gather information related to right-wing activities and Chongryon (the North Korean-affiliated organization for Korean citizens living in Japan.

2. Reinforce the surveillance and defense of government offices, particularly the Kantei and the foreign and defense ministries, and

3. Promptly report public disturbances.

The cops had a slow day that day.

Matsubara Jin, the chairman of the National Public Safety Commission and perhaps the DPJ’s most prominent right-winger himself, tried to cover for the government by saying the prime minister issued three instructions:

1. Be on the alert and gather information.

2. Strive to provide information to the people, and

3. Strengthen communication with the countries involved.

He added that the police agency made every effort to respond to the prime minister’s instructions.

The overall response also contained elements of the surreal. Social Democratic Party Secretary General Shigeno Yasumasa weighed in with his party’s views. He began by expressing the party’s opposition to the North Korean missile launch, but continued:

“Using the North Korean threat as an excuse to installing and reinforcing the missile defense system and using the defense of the southwestern islands (Senkakus, et al.) as an excuse to build up the Self-Defense forces in Okinawa can only amplify the tension in Northeast Asia.”

It helps to know that the party called themselves Socialists during the Berlin Wall days and sponsored annual peace cruises to Pyeongyang. They also favor unarmed neutrality, and use Costa Rica as an example to be emulated.

Malcolm Muggeridge sussed it all out decades ago. It’s the great liberal death wish (though the term liberal is of course a euphemism).

Both the LDP and Your Party say they want to censure Tanaka Naoki for committing buffoonery in the conduct of his duties. But it was obvious that serving as a Cabinet Minister was beyond his capabilities before his appointment, and they should really consider censuring Mr. Noda for selecting him for such a critical post to begin with. Defense ministry officials have let it be known to the media off the record that the sooner the better would be fine with them. Thus, it shouldn’t be long now before he returns to the status quo ante of anonymous irrelevance.

The first thing a visitor to the DPJ’s English-language website sees is their slogan:

Putting people’s lives first.

If it weren’t a laughing matter, that would be the biggest joke of all.

Drunken Sailor Watch

From an AFP report:

Japan is considering lending about $60 billion to the International Monetary Fund to help strengthen a global firewall against contagion from the European sovereign debt crisis, Kyodo news agency said on Sunday…If realised, Japan’s contribution could be one of the biggest by a member nation, Kyodo quoted an unnamed government official as saying.

How low has the DPJ government sunk in the estimation of the people? So low they’ve got the Bottom Blues.

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4 Responses to “Duds”

  1. […] What North Korea’s rocket launch has to do with a Chinese farming village. […]

  2. […] the North Korean space program of computers intended for use in Chinese rural cooperatives (story via the excellent Japan site, Ampotan), and levying some predictable mockery at North Korea. According to BBC, China was not informed of […]

  3. yankdownunder said

    Japan said on Tuesday it will provide $60 billion in loans to the International Monetary Fund, becoming the first non-European nation to commit money to boost the fund’s financial firepower to contain the euro zone debt crisis.

    That drunken sailor is going to die soon if he doesn’t stop. But it may already be too late to save him.

  4. toadold said

    “Drunken sailors usually stop spending after they run out of cash, drunken politicians write checks on the treasury.”
    The situation kind of reminds me about the comment made about the US Secret Service and Embassy Marines who were hiring prostitutes in Columbia: “They probably hire hookers because they want to take advantage of the chance to associate with a higher class of people.”
    T: True story. The father of my best friend in college and the years immediately following was a CIA agent (he didn’t tell me for a while until he completely trusted me, and I had met his father). I didn’t hear many stories, but one of them was about Ted Kennedy on a junket in South America. He wanted the State Department to arrange for the most expensive call-girls at each of his stops.

    This was before the stories about Teddy started to emerge. I suggested to my friend that all politicians probably did it. He said sure, but for it to become hot gossip among those in the know in Washington was an indication of the extent of his activity.

    – A.

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