AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

Archive for the ‘Government’ Category

Banzai

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, November 15, 2012

NHK broadcasts Question Time in the Diet live on both television and radio. Most of the time it is the usual hot air accompanied by the usual posturing. That makes the broadcasts a public service in the true sense of the word.

Sometimes, however, there are exceptions. It was always entertaining to listen to Koizumi Jun’ichiro, who combined a mastery of wit and repartee with remarkable bluntness, deal with the opposition. Then there was the day Tsujimoto Kiyomi, then of the Social Democrats, was questioning/berating Suzuki Muneo, then of the Liberal Democratic Party, for his involvement in several scandals. She got carried away with herself and called him a trading company for scandal. If you can imagine someone getting hysterical and going ballistic simultaneously, then you can see in your mind’s eye how Mr. Suzuki erupted/reacted.

Today’s session between LDP President Abe Shinzo and Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko was another exception.

Mr. Abe pressed the prime minister to keep his vague promise for calling a lower house election when certain conditions had been met, and the dialogue quickly became heated. Finally Mr. Noda said that he would dissolve the lower house and call for elections on Friday if the opposition would agree to support the redistricting bill to remove the electoral imbalance among Diet districts that the Supreme Court has ruled unconstitutional, as well a deficit financing bill.

The LDP leader snapped at the offer. As soon as the session was over, he convened a meeting of party executives. Their answer to Mr. Noda was, bring it on.

Less excited were the members of the ruling Democratic Party — they and everyone else assume many of them will be job-hunting after the election — and just the day before some senior members were talking about dumping Mr. Noda. But they decided to set the date for the polls at 16 December.

The Associated Press report was entertaining, if not informative. For example:

The pledge to call elections highlights the gridlock that has paralyzed Japanese politics for years, hindering progress on reforms needed to help revitalize an economy on the brink of recession and revamp government finances to cope with a fast-aging population.

The gridlock is five years old and started with the DPJ’s victory in the upper house election of 2007. They spent the next two years sticking a rod into the LDP spokes every chance they got to force the lower house election that finally came in 2009. It ultimately didn’t matter, because the LDP had a supermajority in the lower house and could overrule upper house decisions whenever it wanted.

And if reforms to revitalize the economy and revamping government finances were on the menu, the last people anyone should have entrusted with that task was the DPJ. They were capable of passing the legislation they wanted to implement because they started out with a ruling coalition in partnership with two smaller parties. They set records for the fewest bills passed during a Diet session on more than one occasion. Their performance was such that roughly 70 of their lower house MPs and one of their coalition partners have deserted them.

The AP also drags out an academic. It’s part of the template:

“There’s a real failure of leadership. That’s in part because Japan’s expectations for leadership are unrealistic. But also because the quality of leadership in Japan is really low,” said Koichi Nakano, a professor of political science at Sophia University.

Japan’s expectations for leadership are basic competence, doing what you say you’re going to do, and taking a stab at doing what the voters actually want you to do. If that’s unrealistic, participatory democracy is in bigger trouble than we thought.

As for the quality of Japanese leadership, it’s low compared to that in which country?

Take your time.

The best pre-post-mortem for the DPJ government I’ve seen was on the blog of Sankei Shimbun reporter Abiru Rui. Here it is in English.

*****
The lower house dissolution that I’ve been waiting so long for has finally, at last, somehow, been decided and a new election set for 16 December. After nearly three years and three months, the opportunity has come for the expression of the public will in a lower house election. The opportunity has come for the people to boldly proclaim what they’ve learned over the past few years. It’s fortunate that this situation has emerged before Japan is destroyed any further.

Before the change in government, the Liberal Democratic Party had also come to a dead end, there was systemic fatigue, and the LDP had gone far off course due to their mistaken idea that they could win enough votes to return to the days of the old LDP. Many people left the party, internal party governance fell apart, and they were still attached to the old vested interests.

Therefore, it was not unusual in the slightest that many voters would have some hope for the Democratic Party, which seemed at a glance to be a new alternative. Also, the change in government exposed the different problems and irrational aspects of the Diet, the national government, and the Kasumigaseki bureaucracy

All that is true, but these three years have been too long. The DPJ government has no ability, is not prepared, and has no qualifications to lead. It was very clear that they had reached their limit in the first few months of the Hatoyama administration. The subsequent Kan and Noda administrations were a series of blunders that elicited the contempt of foreign countries and furthered Japan’s stagnation and retrogression. Rather than being my feeling, that is what I believe.

We have learned about the costs and risks of democracy to an extent that is unpleasant. Perhaps that was one of the few effects of the change of government. Perfection isn’t possible for the systems people create, so that makes it necessary to ceaselessly check and reexamine them. It’s perhaps possible to say that the change of government has given us plenty of food for thought.

There will be no forgetting the lack of ability, impotence, mendacity, deceit, chicanery, evasions, deception under the pretense of benevolence, arrogance, cowardice, swelled heads, misconceptions, and bitterness the DPJ showed the people. From time to time I have written about the contempt, disparagement, and scorn they had for the public, and it is not possible to forgive them.

Both Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko and the senior members of the DPJ say they have no intention of handing over the control of government to another party. That might be bravado, but it can also be taken as an expression of their deep-rooted hubris.

The Japanese voters should express their will and say they’ve had enough. It is my small hope now that they realize they want no more Hatoyama, no more Kan, and no more Noda, and show that through their votes.

Of course not everything will go well after the election. The difficulties will still be with us. We don’t have a clear idea who will administer the government, nor in what sort of framework that will be. But even that will be far better than the Democratic Party of Japan, for whom words, common sense, laws, rules, and conscience have no meaning.

Banzai.
*****

Another news item passed by almost unnoticed in the drama of the day. Minister of the Environment Ozawa Sakihito announced he is leaving the DPJ and expects to join Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Toru’s Japan Restoration Party. The DPJ is now down to 247 members in the lower house, after starting out with more than 300 three years ago. A majority in that chamber is 241.

The mudboat is sinking.

UPDATE: That mudboat is sinking very fast. Three more DPJ lower house MPs have announced they have quit the party, including former Agriculture Minister Yamada Masahiko. Two more have announced their intention to leave the party, which means they have already de facto lost their stand-alone majority in the lower house.

One of the departees, Tomioka Yoshitada, said that most of the DPJ MPs were opposed to the decision to dissolve the Diet and call an election. (No surprise there.) There are also reports that Mr. Noda planned on dissolving the Diet on the 22nd, but moved up the date a week to forestall DPJ Secretary-General Koshi’ishi Azuma’s efforts to unseat him as party president. (No surprise there, either; Mr. Koshi’ishi is a teachers’ union leftist, and they would rather drink gasoline than voluntarily give up power, even though a lower house election had to be held by next summer.)

It isn’t just the DPJ, either. Abe Tomoko of the Social Democrats said she was leaving that party to hang out with the Greens. If this keeps up their membership will be able to meet in a sedan instead of a minivan.

UPDATE 2: Some are of the opinion that Mr. Noda expects the party to lose up to 160 of their 240-odd seats, but that none of the other parties will win a majority, either. Therefore, goes the theory, he wants to create a grand coalition with the LDP and New Komeito after the election, to last probably until the upper house election in the summer.

