Japan from the inside out

Just deserts

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, May 24, 2012

Upon a pillory – that al the world may see / A just desert for such impiety.

– Warning Faire Women (1599)

IF it were possible to bestow a person with a medal for services rendered to society, pin the medal to his chest, cover his eyes with a blindfold, stick a final cigarette in his mouth, and stand him against a wall to be executed by firing squad, Public Enemy/Hero #1 would be Julian “Wikileaks” Assange. While his behavior is undoubtedly execrable by any standard, we are also undoubtedly better off for knowing some of the information he was responsible for revealing. Much that information demonstrates the contempt the international political oligarchy has for the people they rule. Some of that information involves the Japan-U.S. security alliance.

Recall that in the summer of 2009, Hatoyama Yukio and the Democratic Party of Japan made the specific promise during their lower house election campaign to tear up the agreement with the Americans and move the Marine air base at Futenma in Okinawa outside of the prefecture “at a minimum”, and ideally outside the country altogether. Negotiations for dealing with the base began after Marines raped a schoolgirl near there in 1995.

To briefly recapitulate: The United States governed Okinawa from 1945 to 1972, even though the Allied occupation ended in 1952. It took 20 more years for the Americans to give Okinawa back.

Cross my heart and hope to die!

It would be entertaining to hear someone deny the argument that they still occupy it. The Ryukyus account for 0.6% of Japan’s land area, but host 75% of American military facilities in the country. Those bases occupy 18% of Okinawa’s land area. Roughly 70% of the people on the country’s four main islands support the military alliance with the United States, compared to only 10% of the Okinawans. (A higher percentage is willing to put up with it for the economic benefits.) More than 50% of Okinawans think the unwillingness of the rest of the country to either reduce their burden or accept American military facilities themselves is a form of discrimination. That makes it the ultimate manifestation in Japan of the Not In My Back Yard phenomenon.

The American military is stationed in the country for Japan’s “defense”, but Futenma is a Marine air base. Marines attack; they don’t defend.

When negotiations began with the Clinton Administration, there was an American promise to return Futenma to Japan (who built the first air base there during the war) in five to seven years. That somehow morphed into a project to build a new airbase in northern Okinawa.

There are four directly elected lower house seats in Okinawa Prefecture. Before the election, two seats were held by the then-ruling LDP, one by the Social Democrats, and one by the People’s New Party. Buoyed by the anti-LDP sentiment nationwide, the Aso government’s use of the Koizumian two-thirds lower house majority to push through the Guam Transfer Agreement, and the DPJ promise to move Futenma, the DPJ snatched those two LDP seats in the 2009 election. They didn’t run any candidates in the other two districts; the incumbents were members of parties that were part of their alliance and which joined the ruling coalition.

Several things became apparent within days after Mr. Hatoyama took office. Among them were that he had no idea what he was doing, neither he nor his party could be trusted to keep any of their campaign promises, and he had no business holding any executive position whatsoever, much less the prime minister of Japan at a turning point in the country’s political and governmental history.

To telescope a long story, two months after he opened the fall session of the Diet with a speech at the end of October 2009, he couldn’t keep his own story straight about his government’s plans for the Futenma base or their negotiations with the Americans. Statements made in the morning became inoperative before the end of the day. He would decide before the end of the year and then he put it off until May. He famously asked Barack Obama to trust him, and people wondered what it was he could be trusted to do. By early January, the Japanese media already assumed that his days as prime minister were numbered. His support numbers were in free fall after he had squandered both his honeymoon period and one of the most golden of opportunities ever available to a new government and its leader.

By May 2010, Mr. Hatoyama confirmed what had been obvious since the beginning of the year when he announced that Futenma would stay in Okinawa as originally planned. He traveled to Okinawa himself to apologize to the governor:

“I tried to do different things, but I came face to face with the difficulty of the actual problem of (moving) everything outside the prefecture.”

Mr. Hatoyama resigned at the end of the month after one of the shortest terms and with one of the lowest support ratings in postwar Japanese history.

The Beans are Spilled

One year ago this month, Wikileaks released American governmental cables sent from Japan to the U.S. about the Futenma discussions. They didn’t generate much comment, even in the English-language media, because the focus of Japan-related news was still the Tohoku disaster of two months before.

