Japan from the inside out

Archive for the ‘Legal system’ Category

Letter bombs (25): Chugoku or Shina?

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ishihara Shintaro (top) and Miishima Yukio in Tokyo, 1956

Ishihara Shintaro (top) and Miishima Yukio in Tokyo, 1956

READER Avery Morrow submitted a comment related to Chinese sinocentric culturalism with a link to an academic paper titled Shina as a toponym for China.

The Chinese call their nation 中国, or the country in the center (of the world), and also refer to China adjectivally as 中華, the flower in the center of the world. The standard name for the country in Japan is Chugoku, which is the Japanese reading of the characters that the Chinese use.

Some Japanese, however, prefer to use the term Shina. Avery quotes the paper:

The term Shina (支那) was originally popularized as an alternative to Chugoku 中国 because Japanese Rangaku scholars realized China was not actually the center of the world, but there are seven continents and over a hundred countries scattered around it.

The paper also points out that the term China was not standardized as the name for the country in English until the 20th century. The author adds:

As arguably China’s keenest observer and, on occasion, mercurial assessor, Japan had nothing to gain or lose — toponymically speaking — from which of the various names for China would carry on and which would be swept into the dustbin.

The Japanese who most often use Shina for China today are the sort of people that the self-anointed enlightened ones consider extreme right-wingers. The most well-known of these people is Ishihara Shintaro.

This upsets the Chinese, because it means that the upstart inferiors of Little Japan do not render them the proper deference due the flower in the center of creation.

Everyone, however, still refers to the East China Sea as the Higashi Shina Kai, and no one gets upset about that.

Last month, Hosono Goshi, the chairman of the Democratic Party of Japan’s Policy Research Committee and one of the party’s boy wonderfuls, complained about Mr. Ishihara’s word choice during an appearance on a television program. (The former Tokyo Metro District governor has published roughly 35 fiction and non-fiction books. Three have won awards, and his first novel, Season of the Sun, was the Novel of its Generation.)

Said Mr. Hosono:

It is a mistake for Ishihara Shintaro to call China Shina. China should also not call Japan “Little Japan”.

As if anyone in China cared what Mr. Hosono thinks. His statement was reported in China, and here are some of the Internet comments:

* That government official doesn’t seem to know that the use of the word Japan itself constitutes denigration. Big or little has nothing to do with it.

* I’ve never used little Japan. I’ve always used riben guizi or Japanese beasts myself. (Riben guizi is 日本鬼子, or very roughly, Japanese demon, but it packs a lot of history and negative associations.)

* How about if we use Little Japan Guizi?

* Let’s use Japanese devils.

* What’s the difference between Little Japan and Japan?

* What difference does it make? They’re just one of our provinces anyway.

No, Mr. Hosono is not ready for prime time, but then neither was his party.

Author and critic Kure Tomofusa explained the reason for the Japanese switch from Shina to Chugoku in the 19 November 2010 edition of the weekly Shukan Post. Here it is in English.

For more than 60 years after the war, Japan has associated with the country across the sea by muddling the examination of right and wrong. I write “the country across the sea”, and that country is known throughout the world as Shina or something of similar pronunciation. But only Japan and the countries on the Korean Peninsula have been compelled to call this country Chugoku. Both the government and the public have contributed to the muddling of right and wrong through this irrational control of speech.

I first pointed out this irrationality during the days of the Zenkyoto student protests. I insisted that the country should be called Shina. I have not wavered from that position even after becoming a commentator, though that position has been to my detriment several times. Right is right, and wrong is wrong.

Shina is derived from 秦 (Shin, or Manchu Dynasty), and it became the internationally accepted term for the country. In English it is China, and in France it is Chine, both of which are similar to the Japanese Shina.

This usage was prohibited in Japan in 1946 through a notification from a deputy foreign minister. At that time, Japan was occupied by the U.S. and the other Allied powers. News reports were submitted for screening prior to publication, and the publication of printed matter was suspended. With this as a backdrop, this unusual restriction on speech was issued requiring that the country be called Chugoku. The notification also included the frightening phrase that Shina was not to be used, “with no argument”.

Japan regained its sovereignty in 1952 with the peace treaty, yet both the mass media and educational institutions still use this unusual notification by a deputy minister. Have they not noticed that Chugoku was used through compulsion? Instead, many people believe in good conscience that Shina should naturally be prohibited because it is discriminatory and symbolic of the invasion.

Great Britain ended its invasion of China with the return of Hong Kong in 1997. Portugal ended its invasion of China with the return of Macau two years later in 1999. Both Great Britain and Portugal use the China/Shina terms, so where is the problem?