Posted in Government, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Making money

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, November 14, 2012

JAPAN is now in the business of making money for other countries. The Finance Ministry and Japan Mint announced they have accepted an order for manufacturing 500 million coins in the Bangladesh currency. The Mint had received overseas orders for commemorative coins, including those for New Zealand and Sri Lanka, but this is the first time since the end of World War II they have received an order for a country’s currency in general circulation. Demand for bills in Japan is declining due to the growing use of e-money, and the Mint wants to promote this business a way to utilize its idled equipment and maintain its technological capabilities. It is not unusual for developing countries to outsource the production of its currency.

Bangladesh has eight types of currency, and this order is for the two taka coin. It is made of stainless steel and has a value corresponding to two yen in Japan. (One taka is subdivided into 100 poisha.) The Bangladesh Central Bank conducted an international bidding process, and they accepted a bid for JPY 520 million. Manufacturing will begin at the main office in Osaka early next year, and they will send 100 million coins every month to Bangladesh starting in April.

The spread of e-money and the slumping economy has spurred the Finance Ministry and the Mint to find ways to receive more of these orders. Among the losers in the bidding were Slovakia, the Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain, and Spain.

Since 2003, Japan Mint has been an “incorporated administrative agency” headquartered in Osaka. That means it is still affiliated with the national government.

One way the Abe Shinzo government of 2006-2007 wanted to continue the Koizumi reform policies was to privatize the Mint. This was stopped by the then-opposition DPJ working with the Finance Ministry. The ministry, one of the primary political power centers in Japan, always fights any measure that would diminish its power and authority. It often fights dirty, sometimes manipulating events to bring down governments. Exhibit A for that charge is the downfall of the Hashimoto Ryutaro government when it tried to split the oversight of the financial services industry from the Finance Ministry. (It eventually happened a few years later.)

The slogan for the Koizumi reforms was to remove from the government and entrust to the private sector anything the private sector could do. The principle is that the private sector always does everything better than the public sector except the mass extermination of people in warfare.

Had the Abe administration successively privatized the Mint, they most likely would have been involved in this business for several years already and creating new capital without using any from the public sector.

The people in the Finance Ministry probably know that as well, but it is not in the interest of people to understand anything that puts their interests at risk.

*****
Let’s boogie!

Posted in Business, finance and the economy, Government | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Ichigen koji (229)

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, November 14, 2012

一言居士
– A person who has something to say about everything

The stupidity of Tanaka Makiko and the controversy over authorizing the new universities…the stupidity of appointing her husband as Defense Minister…all of these originate in the historically worst stupidities of the Democratic Party government. We have to leave the world of lies and return to the world of truth as soon as possible.

– Inose Naoki, acting Governor of the Tokyo Metro District

Posted in Government, Politics, Quotations | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Ichigen koji (226)

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, November 11, 2012

一言居士
– A person who has something to say about everything

The colonial legacies in (South Korea and Taiwan), however, are markedly different, and this difference is essential to understanding why these countries have developed as they have since the end of World War II.

With this in mind, how did the experience of Japanese colonialism contribute to the subsequent success of Asian countries in their state and economic development? What implications did these developments have for subsequent democratization?

Upon initial inspection…the countries that experienced the Japanese colonial system — one that was more intrusive and more focused on complete modernization and transformation than other systems — appear to have been the most successful countries in developing modern states and economies (namely, South Korea and Taiwan). In comparison, the former French Indochina colonies (i.e., Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos), the former British colony of Malaya (which included Singapore), and the former Dutch colony of Indonesia have each experienced varying levels of success in state development, economic growth and democratization; yet none has reached the success of South Korea and Taiwan in any of these areas.

While there are undoubtedly many reasons for these results, this paper will show that the Japanese colonial influence played a key role, by completely altering the trajectory of modernization in Korea and Taiwan, to the creation of successful modern, industrial states.

– from an academic paper by Andres Aviles

Posted in Government, History, International relations, Quotations, South Korea, Taiwan | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Ichigen koji (223)

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, November 8, 2012

一言居士
– A person who has something to say about everything

An American says, “I voted in the morning and I knew who the next president would be that night.” A Chinese snorts and says, “I knew who the next CCP Chairman would be five years ago.” A North Korean laughs and says, “I’ve known who the next leader would be since I was a child.” A Japanese sadly says, “I vote regularly, but I still wonder who the current prime minister is.”

– A Chinese Tweet quoted by Furumai Yoshiko

Posted in China, Government, North Korea, Quotations | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

A timeline

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, November 7, 2012

THE following is the timeline of a sequence of events that has begun to attract the attention of some people in the Japanese news media.

■ In early October, the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry provided an explanation at the Kantei on the joint Japanese-American drills for island defense to be conducted starting 15 November. One of those drills was to simulate the retaking of an island occupied by an enemy. Deputy Prime Minister Okada Katsuya was present and agreed.

Okada Katsuya and Xi Jinping

■ On 9 October, Prime Minister Noda received the same explanation and also agreed. The Ministry of Defense informed the Department of Defense in the U.S. that approval had been granted for the exercise.

■ On 12 October, Aeon President Okada Motoya, Okada Katsuya’s brother, announced, “We are not concerned about our China operations”. He was speaking about the rioting that had resulted in the trashing and looting of his company’s Jusco outlet in Tsingtao, Shandong Province, during the government-manufactured riots on 15 September. He emphasized there would be no change in his company’s plans to further expand their outlets in China.

One question being asked is why he was already so certain there would be no more problems with Jusco outlets in China.

■ In mid-October, Mr. Okada’s attitude toward the official approval of the joint drills as explained by the foreign and defense ministries changed. When both ministries again went to the Kantei to provide any explanations required before the official approval was announced, he declared that the decision was wrong.

■ On 16 October Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Leibao addressed the subject of the joint American and Chinese drills. He said:

Increasing tension in the region is not beneficial for promoting security or mutual trust.

And:

We hope that Japan strives for the creation of progress in the Diaoyutai issue (Senkakus) with sincerity and actual deeds.

■ On 19 October Chinese patrol boats conducted a large-scale “drill to maintain maritime sovereignty” in the East China Sea. The Kyodo news agency reported, “The objective is to oppose the purchase of the Senkakus by the national government and the consideration of the joint Japanese-American military drill for retaking an occupied island on an uninhabited island in the Okinawa chain.”

■ On 21 October, during a speech in Wakayama City, Mr. Okada said the reason for the national government’s purchase of the Senkaku islets was to prevent Tokyo Metro District Gov. Ishihara Shintaro from purchasing them. He criticized the government’s purchase because “the result was an extremely harsh response from China”. He added:

There is no territorial dispute over the Senkakus, but it is a fact that there is debate. We must calm the present situation through dialogue.

This statement was immediately reported by the Chinese media as recognition by the Japanese government that a territorial dispute existed.

■ On 22 October, the Peoples Daily and Xinhua distributed op-eds with the title, “Japan should assume the onerous burden for betrayal”. It included this passage:

As long as Japan does not reflect on its errors, correct its mistakes, and establish a new consensus with China about the Diaoyutai issue, it will not be possible to return to a sound course of development for Sino-Japanese relations.

Note the recurrence of the passage, “correct mistakes” — a hallmark of Sinocentric culturalism, in which the Chinese position is the correct one, and opposing positions are errors.

■ On 22 October, the decision was announced to cancel the joint drill for retaking an occupied island. According to a high government official (speaking on the condition of anonymity), Mr. Okada made the final decision rather than Prime Minister Noda. His reason was to avoid upsetting China. Mr. Noda accepted it.