That information made Mr. Hatoyama and his government look even worse, as difficult as it is to imagine. Try this account from the Economist:

LESS than a month after a new government took office in Japan in September 2009, American officials talked their Japanese counterparts through a longstanding frustration: stalled plans to build a new airbase for American marines on the southern island of Okinawa. According to confidential minutes of the meeting sent to Washington, DC by the American embassy in Tokyo, leaked by WikiLeaks, Kurt Campbell, an assistant secretary of state, said a new airstrip was necessary because of China’s growing military strength. But that could not be discussed publicly, “for obvious reasons”.

A few months later Mr Campbell went further, according to another cable. Because of potential threats from North Korea, China and elsewhere, America and Japan faced “the most challenging security environment” in 50 years. However, he said the messages to the public often glossed over that reality. Presumably that too was to avoid offending China, even though it would have helped Okinawans to understand why the new facility is deemed so important.


The WikiLeaks cables show that the number of marines and their dependents slated for removal to Guam has been inflated in order to soften opposition. (The 2009) agreement mentions the removal of about 8,000 marines and 9,000 dependents. But an American embassy cable in 2009 says that when the plan was formulated in 2006, “both the 8,000 and 9,000 numbers were deliberately maximised to optimise political value in Japan.” Okinawa officials suspect that the number of Guam-bound marines may be as few as 3,000—if they go at all.

When it came to power in 2009, the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, which had opposed the relocation plan in opposition, came under intense pressure from Washington to push ahead with it. American officials urged the new government not to discuss alternatives in public, warning of a strong American reaction if it did, according to WikiLeaks.

The Eurasia Review Newsletter provided more details in an article by Rajaram Panda. ERN deserves a milder form of the treatment appropriate for Assange: They should be commended for presenting additional information and then kicked in their backsides for entrusting the article to Mr. Panda, who combines a tendency to exaggerate with an ignorance of Japanese politics remarkable even for non-Japanese who write about the country.

The article begins:

In a startling revelation, the US cables posted on the whistleblower website WikiLeaks said that, in 2009, the US had warned the then Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio about Japan’s wavering policies on bilateral ties.

It doesn’t take them long to screw it up:

When Hatoyama took office in September 2009, Japanese people believed that he was a sincere but helpless politician who was unable to fight the influence of the US.

Not one word after the comma in that sentence is true. No one knew how he would deal with American influence, and he gave every indication beforehand that he intended to create some distance in bilateral relations. While it is true that some view him as sincere, it is also true that they view as childishly naive the few policies he’s sincere about.

The revealed documents now show that Hatoyama and the DPJ had lied to the Japanese people during the 2009 election campaign. The DPJ and the Japanese government officials were never committed to relocating the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma outside of Okinawa Prefecture, as the revealed documents indicate.

That’s true, but only in an interpretative sense. The American arm twisting of the DPJ does not seem to have begun until after the election.

Between 2009 and early 2010, Hatoyama and his officials conveyed to their US counterparts that Japan would seek alternatives to the 2006 Agreement to relocate Futenma to the Henoko district of Nago in Okinawa Prefecture. However, in a secret pact, they said that Japan will honour the 2006 Agreement if the US rejected the proposed alternative.

The Obama administration knew early on that the Hatoyama administration would go along with the 2006 Agreement as long as the US continued to reject any alternative. Hatoyama had secretly said this to the US six months before he decided to break his promise to the people to relocate the base outside Okinawa.

Six months before he announced that he broke his promise was in December 2009, post-election and post-arm twisting.

The US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific affairs, Kurt Campbell, complained in October 2009 that Hatoyama told his Chinese and South Korean counterparts in Beijing that Japan depended on the US too much. Campbell told Japanese Parliamentary Defence Secretary Akihisa Nagashima that such remarks “would create a crisis in US-Japan relations… Imagine the Japanese response if the US government were to say publicly that it wished to devote more attention to China than Japan.”

We don’t have to imagine the Japanese response, because we know what it is — official sycophancy. The U.S. government has been devoting more attention to China than Japan without saying it publicly for the past two decades.