The meaning of Chugoku is “the country in the center of the world”. It is an arrogant word that denotes contempt for other countries. Shina is trying to force this on the surrounding countries that were once in its sphere of influence. The subject of discrimination is Japan. We must clearly differentiate right from wrong. Saying what should be said is the most basic of basics.


Posted in China, History, International relations, Legal system, Letter bombs, World War II | Tagged: | 8 Comments »

Justice is blind

Posted by ampontan on Friday, October 12, 2012

Tanaka Keishu

EVERYONE knows that the bureaucracy guides policy in Japanese politics, so Cabinet ministers are usually appointed for reasons other than field-specific expertise. Everyone knows that most of the Cabinet appointees of the current Democratic Party government have no field-specific expertise in much of anything, and that Prime Minister Noda’s appointments in particular have been inexcusable for anyone entrusted with the stewardship of national affairs. Everyone also knows that Noda Cabinet V.3, released on 1 October, was a barrel bottom-scraping exercise that only a party unfit to lead a national government could have conducted.

And everyone is now discovering that it’s worse than they thought.

The new Minister of Justice is Tanaka Keishu. Before entering politics, Mr. Tanaka was employed at an electrical contracting firm following his graduation from Tokai university with a degree in engineering. As with many of his DPJ comrades, he found labor union activity more rewarding than working for a living. One of the few issues he seems to have taken a clear stand on during his six Diet terms is the adoption of daylight savings time in Japan.

Mr. Tanaka was asked during his first news conference what he thought about capital punishment. No one understood his answer.

It was soon discovered that a local DPJ group headed by Mr. Tanaka received JPY 420,000 in illegal donations from a Taiwanese company in Yokohama over a four-year period. A jail term of up to three years would await the person tried and convicted for that offense. The group returned the money two days after Mr. Tanaka took office.

Now, the 18 October issue of the weekly Shukan Shincho offers eyewitness reports that the new Justice Minister delivered a short speech while attending a banquet for a gangster, and served as the go-between (nakodo) for a different mobster who died last year. (A go-between at a Japanese wedding is roughly equivalent to the best man at a Western wedding.)

When the magazine interviewed him about attending the banquet, he said:

“Well, it was only the one time, I think.”

As for serving as the go-between, he protested:

“His father asked me to do it. I didn’t know what his son was involved in.”

Part of the problem is the idea in the Westminster system that sitting legislators should be appointed as Cabinet ministers (though it isn’t required in Japan). It isn’t possible to perform both jobs competently. Compounding the problem is that the DPJ ran through their shallow bench long ago and are left with water boys and stadium janitors.

Indeed, the DPJ itself is now the best argument for bureaucratic control of policy, at least while the party is still in control of government. The bureaucrats know what they’re doing.

Mr. Noda should have appointed Festis instead.

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Ichigen koji (126)

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, August 1, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

I have long thought that Japan should amend its Constitution on its own, and if the decision is taken as the result of debate, should have military forces or even nuclear weapons. The dangers are not military forces or weapons. The knives in your kitchen could easily be used to kill people. Is that dangerous?

More than 60 years have passed, but Japan’s mass media does not initiate a debate on their own country’s Constitution. How proud they are of the freedom of speech! (Their failure to do so) is because they lack both the courage and the strength to touch on the different essentialist theories that will emerge in a Constitutional debate.

Some in the mass media and opinion leaders say that being unarmed will not cause uneasiness in Asia. That itself is the result of their misconceptions and overestimation of themselves. Military forces and weapons do not start wars on their own. Military forces start wars in countries unable to properly conduct diplomacy and politics.

– Song Wengzhou

Mr. Song came to study in Japan from China in the early 90s and stayed to establish and operate his own business.

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Ichigen koji 101

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, May 1, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

The important thing about the verdict (of not guilty for Ozawa Ichiro) is that the public now knows the fact that political funds are transferred in units of hundreds of millions of yen, and the fact that statements of income and expeditures for political funds can be made off the books to suit the politicians’ convenience. These facts are indisputable.

Because there was no direct evidence, I did not think it would be possible to prove there was collusion in the false bookkeeping entries. Therefore, the verdict is completely understandable and appropriate. But we can also assume that a report between former DPJ Secretary-General Ozawa Ichiro and his aide about the off-the-books transaction was acknowledged, so it cannot be said that (Mr. Ozawa) was completely innocent…The people will absolutely not view this as having been legal and proper.