■ On 22 October, Aeon announced the opening of a new store in Tsingtao, Shandong Province, the same city where one of their stores was ransacked.

■ On 25 October, the new store opened. At the same time, Aeon said it would continue to be involved with building shopping malls in China.

■ On 25 October, during a visit to Japan, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell expressed strong dissatisfaction to senior members of the Foreign Ministry with the decision. That has been reported only in Japanese. Translated, he is quoted as having said, “Reversing a decision on a joint exercise is strange.” It was reportedly viewed by the Prime Minister’s Office as being a warning.

Today, when asked to explain the reason for the cancellation of the drill, Defense Minister Morimoto Satoshi said,

There were various circumstances. I will refrain from giving a detailed explanation of the reasons.

It seems as if we might be able to draw some conclusions:

■ For Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko, the interests of his party take priority over the national interest.

But we already knew that.

■ For Deputy Prime Minister Okada Katsuya, the interests of his family business take priority over the national interest.

■ And the Democratic Party of Japan government is veering once again into Neville Chamberlain territory.

Posted in Business, finance and the economy, China, Government, International relations, Politics | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Ichigen koji (222)

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, November 7, 2012

一言居士
– A person who has something to say about everything

Neither politicians nor the bureaucracy are as respected as they once were, but the title of “university professor” still has prestige. Under the pretext of learning and culture, governments will inject tax money into money-losing universities and no one will complain. This is Japan’s final taboo.

The promotion of science and technology is also sacred ground for the government, and journalists do not criticize universities, and I speak from the standpoint of a part-time professor lecturing on the mass media. When it comes to prolonging unproductive services, universities are worse than agriculture.

Private universities have already collapsed. National universities are now collapsing at the graduate school level through the “laundering” of academic backgrounds.

– Ikeda Nobuo. He is speaking in reference to the uproar caused by Education Minister Tanaka Makiko’s decision to refuse authorization for three new colleges. The decision has been reversed, and the three proposals will undergo a new screening process. De facto, that means they will be approved.

All three of the schools are local institutions. One is a junior college of the fine arts in Akita whose operators want to convert it into a four-year college. Another is a women’s college in Aichi.

But it gets better!

I don’t know what’s specifically wrong with the three schools. I also don’t think they’re bad.

– Minister of Education Tanaka Makiko

Posted in Education, Government, Social trends | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Dead to rights

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, November 7, 2012

AN earlier post explained that Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Toru wanted to eliminate the city’s funding for the Osaka Human Rights Museum. He was able to achieve that objective not long ago. Here’s the report on his success from the Yonhap news agency of South Korea, put into English.

Right-wing Japanese politician and Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Toru said he will close down the Osaka Human Rights Museum, a comprehensive museum on human rights that includes displays on discrimination of Korean citizens born in Japan (zainichi).

According to the Kyodo news agency, Mayor Hashimoto, the head of the national Japan Restoration Party, announced his intention at a news conference to shut the museum and convert the facility into one providing education on modern history to young children.

Established in 1985, the museum has operated on admission fees, donations, and subsidies from the city of Osaka. The city will end the subsidies this year.

The Osaka Human Rights Museum has discrimination-related exhibits, primarily involving Japan, including those about the burakumin (Japan’s old “untouchable caste”). The comprehensive facility also has displays about discrimination against the zainichi.

Mayor Hashimoto’s view is that the museum could harm Japan’s image now that discrimination of this sort has been eliminated in the country, it is not desirable to continue supporting the museum with city funds, and that the museum has to be eliminated through a structural reorganization.

But residents who live near the museum, citizens’ groups, and people of conscience have objected, saying the decision is a reflection of Mayor Hashimoto’s right-wing views.

In regard to education in Japanese history, Mayor Hashimoto has said that “modern history is very weak”, which is “an evil resulting from having entrusted this education to the Ministry of Education.”

* Yes, this is what the South Korean news agency thinks is a straight news article. “Right wing”. “People of conscience”.

Then again, they’re in plenty of bad company with the Associated Press and Reuters.

* “Right-wingers” presumably aren’t interested in human rights and lack a conscience. That’s only a left-wing thing. Except they’ll self-identify as “moderates” instead.

Perhaps the Yonhappers actually believe this. Perhaps they’re using the functional definition of “right wing” as South Koreans apply it to the Japanese — those people unwilling to eternally prostrate themselves at their feet in obeisance to the Joseon history fun house mirror.

Or perhaps they’re using the functional defintion of “right wing” that most of the world’s mass media use: Society’s new untouchable caste.

* Yonhap couldn’t squeeze into its limited space the information that Mr. Hashimoto’s father’s family were probably burakumin, everyone in Japan knows it, and the people of Osaka voted for him anyway.

* The news agency does not disguise their real interest (apart from general Japan bashing): Advocacy of the zainichi, who, after all, intentionally choose to be foreigners in the country where they were born. Ein volk and all that.

* How hard can it be to report the truth? Today’s Japanese are tired of wearing the hair shirt before the world to atone for behavior they had nothing to do with. Too hard for Yonhap, evidently.

* There is nary a whisper of the fiscal crisis facing the national government and all local governments in Japan. The public sector can no longer afford luxury goods, especially those whose objective is to promote the professionally aggrieved who delight in the opportunity to show us how wonderful they are by showing us how terrible everyone else is and make some money while they’re at it.

Nor do they mention Mr. Hashimoto’s willingness to take on other interest groups and labor unions to bring some sanity to the city’s finances.

That said, a museum of modern history for children is also a luxury good. Mr. Hashimoto would be better off just cutting the funding and establishing his political identity through different means. He’s had no problem finding other ways to do that so far. It’s not his business if the museum is capable of surviving without government money.

* The museum still exists, as does its Japanese-language website. The first half of the top page is now occupied by an appeal for money. That appeal contains a passage worth translating:

“But our response to the complete elimination of the subsidies (asking for financial contributions) is not done in a negative sense. We hope to achieve self-sufficient operation by taking this opportunity to join with everyone to establish our financial autonomy and to devote even more strength to developing the museum in a positive way. In other words, our concept is to have a museum that is supported by people with an interest in human rights.”

By jingo, I think they’ve got it!

Posted in Foreigners in Japan, Government, Mass media, South Korea | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Ichigen koji (221)

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, November 6, 2012

一言居士
– A person who has something to say about everything

The Americans’ Yokota Air Base has been a problem from the days I was an assembly member. They’ve got a long runway, but it’s monopolized by the Americans. Whenever you ask anyone in the bureaucracy whether it can be used, they answer, “Whatever you do, don’t antagonize the (American) Department of Defense.”

– Shirakabe Tatsuhisa

Posted in Foreigners in Japan, Government, International relations, Military affairs | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Ichigen koji  (220)

Posted by ampontan on Monday, November 5, 2012

一言居士
– A person who has something to say about everything

The bureaucracy measures a prime minister’s strength by how much influence he has in the ruling party. If the ruling party is united in support of the prime minister’s policies, the bureaucracy cannot directly oppose him. In the Japan Post election of 2005, Mr. Koizumi destroyed the opposition, and he obtained immense power within the Liberal Democratic Party. For about three months after that, the bureaucracy was attentive to his behavior, and unconditionally fell in line with his wishes. As soon as they realized he wasn’t going to run in the next election for party leader, his influence rapidly declined.