Now they don’t bother to hide it. This week the U.S. government allowed China the exclusive privilege of purchasing U.S. debt directly from the Treasury, without having to buy the bonds through Wall Street brokers and pay their commissions. The Chinese are now the leading American debt underwriters. Japan formerly starred in the role of Number One Sponge and still buys nearly the same amount as China, but they’ve never gotten the star treatment.

As Mark Steyn frequently points out, the Americans will be paying enough interest on the debt held by China to finance the annual outlays for the People’s Liberation Army by 2016. Meanwhile, Japan pays far and away the highest vigorish of any overseas country to support American troops stationed on its territory. This is justified in part by the need to defend Japan from China.

Finally, a contemporary use of the word “bizarre” that isn’t hyperbole.

But that’s unless the Chinese are actually unloading on the secondary market what they buy from the Treasury to satisfy their desire to get out of US debt and into gold while satisfying US demands to buy more of its debt. (There’s another interesting Wikileak in there, too.)

The Japanese people now feel that Hatoyama’s US policy was fraught with duplicity and backroom deals. Being the Land Minister, Maehara was dabbling with foreign affairs and was playing a crucial role in handling Japan’s US policy.

He’s speaking here of Maehara Seiji, who was involved with the discussions. Mr. Panda thinks that Mr. Maehara’s participation was due to his connections with the American government, and were improper because he was the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport. He is not aware that Maehara Seiji held another Cabinet portfolio at the time — Minister of State for Okinawa and the Northern Territories. It was his business to be involved.

In other words, Mr. Panda doesn’t know the A of the ABCs of Japanese politics/government.

The Obama administration was aware that there was a section of politicians in Japan who sought distance from Washington. Even many Japanese people started to view Japan’s policies as being dictated by the US and described their own country as “America’s baby”. In particular, right-wing nationalists vouched for reducing reliance on the US and argued that Japan must not be afraid to take a confrontational position in foreign policy.

“Started to view”? That view started among many Japanese people on 16 August 1945. And if there is a certified demonstration of lazy thinking/no thinking/no real experience among people writing about Japan, it is their wishful thinking about the effect on modern politics of “right-wing nationalists”, whatever either of those debased terms mean nowadays. The psychopundits either overlook or never saw that the same arguments attributed to those unenlightened and unintelligent dregs of society have been made even more stridently by the left-wing internationalists in Japan. The leading figures of the Democratic Party government are among the country’s most well-known left-wing internationalists.

The Obama administration is believed to be instrumental in Hatoyama’s ouster from office because of the latter’s inept handling of the Futenma base relocation issue.

Not in the US and Japan of Planet Earth. Last rites were already being prepared for Hatoyama Yukio a few months after he took office, for a galaxy of reasons. Futenma was the coup de grace. People are not without their suspicions about American string-pulling in the Japanese government, but the Democratic Party did not want to go into the July 2010 upper house elections led by a man whose support ratings were maxing out at 19% in the polls.

The inept handling of the Futenma base relocation issue? Mr. Hatoyama broke his pre-election promises — which of course the U.S. knew about — to do what the United States wanted to do. This doesn’t make much sense.

Besides, Campbell complained in October 2009 about Hatoyama’s policy towards China and South Korea. At the Nuclear Summit in April 2010 held at Washington, Obama snubbed Hatoyama and weeks later Hatoyama resigned and was replaced by the more US acceptable Kan Naoto. Kan immediately confirmed that the Futenma base issue would proceed according to the US desire. No wonder, when the leaks surfaced, he declined to comment and said that the announcement of information was “not legitimate”.

Kan Naoto is one of the leading left-wing internationalists of the DPJ, though he is also known as a trimmer most interested in power. Japanese arms were almost certainly twisted to cause the DPJ to cry uncle, but the crying had already happened before Mr. Kan’s turn arrived. As deputy prime minister, he had a ringside seat.

It is too soon to assess how the public will digest the dishonesty of the DPJ and how the Japanese government succumbed to the US pressure to follow its line of thinking. The opposition is likely to mount a campaign again calling for Kan’s resignation. Maehara was seen as an agent of the US and the Japanese people are unlikely to forgive him.

It will always be too soon for Mr. Panda to offer analysis about Japan. None of this happened. The opposition mounted a campaign calling for Kan’s resignation, but none of the many compelling reasons had anything to do with the United States. Mr. Maehara has been relegated to the sidelines, not because he was seen as an “agent of the US”, but because he’s viewed as an opportunistic lightweight with an unexplained affinity for North Korea.