– Takamura Kaoru, author and novelist, on last week’s Ozawa Ichiro verdict


Please excuse my absence for the past week; the PC was on the verge of giving up the ghost, so that meant buying a new one, getting it set up, figuring out where they decided to hide the old familiar functions on the new model, and transferring a lot of files.

Posted in Legal system, Politics, Quotations | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Ichigen koji (100)

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, April 21, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

* (We in) Japan should repudiate the Constitution and immediately create a new one ourselves.

* The Constitution was written in three or four days by the Americans and consists entirely of hideous text that was translated from the English to the Japanese.

* It has been the valid law that governs the country, even after Japan regained its independence with the San Francisco Peace Treaty. Nowhere else is to be found an example of idiocy such as this.

* (The Constitution) has created an extremely distorted mentality among the people, who have a strong awareness of their rights, but no awareness of their responsibilities.

– Tokyo Metro District Gov. Ishihara Shintaro in a speech to the Heritage Foundation in the United States on the 16th. The coverage of the speech in English focused entirely on his mention of the intent to purchase some of the Senkaku islets from the family that owns them. None of them mentioned his discussion of the Constitution.

All the major overseas news outlets did find the space to mention that the Heritage Foundation is a “conservative” think tank, though those same outlets never find the space for an adjective when the think tank is left of center.

As the blogger Heartiste wrote recently in a different context, “The world has changed and integrity is now a passé virtue. I doubt (any) of the media propagandists care about their bias. War has a way of enfeebling the moral conscience.”

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Posted by ampontan on Monday, April 2, 2012

HERE are a few questions about the responses of some people who have objected to recent actions by the Japanese government.

Questions #1

Early last week, anti-capital punishment activists praised Japan for what Kyodo termed its “apparent de facto moratorium” — whatever that word sequence is supposed to mean — on killing convicted killers.

What really happened, rather than what apparently de facto happened, is this: The last time anyone walked the long green Japanese mile was July 2010. Rather than being a moratorium, it was an unannounced decision by the new prime minister, Kan Naoto, to stop executions. He was abetted in that decision by his second justice minister, Eda Satsuki, long an opponent of capital punishment. Mr. Eda always dodged the question when asked whether he had declared a moratorium on executions, as well on as signing the papers authorizing them. Last year was the first year there were no executions in Japan in 19 years.

Both men are now gone from the Cabinet for good, which means that affairs have reverted to normal. Three men were hung by the neck until dead on 29 March. In keeping with the Japanese practice to reserve the death penalty for multiple murders, one of the three rammed a car into a train station in 1999 and killed five people with a knife.


Every survey I’ve ever seen has the Japanese public approving capital punishment with roughly 70% support. A December 2009 Cabinet Office poll found that 85.6% of respondents said capital punishment is “unavoidable in some cases”.

The English-language media says the issue is “hotly debated” in Japan. What they mean is that they want it to become hotly debated in the real Japan instead of the Japan of their imaginations. Most Japanese think capital punishment is a natural response to certain circumstances, in the same way that others think abortion is a natural response to different circumstances. A look at the poll results shows that only a sliver of the population is likely to get hot about it, and then only those who know how to write press releases.

The executions were followed by Justice Minister Ogawa Toshio’s announcement that plans for a discussion panel on the pros and cons of executing cons will not be put into execution after all.

Said the Kyodo English-language article, with typically emotive language:

“The panel would have invited input from experts on all sides of the emotive issue, and Ogawa’s decision to curtail the opportunity for debate, including on the suspension of executions, immediately drew fire from death penalty critics.

“’It is left up to the personal creed of a justice minister whether to debate capital punishment. The DPJ cannot avoid blame for its irresponsibility as a ruling party,’ said Hideki Wakabayashi, an official at Amnesty International Japan.”

Amplified bologna. Mr. Wakabayashi thought it was fine that the personal creed of a different justice minister led him to apparently de facto suspend executions. Further, the only “experts” on capital punishment are those who research the frequency, the means, the standards, the distribution, and the background of the practice. Everyone else is trafficking in moral suasion, regardless of the title on their name card.

Nor did Mr. Ogawa curtail the opportunity for debate. Mr. Wakabayashi is at liberty to debate the subject until he’s gassed. He can write op-eds, magazine articles, or books, give speeches at rented halls or standing on top of upturned beer crates in the park, or wheedle interviews in the broadcast media. The absence of government sponsorship does not mean a thing does not exist.

And since Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko has no problem with capital punishment, it certainly wasn’t left up to the personal creed of this justice minister.