– A former Finance Ministry bureaucrat quoted in the November issue of Sapio

Posted in Government, Politics, Quotations | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Three articles

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, October 31, 2012

THIS post consists of excerpts from three newspaper articles whose importance is self-evident. They require little additional comment from me. I present them here to contribute to their greater circulation.

1. Pork in the name of the public good

The first article is a classic case of the blind pig finding a root. It was published by the Associated Press, and unlike most of their product these days, it’s actually worth reading. The title is Japan spent rebuilding money on unrelated projects. Who’d have thought! Well, anyone who’s followed the story of stimulus expenditures in the United States for the past few years, but I digress. Here we go:

About a quarter of the $148 billion budget for reconstruction after Japan’s March 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster has been spent on unrelated projects, including subsidies for a contact lens factory and research whaling.

The findings of a government audit buttress complaints over shortcomings and delays in the reconstruction effort. More than half the budget is yet to be disbursed, stalled by indecision and bureaucracy, while nearly all of the 340,000 people evacuated from the disaster zone remain uncertain whether, when and how they will ever resettle.

Many of the non-reconstruction-related projects loaded into the 11.7 trillion yen ($148 billion) budget were included on the pretext they might contribute to Japan’s economic revival, a strategy that the government now acknowledges was a mistake.

Some people in Japan were aware this was happening from the start. They noticed that the commission appointed by the Democratic Party government to formulate a plan for reconstruction and recovery issued a report containing recommendations for programs that were cut-and-pasted from previous ministry requests.

In Japan, tax-and-spend government is driven primarily by the permanent bureaucracy rather than the politicians. The latter are either the enablers or the lobbyists for the ministries with which they are associated.

The only drawback to the AP article is the now-standard and usually unnecessary addition of comments from academics to buttress their point. They often miss the point entirely:

Masahiro Matsumura, a politics professor at St. Andrews University in Osaka, Japan, said justifying such misuse by suggesting the benefits would “trickle down” to the disaster zone is typical of the political dysfunction that has hindered Japan’s efforts to break out of two decades of debilitating economic slump.

“This is a manifestation of government indifference to rehabilitation. They are very good at making excuses,” Matsumura told The Associated Press.

This is really a manifestation of the inexorable and inevitable expansion of the public sector in any country. Give them the power to print and spend money, and they’ll work overtime to find ways to print and spend money. It’s not clear whether Prof. Matsumura was referring to the political class or the bureaucracy when he referred to “government”, because the word in this case applies to either or both.

Prime Minister Noda promised that unrelated projects would be “wrung out” of the budget, but his two DPJ predecessors, Hatoyama Yukio and Kan Naoto, made the same promises. Mr. Kan went so far as to say the budgets would be held upside down to shake out extra money until they got a nosebleed. That didn’t stop either of them from presenting and passing record-high budgets with record-high deficits. If anyone’s nose bled, they weren’t part of the public sector.

And Mr. Noda voted aye for those budgets, as well as this reconstruction budget. He didn’t know what was in it? He didn’t understand that they were wasting money?

But to ask the questions are to answer them.

2. Self-congratulation

The New York Times is congratulating itself for its recent expose of the finances of Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jibao and his family. The Times’ article charges that they’ve stashed away upwards of $US 2.7 billion. This post at the China Digital Times website quotes an article written for the Times’ sister-in-arms, the Guardian of Britain, that explains how wonderful it is the Gray Lady is practicing journalism again:

The Times’ story, by David Barboza, is the type of journalism that not only catches the powerful in flagrante delicto, but that revivifies the paper’s reason for being. This has not been a kind few years for the Times, with its management, its journalism, and its prospects, under constant and more often than not unflattering scrutiny. But a story like this is something of an instant brand turnaround.

The New York Times took on China and, in the first round, won. This being China, the Times will, surely, be engaged in a constant battle going forward – even, perhaps, a confrontation that defines the sides in some new international press battle. That will, no doubt, be to its short term economic disadvantage. But that is good news for the Times, too.

[…] The Times released dismal earnings yesterday and its stock dropped by more than 20%. But its real value took an incalculable leap today.

In other words, they think it was a triumph of investigative journalism.

But other people suspect they were being used as a mouthpiece. From the Epoch Times:

Controversy continues to simmer around last week’s lengthy New York Times exposé of the US$2.7 billion fortune that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s family is said to have amassed. Critics have said the story was planted by Wen Jiabao’s political foes, while the New York Times has defended the integrity of the story.

In an Oct. 29 blog post, the Times reporter, David Barboza, addressed head on the claim that the story might have been given to him:

“I have read the speculation that some ‘insider’ gave me information, or that some enemies of the prime minister dropped off a huge box of documents at my office,” Barboza wrote. “That never happened. Not only were there no leaked documents, I never in the course of reporting met anyone who offered or hinted that they had documents related to the family holdings. This was a paper trail of publicly available documents that I followed with my own reporting.”

You can believe that, or you can believe this:

On Oct. 30, the Chinese website of the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle claimed Barboza would have had difficulty getting information about who are the members of Wen’s family, information needed in order to track the family members’ appearance in corporate documents:

“The head of a Chinese media outlet that reports on business who used to be an experienced investigative reporter told Deutsche Welle Chinese that information about family members for common Chinese can be found by checking the household register information.

“However, this household register system maintains strict confidentiality for information for Chinese Communist Party officials with rank above the provincial level. It is very difficult to obtain the names of the family members for a person who is a member of Politburo Standing Committee. Therefore, the NY Times should have gotten some kind of assistance, which could even be a systematic set of materials.”

New Tang Dynasty’s political commentator Wen Zhao commenting on the NY Times story said, “I don’t think this is something a private investigation or media outlet is capable of doing in China. No doubt about it, this kind of thorough investigation can only be conducted by people who control the secret police or secret agents in China.”

Their point is that the neo-Maoist, anti-reform hardliners in China associated with former President Jiang Zemin funneled the information to the Times as part of the ongoing political struggle in that country.

Whether that’s true or not — and we’re never going to know — the idea that people would use of the New York Times as an international mouthpiece is plausible. I’ve read articles in that newspaper about Japan that I would bet cash money were nothing more than rewritten talking points e-mailed by the DPJ government. Some of the information in those articles bore so little resemblance to actual conditions that it was risible.

3. China on the march

The final section is a compilation of of pieces. The first is a translation of a Yomiuri Shimbun article that appeared on the Web today. Here it is in its entirety:

Five Chinese Surveillance Ships in the Contiguous Waters of the Senkakus — For 12 Straight Days

Four Chinese maritime surveillance ships and one fishing surveillance ship entered the contiguous waters (22 kilometers) around the Senkaku islets yesterday morning. They continue to warn Japanese Coast Guard ships not to approach their territorial waters. This is the 12th straight day that Chinese surveillance ships have entered the contiguous waters.

The 11th District Coast Guard headquarters in Naha reported that four Chinese ships entered Japanese territorial waters on the morning of the 30th. After leaving in the afternoon, they remained in the contiguous waters. As of 9:00 a.m. on the 31st, the four ships were 31-33 kilometers to the southeast, while the fishery patrol boat was 28 kilometers northwest of Kubajima and headed in a south-southwesterly direction.