Japan-US ties are too complex and its real value cannot be evaluated from this single incident.

Nor can they be evaluated by a drive-by observer lacking field-specific knowledge. The only solution for dealing with people such as Mr. Panda is to persecute them to the fullest extent of the Internet Law of the Jungle.

Finally, here’s how the Ryukyu Shimpo, an Okinawan newspaper, handled with the revelations:

According to U.S. official telegrams disclosed by WikiLeaks, while the DPJ administration was seeking the relocation outside of Okinawa Prefecture of the U.S. Marine Corps now based at Futenma, a staff member of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan suggested to United States government officials that they should not compromise on the Futenma relocation plan. The cable indicates that both governments inflated the numbers involved in U.S. Marine Forces Transfer Plan from Okinawa to Guam. The Roadmap for Realignment Implementation agreed to by both governments in the spring of 2006 states that 8000 Marine Corps personnel and 9000 dependents would move to Guam, but leaked telegrams indicate that these numbers were inflated to optimize their political value.


The cables also include an example of a Japanese career bureaucrat recommending to United States officials that they stay on course with the Roadmap for Futenma relocation after the regime change to the Democratic Party of Japan. At an unofficial lunch meeting October 12, 2009, Director General of Bureau of Defense Policy Shigenobu Takamizawa is reported as warning the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt M. Campbell “against premature demonstration of flexibility in adjusting the realignment package.” The cables also reported that a counselor in charge of political affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan made the basically the same remark to his counterpart of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. The cables therefore indicate that career bureaucrats moved to prevent the Hatoyama administration from seeking the relocation of the facilities at Futenma outside of Okinawa.

This is more evidence, by the way, that the Japanese bureaucracy considers itself to be the permanent ruling class of Japan. That exonerates neither Mr. Hatoyama nor the DPJ, however. Another of their campaign promises was to bring the bureaucracy under control, and they have the authority to do so if they choose to use it. But enjoying the perquisites of political status is more attractive than exercising that authority and touching off a de facto civil war that few of them have the ability to contest.

Diplomatic cables from this period show that despite the DPJ’s formal efforts to find a new candidate site for Futenma, the United States from an early stage thought the Hatoyama administration would go along with the 2006 agreement as long as the United States continued to reject any alternatives.

On Dec. 10, the U.S. Embassy inTokyo dispatched a cable that was classified “secret” and for American eyes only.

The cable said, “Five DPJ Cabinet members (Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano, Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and Maehara) met on the evening of December 8 and agreed that they could not accept moving forward with the Futenma Relocation Facility (FRF) because of opposition from the DPJ’s coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party.”

According to the document, Maehara explained to Roos that Japan would seek a number of alternatives that might be acceptable to both the United States and the Okinawa people.

But the cable shows that Maehara also said, “If the U.S. does not agree to any alternative to the existing FRF plan, the DPJ would be prepared to go ahead with the current relocation plan and let the coalition break up if necessary after Golden Week (April 29 to May 5 in 2010).”

Thank you, Julian Assange.

But there’s more:

On Dec. 21, 2009, then Vice Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka had a lunch meeting with (US Ambassador) Roos. Their discussion was included in a cable classified as “secret.”

Yabunaka referred to the Dec. 17 meeting in Copenhagen between Hatoyama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The cable has Yabunaka saying, “Prime Minister Hatoyama confirmed to the secretary in Copenhagen that if the (Japan) review of the FRF alternatives to Henoko did not yield viable proposals, (Japan) would return to the 2006 FRF agreement.”

Immediately after his meeting with Clinton, Hatoyama told reporters accompanying him: “It would be very dangerous to force through (the 2006 agreement). We have begun efforts to think about new alternatives.”

However, the cable has Yabunaka referring to those media reports as “inaccurate.”


On Jan. 26, then Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yorihisa Matsuno met with embassy officials. A cable classified as “confidential” and titled, “Hatoyama confidante on Futenma, Nago election,” described Matsuno as “Hinting at current Kantei (Prime Minister’s Office) thinking.”