A Sankei Shimbun article yesterday provided a few more details:

One of the surveillance ships used an electronic bulletin board to transmit messages in Japanese and Chinese that read, “Your ship has entered Chinese territorial waters. Leave at once.”

Compared to some in the Anglosphere, the Japanese media is rather subdued. Try this piece from yesterday in the Financial Times (that might require registration).

The Chinese State Oceanic Administration – which enforces the nation’s maritime interests – said four of its ships on Tuesday tried to expel Japanese vessels out of waters where they were operating “illegally”.

And:

Last month, Beijing announced a territorial baseline for the disputed islands that defined the exact geographical location of its claimed territory to back its long-standing claim.

“Chinese government vessels did not chase Japanese boats out of the islands’ territorial waters in the past, as these waters were an area controlled by the Japanese coastguard,” said Li Guoqiang, an expert on border issues at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “But the situation changed when we created a legal basis for enforcing our claim by announcing the territorial baseline for the islands in September.”

It concludes:

Mr Li said the Chinese government was still restraining itself and would not lightly add to the tension. “But if the Japanese don’t change their ways and return to the path of negotiation, such friction could increase,” he said. “Then, it would not be a question of just four vessels but many more.”

On the one hand, it could be argued that the Japanese consider this to be Chinese bluster and see no need to make a big deal of it. On the other hand, it could also be argued that they are downplaying the situation to prevent the public from demanding that its government grow a made-in-Japan backbone.

In either case, it’s clear that the Chinese are engaging in international outlawry, are arrogant enough to press the legitimacy of this approach for their bogus claim overseas, and don’t seem concerned at all about what the United States might do.

The situation has the potential to become very ugly.

Posted in China, Government, International relations, Mass media, Military affairs, Politics | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

The ABCs of Japanese politics

Posted by ampontan on Monday, October 29, 2012

Hasegawa Yukihiro is a long-time newspaperman and non-fiction author of books about politics and government. He wrote a string of four Tweets yesterday. Here they are:

* The basis for the statements coming from the Democratic Party of Japan is the Finance Ministry path itself. This has thrown into relief the fact that the DPJ is not a party of reform. The ministry turned its back on the party long ago, and is treating it coldly.

* It seems as if (Prime Minister) Noda will squat in place (without calling an election). The Finance Ministry has turned its back on him, too, and there’s no telling what they’ll do next. Noda himself understands that much, but he still can’t do anything. He told Watanabe Yoshimi (Your Party head) that the Finance Ministry did him in. Why is it that newspapers can’t print this story? Watanabe talked about it openly at a news conference.

* The Finance Ministry uses and disposes of politicians all the time. This is the A of the ABCs for observing Japanese politics. They did the same with Yosano Kaoru and Tanigaki Sadakazu. Since the Meiji Restoration, they’ve believed they are the royal road in Japan.

* The essence for considering oneself a Third Force in Japanese politics is to break up the centralization of authority and the system of bureaucracy. (In real terms, that means breaking up the system of Finance Ministry control.) Without this, there is no point in talking about who is going to align with whom and do what.

And that is all you need to know about how Japanese politics works.

Posted in Government, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Voter apathy

Posted by ampontan on Friday, October 19, 2012

ONE of the more controversial proposals of Japan’s Democratic Party government is to give people with permanent resident status the right to “participate” in local elections. The assumption they wish everyone to make is that this means voting. But the actual Japanese phrase used is “participation” rather than “voting”. That euphemism contains the implication of non-citizens being allowed to stand for office, which would surely be the next demand. Need it be mentioned that the agitation to further extend the privilege to national elections would start shortly thereafter? We’ve all seen how certain political elements behave once they jam their foot in the door. Indeed, jamming their foot in the door is an integral part of their strategy.

The opposition parties insist the Constitution prohibits this “participation”, and some of them have written proposed Constitutional amendments that would remove any ambiguity about citizenship being a prerequisite for political activity.

To clear up any possible ambiguity: This legislation is not intended to enfranchise people such as me — permanent residents with citizenship in countries outside the region. It is to enfranchise native-born ethnic Koreans who choose Korean citizenship.

The DPJ position is based on several factors. These include political contributions from ethnic Koreans, some DPJ members who have hung their Korean ethnic heritage in the back of the closet, and the antipathy of some in the party to the nation-state concept. A somewhat benign form of that third factor was manifest in former Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio’s peculiar claim that the Japanese archipelago did not belong exclusively to the Japanese people. Most of the Japanese archipelagians thought that was errant nonsense. But they knew Mr. Hatoyama was lighter than air, and discounted his notions in the expectation that the DPJ might deliver some of the domestic political reform they promised. That was, after all, the primary reason they were voted into office. It was only a matter of weeks before the voters realized the DPJ promises were lighter than helium.

The political commitment of the ethnic Koreans resident in Japan more closely resembles an inert gas. It would be a simple matter for those born in Japan to obtain Japanese citizenship, but many prefer to swear paper fealty to a country they’ve never been to. And as a recent Yonhap news agency report explains, they seem to have little interest in the privileges of citizenship bestowed by their passport of choice. Here’s the report in English. It’s every bit as entertaining as an article from the horsenbuggy news media from any other country, and short to boot:

*****
There are 578,135 Koreans living in Japan — 461,627 with permanent resident status, and 116,508 without that status. Interest among them is growing in the 19 December presidential election in South Korea.

The South Korean Central Election Committee estimates that 462,509 of these people in Japan, or about 80% of the total, are eligible to vote. This year, South Korean citizens living abroad will be eligible to vote in the presidential election.

The number of registered voters for the National Assembly election held on 11 April totaled only 18,575 people, or 4.02%. Of the registered voters, only 9,973 actually cast a ballot, or 52.57%.

The atmosphere has changed before the presidential election, however. Interest is rising in the possible winner of the the election as bilateral relations are chilled due to the Dokdo controversy. Some ethnic Koreans wonder which candidate will pull Korean-Japanese relations toward stability.

There are also many among those eligible to vote intensely curious about the issue of Korean citizens voting in Japan, and the ethnic education of Koreans there.

As of 1 October, with just 19 days left to register for the presidential election, the number of registered voters in Japan totaled 15,986, or an estimated 3.45% of those eligible. That is 1.7 times higher than the number who registered for the assembly elections in April.

(End translation)
*****

* Yonhap is excited because as many as 3.45% of those eligible in a particular district have done their civic duty at a distance and registered to vote. If the earlier election results are a guide, only about half of these will be able to muster the energy to fill out and mail in the ballots.

Why should it be cause for excitement that the number of overseas citizens interested in a presidential election is 1.7 times greater than the number of the same citizens interested in a legislative election? I’m an American living overseas with a better idea of the positions and accomplishments of both major presidential candidates than a lot of people in the United States. Yet I wouldn’t know who was running for the House or Senate in the four states that I once lived in if they walked up and bit me. If any of these South Korean “citizens” have ever lived in their district of eligibility, and are conversant about the candidates in that district, the number is miniscule.

* Is it possible for a South Korean news outlet to write any article about Japan without mentioning Dokdo/Takeshima, no matter how remote the connection? “With interest in Dokdo rising of late, Typhoon #18 struck the southern coast of Kyushu yesterday…”

* According to Yonhap, some ethnic Koreans wonder which presidential candidate in South Korea will contribute to stability in Korean-Japanese relations. I can answer that question: None of them.