Matsuno is further quoted as saying, “Hatoyama and the Okinawa Working Group will have to consider ‘for form’s sake’ Futenma options outside of Okinawa, but the only realistic options are to move Futenma to Camp Schwab or another ‘existing facility.’”

The cable also has Matsuno saying, “The Camp Schwab landfill option was ‘dead.’”

Turning over a New Loop

A flood of media features timed for the 40th anniversary of the reversion of Okinawa to Japan and the related events washed over news media consumers last week. Hatoyama Yukio went back to Okinawa for the first time since he dined on crow with the Okinawa governor in May 2010, and delivered a speech at a Ginowan hotel.

Here’s how he started the speech:

“I love all Okinawans.”

You’re such a lovely audience!

He continued by whining:

“I wanted to let some air into the (base) issue. I wanted to make some progress during my time in office, somehow.”

Before he appalled the nation:

“I have not been able now to satisfy the emotion of “outside the prefecture, at a minimum”. I can clearly state that one who has not satisfied that emotion does not fully understand the emotions of everyone in Okinawa. I intend to have that belief always.”

Everyone in Japan knew what he meant despite the vacuum-packed circumlocution and euphemism. All the headlines in the print media trumpeted the Hatoyama claim that he still supported moving the base outside the prefecture.

There was remarkably little anger, incidentally. People long ago realized he’s an eternal adolescent (most closely resembling a junior high school girl) with too little sense and too much money who had no business becoming prime minister. They intend to have that belief always.

One of his excuses was that he wasn’t able to do devote all his attention to the issue because he was too busy putting together a budget, despite having thousands of subordinates at his disposal. Nobody believed that, either, coming as it did from a man who preferred to attend galas with his trophy wife, the royalty of showbiz, and the Imperial household rather than attend to the business of government.

There was also the usual externalization of the internal fog:

“My thinking got too far ahead of itself, and I wasn’t able to fully convince many people.

“When I think about it, I wonder if it was an unreasonable course. When I think about it now, that’s what I think.”

Nonaka Hiromu, the chief cabinet secretary under LDP Prime Minister Obuchi Keizo in 2000, attended the same event as Mr. Hatoyama. When it was his turn to speak, he looked directly at the former prime minister and said:

“Men are supposed to have a sense of shame. Did you come so casually to Okinawa to dishonor (literally, hurl mud at) the Okinawans?”

Later interviewed by the Ryukyu Shimpo, he added:

“A person who stands on the dais and dishonors the Okinawans makes my blood boil (literally, steams my guts).”

Mr. Hatoyama was his oblivious self when he too was interviewed by the Ryukyu Shimpo the next day:

“It was natural to raise the issue of moving the base outside the prefecture.”

By this time he had found a new excuse:

“The Defense and Foreign Ministry bureaucracy struggled to decide how to return the base to Henoko (in line with the pre-existing agreement). They introduced the logic through the Americans that it would be inappropriate to take the base outside the prefecture, and only Henoko was acceptable.”

He’s confirming the Wikileaks revelations about Messrs. Takamizawa and Yabunaka above, and indirectly contradicting Mr. Kan’s denial. All he had to do to end the malarkey was put his foot down, but there wasn’t enough time to put him through a series of testosterone injections.


After His Majesty’s Firing Squad in the Kingdom of Just Deserts dispatches Assange, it will be the turn of Hatoyama Yukio to stand blindfolded against the wall for his high political crimes and misdemeanors. Pinned to his lapel will be a medal for the service he rendered his country by using his mother’s money to buy the party that ended single-party rule in Japan.



A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 51% of Likely U.S. Voters now believe the United States should remove all its troops from Western Europe and let the Europeans defend themselves. Only 29% disagree, but another 20% are undecided.

That number will probably continue to grow and extend to Asia, if it already doesn’t.


Mr. Hatoyama isn’t the only one who wanted to go back to Okinawa. I’ll bet the other guys had more fun, though.

One Response to “Just deserts”

  1. toadold said

    In further reports on the Chinese vs. Philippines situation, when US congress critters voiced the the thought that it would be a good idea to make basing agreements with the Philippines to counter the Chinese, the Obamanation said they didn’t want to do that as the Chinese might see that as “provocative.”…….If that’s the case the US might as well pull all of our forces back to the US and break all defense treaty agreements that we have with Asian countries. Harsh words to follow.

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