There are two reasons for that. One is that none of them are interested to begin with. The other is that the South Korean polity will, by its nature, ensure that any candidate who might be interested will conceal that interest to ensure his political viability.

* Yes, the phrase “ethnic education” does have a tinge of the ein volk, doesn’t it? But the real issue, which Yonhap ignores, has nothing to do with “ethnic education”. Schools for ethnic Koreans already exist in those areas with a population sufficient to support them. The intense interest is in whether or not parents who send their children to these schools should receive the same government subsidies that parents who are Japanese citizens receive for sending their children to private schools teaching a Japanese curriculum. In other words: Where’s my free money!

Most of the schools for ethnic Koreans, incidentally, are operated by Chongryeon, the local citizens’ group associated with North Korea. Their curriculum is based on the glorification of the Kim Dynasty and the defamation of the country that allows them to operate.

Mindan, the group affiliated with South Korea, offers supplementary Saturday classes in “ethnic education”. Here is Mindan’s explanation for the reason they are disenfranchised:

(D)ue to the influence from the conservative wing, symbolized by ‘distortion of the history textbook’ and ‘worship of the Yasukuni Shrine’, the legislation has been delayed, and the law is still held under its pending state.

On the other hand, more than a few Japanese citizens have an intense interest in answers to their questions: Why should their tax proceeds be used to fund the “ethnic education” of the children of people born and raised in Japan who insist on maintaining Korean citizenship?

And: Why should they allow demi-separatists too lazy to exercise the privileges of citizenship in the country to which they pledge allegiance, to establish ethnic enclaves and vote in elections in a country to which they won’t pledge allegiance?

Other than the demand to satisfy a hypertrophied sense of entitlement, that is.

Posted in Education, Foreigners in Japan, Government, North Korea, South Korea | Tagged: , | 5 Comments »

Hashimoto Toru (11): Scurrilous

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, October 18, 2012

THE weekly Shukan Asahi started on Monday a series of articles profiling Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Toru that could only be described as scurrilous, had the behavior of the international news media not rendered that word inadequate long ago.

The series is written by non-fiction author Sano Shin’ichi and is titled, “Hashishita: Savior or King of the Ignorant Public? Smoking out the real character of Hashimoto Toru by tracing his DNA.”

The Hashishita in the title is written in the katakana alphabet (ハシシタ) instead of in kanji (橋下). That could only be described as a deliberate impertinence — had the behavior of the international news media also not rendered that word inadequate long ago. It was probably the original reading of Mr. Hashimoto’s name, and the reading indicates his father might have been descended from burakumin, a social class in Japan that has been subject to discrimination in the past. Hashi no Shita, or underneath the bridge, is also a phrase used in the Kansai region to denote buraku communities.

The Asahi group is attempting to use Mr. Hashimoto’s family background to destroy his career. His father might also have been a member of a lesser yakuza group that no longer exists, and is said to have committed suicide when his membership was revealed by a distant relative. His cousin is serving a jail term for manslaughter. This information is already widely known because it was revealed by weekly magazines just before last November’s mayoral election. It had little, if any, impact on the voting — Mr. Hashimoto won by a wide margin.

Explained the author:

“I do not intend to validate the Hashimoto political methods.”

And:

“In the event Hashimoto achieves a position from which he can influence Japanese politics, the most important issue must become this man’s intolerant character in which he will absolutely reject his opponents. That is the real Hashimoto character which lies at the root of his troublesome personality. To do that, we must examine in as much detail as possible Hashimoto Toru’s parents and the roots of the Hashimoto family.”

The phrase “in the event” also has overtones in the original Japanese. It was man ga ichi , which is the same euphemism Japanese life insurance companies use in their advertising as a substitute for “if XXX should happen to die”. In practice, it means, “If we have to think the unthinkable.”

When Mr. Sato says “intolerant character”, what he really means is that the mayor gives no quarter in public debates. The reason the Asahi finds his personality “troublesome” is that (a) the public loves him for it, and (b) his ideas are on the opposite side of the political spectrum. When Mr. Hashimoto responds to criticism from a university professor, for example, not only will he offer a lengthy and detailed rebuttal based on his political philosophy and policy views, he is also apt to question the qualifications of academics to even participate in the debate because they lack experience in manipulating the nuts and bolts of public administration. Further, he is apt to add barbed comments about their lack of real-world experience outside the classroom.

Mayor Hashimoto was asked about the articles yesterday at a news conference. He had plenty to say.

* “I think that no institution has a more important role in a democratic nation than the news media. They must act as a check on authority.”

But:

* “I have no memory of being raised by my biological father. (His father’s suicide occurred when he was seven.) Considering that, I don’t think it makes any difference what sort of life he led.”

* “I would like to hear their thinking about the impact of my father’s life on my current political activities. Their frightening thinking is compatible with racialism (literally, “blood vessel-ism”) and class (caste/status) systems.”

* “This is extremely frightening because it can be associated with Nazi ethnic cleansing.”

Note that the publication is not questioning the influence of his father’s thinking or behavior on his political beliefs or behavior through contact while he was growing up. That would be a legitimate area for inquiry. Rather, it is questioning the influence of “DNA” on his behavior, as Mr. Hashimoto wasn’t reared by his father.

He also reminded the news media that his name was Hashimoto, not Hashishita.

As a result:

* “Until I have them provide a clear confirmation of whether or not this thinking is racialism connected to a class system, I cannot recognize them as an organ of (free) speech, nor can I, as a public official, respond to their news-gathering activities.”

And:

* “Until I hear a proper (explanation) of what they were thinking about, I do not want to answer any questions from the Asahi newspaper company or their broadcast network. Maximum protection must be afforded freedom of speech, but they have crossed the line.”

He explained that he has no intention of preventing them from attending news conferences as part of their job. They just don’t get to ask any questions while they’re there.

The public response so far has been such that it might make some politicians in the Anglosphere envious of the Japanese sense of fairness. I’ve yet to see anyone even attempt to defend the Asahi, even by those who dislike the mayor. This Tweet by University of Tokyo Prof. Sugawara Taku seems typical:

“I can only say that Mr. Hashimoto is correct, if only in this instance.”

Others quickly noted that the article contributes to discrimination against the buraku class.

There are also extenuating circumstances, the foremost of which is that the Asahi does not have a reputation for journalistic integrity. They alone among the media concealed information to beautify the ugly behavior of former Prime Minister Kan Naoto during the Fukushima nuclear accident. Many Japanese also hold them responsible for poisoning the well of Japanese-Korean relations by printing bogus information about comfort women on the eve of then-Prime Minister Miyazawa Ki’ichi’s state visit to South Korea. A female Asahi reporter was hoist by her own petard last month when she berated the mayor for not coming to City Hall to meet a South Korean comfort woman.

An Asahi reporter attended the Osaka mayor’s news conference today. Mr. Hashimoto asked him for his opinion, and the reporter complained several times that the magazine is published by a different company than the newspaper (which is the parent company), and they had nothing to do with it.

Replied the mayor:

“That’s the same type of thing as one of those illegal groups that creates a tunnel company (paper company) to get away with whatever they want.”

He added:

“The Asahi Shimbun has always championed human rights. How will they approach this issue as the (only) stockholder of a wholly-owned subsidiary?”

When the reporter continued to protest that the company was different, he retorted:

“That logic will not pass muster. The parent company can also withdraw its investment.”

He then asked the journo for his personal opinion. One report says he had trouble getting it out, but he finally said:

“Personally, I myself do not approve of that behavior.”

Yes, the Asahi group is the leading leftwing media voice in Japan. Yes, Hashimoto Toru is not a social democrat. He wants to reduce the size of government and legitimize the right of self-defense in the Constitution.

Why do you ask?

Afterwords:

* The cover of the magazine in question also promotes an article about Dr. Yamashita Shinya, who was awarded the Nobel Prize this year for his stem cell research. Now consider the juxtaposition of that article with one that purports to reveal the personality of Hashimoto Toru based on his “DNA” (a term the author used without quotation marks).

* The boys and girls who play newspaper at the Japan Times just can’t help themselves, it seems. They ran a brief Kyodo article about the controversy that also includes a reference to the magazine’s comparison of Mr. Hashimoto to Adolf Hitler. As far as I’ve read, none of the people in Japan criticizing the Shukan Asahi for the piece have mentioned it. (The comparison is very old news and only the usual crowd cares.)

But here is the headline the Japan Times chose:

Hashimoto snubs Asahi for Hitler slight

UPDATE:

Mr. Hashimoto said he wants to meet with the Shukan Asahi editors to hear what they have to say for themselves. He’s Tweeted that they’ve told him they’re ready to meet him, but that the meeting be private. The mayor replied that he’s not interested in private meetings. A mass media outlet has brought up the issue of “blood” in public, he explained, so he wants to have a discussion with them that is open to the public.

This willingness to duke it out in public, backed by the confidence to win those battles, is one reason the establishment is petrified by Hashimoto Toru.

UPDATE 2:

The Shukan Asahi decided to suspend publication of the rest of the articles in the planned series.

*****
Speaking of bloodlines, here’s a tune from the disc Blood Line, a 1989 release by Okinawan Kina Shokichi.

Posted in Government, Mass media, Politics | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

The New World Disorder

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sekimon Forest on Hahajima, the second-largest of the Ogasawara Islands

Now, we can see a new world coming into view. A world in which there is the very real prospect of a new world order. In the words of Winston Churchill, a “world order” in which “the principles of justice and fair play … protect the weak against the strong …” A world where the United Nations, freed from cold war stalemate, is poised to fulfil the historic vision of its founders. A world in which freedom and respect for human rights find a home among all nations.

– George H.W. Bush, 6 March 1991

IF the new world described by Bush the Elder ever came into view, it just as quickly receded from sight and was swallowed up by the darkness as the train of events sped through the night. Today’s new disordered world is the outward manifestation of disordered minds. Here’s a brief look at three disordered mindsets fixated on Japan that appeared in the East Asian media recently.

Tsushima

The Chosun Ilbo of South Korea earlier this month interviewed a Col. Kim (name not provided in Chinese characters) about his campaign claiming that the Japanese island of Tsushima should be part of South Korea. Even some Koreans think this is over the top, and the interviewer started the piece by quoting Prime Minister Kim Huang-shik:

“Even if there are historical grounds, claiming at this point that Tsushima is Korean territory lacks persuasiveness.”

Col. Kim is undeterred, however. Here’s the interview.

*****
Q: Are you intentionally focusing on Tsushima as a way to resolve the Dokdo issue?

K: I am arguing from the premise that there is objective information verifying Tsushima as Korean territory. Japan knows this fact. They are being more firm than necessary about Dokdo to hide Tsushima.

Q: There are probably many historical documents that say Tsushima is South Korean territory. But there are also many documents and maps that are just as legitimate stating it is Japanese territory.

K: That’s right…Tsushima county appears on a governmental map of Gyeongnam Province from the 19th century. But the basis of my assertion is not these old maps or documents.

Q: What do you think is the decisive material?

K: Immediately after Japan’s opening to the outside world, the United States discovered the uninhabited island of Ogasawara (part of what are called the Bonin Islands in English) in the Pacific about 1,000 kilometers from the Japanese mainland. A dispute broke out between the two countries because the United States attempted to incorporate it as its own territory. At that time, the Japanese produced a map they had made of their country (1785) showing the islands.

Q: Japan had already prepared such a map?

K: It was made by Hayashi Shihei, who became aware of Japanese sovereignty issues early on. He wrote that Japan should incorporate into its own territory the uninhabited islands around the country with a view to maritime defense. He also wrote that Japan should conquer Korea and expand its territory as a means of national defense. He was the originator of the idea of conquering Korea. Hayashi surveyed Japan and the surrounding area and made five maps.

Q: During the discussions over territory, did the US give up its claim after seeing the maps?

K: The American government insisted that the Japanese version of Hayashi’s map was not objective proof. The Shogunate, in a bind, knew there was a translated French version of Hayashi’s map. They were able to conclude the negotiations successfully using this map as evidence. That map lists Tsushima as Korean territory. That was on the map that Japan used to for its territorial negotiations with the United States.

Q: Have you seen this map?

K: On the hand-drawn maps discovered until now, Dokdo was shown as Korean territory and Tsushima as Japanese territory. Prof. Hosaka Yuji, a naturalized Korean citizen (and head of Sejong University’s Dokdo Research Center) says that because this information appears on an internationally recognized map, it is decisive proof that Dokdo is Korean territory. But what we have overlooked is that (the French) map also shows Tsushima as Korean territory.

Q: This is a contradiction. Didn’t you just say that the hand-drawn maps show Tsushima as Japanese territory?

K: That’s right. But it’s very likely that all the hand-drawn maps are phony. Several years ago, a search at the special Dokdo display area in Room 2006 of the National Assembly library turned up an original copy of the French map. The color for Tsushima was the same color used for Korea. I believe that is the original map.

Q: I do not think it is logical to unilaterally claim that a map showing Tsushima as Korean territory is the original and maps showing otherwise are forgeries.

K: According to the records, a Dutchman brought one copy of the Hayashi map back to Europe in 1806. A European scholar of the Far East (name unidentifiable due to the Japanese spelling) used the map to survey the area, and after he returned, made the French map in 1832. The French map in the National Assembly library is indeed that map. An old document collector donated it to the library.

The interviewer followed up that conversation by speaking to the collector, named Han, over the phone. Han said the map was published in 1832, and he bought it in Australia in the early 1980s. But the interviewer also included his statement: “There are doubts that Tsushima can be claimed to be Korean territory just because it is the same yellow color as Korea.”

N.B.:

1. Col. Kim is not the first Korean to enjoy using the story about Ogasawara and the Hayashi maps for territorial claims. Unfortunately for them, as this source indicates, the American government was never interested in the Bonin Islands. Commodore Perry of Black Ship fame wanted his country to incorporate them, but they ignored him. The British were more keen, but backed off. The Japanese government says they have no records that the Shogunate ever negotiated with the Americans about the islands.

2. The Hayashi maps have never been “internationally recognized”, other than to the extent that they are internationally recognized for containing many inaccuracies regarding territory other than the four main Japanese islands.

3. Prof. Hosaka was born and raised in a zainichi neighborhood in Japan, and may or may not have been one himself. He married a Korean woman, became a naturalized citizen, and is often quoted in Korean newspapers for his support of the Korean side in territorial issues. His MO seems to be to speculate about the real meaning of documents and maps that are unclear, draw conclusions based on those speculations, and then cite the documents and maps as “definite proof”.

Okinawa and Japan itself

An article appeared in the 12 October edition of the weekly Shukan Post about the Chinese application of Sinocentric Culturalism to Okinawa and the rest of Japan. It starts with this excerpt from a paid advertisement in the Apple Daily of Hong Kong:

“During our time of powerlessness, we of the Chinese race heard the sorrow of our Ryukyu compatriots across the distant sea. But now, the Chinese race has become your powerful allies. These are the tears of the mother who gave you birth. O, Chinese Ryukyus!”

Explains an unidentified journalist in China:

“Chinese youth in recent years have passionately supported the idea of a restoration of the Ryukyu kingdom. Many Chinese think the Ryukyus are part of China. For them, the concept of the Chinese race denotes those people who live in places influenced by Chinese civilization. Okinawa was once the independent Ryukyu Kingdom, and after the Satsuma attack of 1609, paid tribute to the Qing Dynasty. They bring out that historical fact to claim that the Ryukyus are part of China…

“…Not only that, the Chinese who support Ryukyu independence go so far as to assert that the earliest ancestors of the Japanese are the Chinese who traveled to the Japanese archipelago from the continent in search of the elixir of eternal life as ordered by the first Qin emperor (second century BC).”

The magazine says that the idea of supporting Ryukyu independence spread on the net in China after the incident in 2010 in which the Chinese fishing boat captain rammed two Japanese coast guard ships. They then offer another excerpt from the advertisement:

“The Yamato race is part of the Chinese race, and Japanese are originally of Chinese blood…Until Japan is restored as part of the “China – Great Peace Family” (中華一大平和家族), entrust to Taiwan Province the maintenance of security and the development of the Diaoyutai and the Ryukyus, which are part of China.”

The name of the group that paid for the ad roughly translates to The Preparatory Committee for the Ryukyu Special Administrative Region of the Chinese Race. (Hong Kong is also classified as a special administrative region.) The group was formed late in 2010 after the incident. That’s one of their ads in the photo above. “Liuqiu” is the Romanization for what the Chinese call the Ryukyus.

Jackie Chan

The political opinions and statements of East Asian film stars can be just as disordered as those of their Western counterparts. The Record China website (a Japanese-language site offering news about China) quoted excerpts from a news conference with Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan on 2 October. Here’s some of what he said.

* “The Senkaku islands were Chinese, historically…judging from my perspective, we should ask the country that snatched someone else’s property to return it.”

* ”If I were Superman, I would pull the islands nearer China.“

* “Vladivostok should be returned to China and the Northern Territories (four Russian-held islands) to Japan.”

The Superman comment didn’t impress everyone in China. Retorted one person on the Net:

“The Senkakus are over there, which enables us to obtain territorial waters and undersea resources. They wouldn’t have any meaning if they were closer to the coast.”

It appears that someone in China understands the point of the Chinese claim better than Jackie Chan.

Chan’s stuck his foot in his mouth before. He once made a reference to Taiwan and Hong Kong as being out of control because they had too much freedom, so they needed to be managed by Chinese people. And this one didn’t please his Chinese fans:

“If you want to buy a TV, buy a Japanese product. Chinese TVs blow up.”

N.B.:

The Chinese knew Vladivostok as Haishenwei when it was part of some of their dynastic empires. Russia snatched it in 1860 in the Treaty of Beijing because the Qing Dynasty couldn’t defend itself. The two countries later fought over it.

*******
Those with the eyes to see should now have sufficient evidence to be aware that we live in a state of New World Disorder that the presumed ruling elites are incapable of reordering. Indeed, they’re contributing to the disorder.

People are marching with swastika armbands in Greece, youth unemployment in Spain is approaching 50%, some are speculating that the French economy will be the next to blow, and the Eurocrats have congratulated themselves on their success by awarding themselves the Nobel Peace Prize. Daniel Hannan explains what they don’t want to see:

“Jamming peoples into a single state against their will is rarely conducive to either democracy or goodwill. It didn’t work for the Habsburgs, the Ottomans or the Soviets. Those polities survived only when they were police states. The moment their constituent peoples were free to choose, they opted for independence.”

The Russians have announced they will withdraw from an agreement with the United States to dismantle nuclear and chemical weapons. Known as the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program in the US, it had twice been renewed by both parties. But here’s Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov:

“The agreement doesn’t satisfy us, especially considering new realities.”

One of the new realities of the New World Disorder is that the Chinese no longer feel the need to disguise their intention to carve off some, or all, of Japan for themselves, and that some South Koreans are interested in snatching the scraps off the table while warily eyeing the Chinese.

The Japanese Constitution that the Americans so thoughtfully wrote for them long ago and far away in a world that no longer exists entrusts national security to “the peace-loving peoples of the world”. It effectively outsources national defense to the U.S.

That doesn’t look like a viable proposition right now. The U.S. is itself outsourcing the defense of its own installations located in a more disordered part of the world:

“The State Department outsourced security for the Benghazi consulate to Blue Mountain, a Welsh firm that hires ex-British and Commonwealth Special Forces, among the toughest hombres on the planet. The company’s very name comes from the poem “The Golden Journey To Samarkand,” whose words famously adorn the regimental headquarters of Britain’s Special Air Service in Hereford. Unfortunately, the one-year contract for consulate security was only $387,413 – or less than the cost of deploying a single U.S. soldier overseas. On that budget, you can’t really afford to fly in a lot of crack SAS killing machines, and have to make do with the neighborhood talent pool. So who’s available? Blue Mountain hired five members of the Benghazi branch of the February 17th Martyrs’ Brigade and equipped them with handcuffs and batons…There were supposed to be four men heavily armed with handcuffs on duty that night, but, the date of Sept. 11 having no particular significance in the Muslim world, only two guards were actually on shift…So, on the first anniversary of 9/11 in a post-revolutionary city in which Western diplomats had been steadily targeted over the previous six months, the government of the supposedly most powerful nation on Earth entrusted its security to Abdulaziz Majbari, 29, and his pal, who report to some bloke back in Carmarthen, Wales.”

Perhaps one reason the United States is cutting corners on defense expenditures is that it’s as broke as a country has ever been. Meanwhile, the man who did most of the heavy lifting to make it that broke is running for reelection.

The U.S. is faced with a worldwide reset inimical to its interests and skyrocketing debt at home, but it has yet to demonstrate the capability for dealing with either problem. It will have a presidential election in a little more than three weeks, and the principals are holding televised debates. The current president behaved like the empty chair of his caricature during the first one. In the next one, the current vice-president thought the proper way to discuss pressing issues with the American public was to conduct himself like a barroom buffoon. A not-insignificant number of Americans thought that was exactly what he needed to do.

Those with the eyes to see now know that the United States has been in a state of low-level civil war for some years, and that the civil war will continue to occupy the country for the foreseeable future. If the current government receives another four-year term, the world disorder will become more severe. If it is replaced, the party now in government will devote its primary energies as the opposition to preventing the new government from addressing the disorderliness, assuming that the new government is capable of it.

Japan can also see the new realities that the Russians see. They will increasingly wonder if a bankrupt and disorderly America will uphold an agreement it signed in a long-dead era to defend Japan from external aggression. We all know what conclusions they will draw — everyone one else is drawing the same ones.

It might be a lot sooner than anyone thinks that Japan gets wise, realizes that it’s on its own, and takes the steps required to defend itself.

The noise level from people outside the country opposing those steps will be in direct proportion to the level of the need for those steps to begin with.

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