The EU is floating in the same boat. Here’s Catherine Ashton, Baroness Ashton of Upholland, the European Union’s High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, UK Labor Party pol, and a Life Peer who was born into a coal-mining family (i.e., she’s leftist aristocracy):

“The EU deeply regrets the execution of Yasuaki Uwabe, Tomoyuki Furusawa and Yasutoshi Matsuda on 29 March 2012, and the fact that this marks the resumption of executions in Japan after twenty months during which none took place.”

Why does Lady Ashton not mind her own business? Or are her official EU duties as insubstantial as her peerage?

The opponents of capital punishment say it is cruel and inhuman, but that’s looking at it through the wrong end of the telescope. Cruel and inhuman is deliberately stabbing five innocent people to death at a train station.

There were lamentations that the three condemned men were given only a few hours’ advance notice, and that their families were not notified until after the executions. There were no apparent de facto lamentations for the victims, who received no advance notice of their deaths at all. Their families weren’t notified until after they died either.

It is not unreasonable to assume that Lady Ashton and Mr. Wakabayashi are concerned about “social” justice, “social” democracy, and “social” welfare, and therefore about the well-being of society itself.

Why then do they deny society the means for self-defense?

Questions #2

Most Okinawans are getting really tired of having to make room for all those American service personnel. The entire Okinawa island chain is 877 square miles in all, and it is the location of 70-75% of the 47,000 American warfighters in Japan. American military installations occupy slightly more than 10% of all Okinawan territory, which is just over half that of the 1,545 square miles of Rhode Island, the smallest of the 50 American states.

In December 2010, Kan Naoto’s government agreed to pay the U.S. JPY 188 billion a year (about US$2.25 billion then) every year through 2015 to help defray the American military expenses. That’s significantly more than either Germany or South Korea pay.

The Japanese finally convinced the Americans in 2009 to move some Marines from Okinawa to Guam, but they had to accept a bill for $2.8 billion to get it done. That money will be allocated to the construction costs for new facilities in Guam.

But the U.S. reopened the deal in February when Congress wanted to cut expenditures and thought Japan should pay even more to transport American soldiers and build facilities for those American soldiers on American-governed territory. They wanted US$3.5 billion instead.

Why did Japan agree?

The Kyodo report had the answer:

“Japan, which initially resisted the move, has since relented to preserve the harmony of the bilateral alliance, the sources said.”

Ah, so. To keep the Americans from pouting and behaving unpleasantly. But you don’t always gotta have wa.

Why is Japan helping the U.S. out of their budgetary mess by exacerbating their own?

I have an answer for that:

The Japanese government is paying vigorish to the United States of America for a protection scheme.

Now here’s the question no one has an answer for.

Why don’t the Japanese apply the same attitude to the U.S. as they do to Amnesty International or the EU?

It would be salubrious for both parties if the Japanese were to tell the Americans to depart from Futenma in one year and to pay their own way home. The lower American lip would protrude; the neo-cons and many on both sides of the aisle in Congress would raise their voices, but they’d get over it. They’d still have plenty of military firepower here.

The Japanese might even figure out that the Americans need them just as much, if not more, than they need the Americans.


Here’s another question: Why does Amnesty International and the EU pester Japan — or even Mr. Natural himself, Abdallah Al-Bishi? Those organizations are full of the type of people who think multiculturalism is the contemporary apostles’ creed, can’t bring themselves to hold responsible the European Islamist youth for their actions when they rampage — or even admit their identity — but yet insist the uncivilized un-continentals on either end of Asia conform to their moral code instead of allowing them their own.

Al-Bishi’s implicit comparison of men and women at about the eight-minute mark is most interesting, by the way.

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Tattoos, copyrights, and human rights

Posted by ampontan on Monday, August 29, 2011

THE illogical logic sometimes used to interpret the law, particularly in civil suits, has long been a cliché in the West. For several reasons, one of which was a cultural tendency to avoid litigation altogether, logic of that sort had fewer opportunities to sprout in Japan. The non-native invasive species seems to have finally established itself, however, as a Tokyo District Court ruling last month suggests.

The case involved the cover of an autobiography written by a man who described his efforts to pass the test to become an administrative scrivener (or “certified administrative procedure specialist”) in the Japanese legal system. The man had the image of a Buddhist statue tattooed on his left thigh in 2001. When the autobiography was published in 2007, a photograph of the tattoo was used for the cover, though the photo was printed in sepia and used reverse shading. (The book is still in print, and the cover is shown next to the paragraph below.)

The tattoo artist sued for infringement of copyright, while the author countered that the tattoo was nothing more than a copy of a photo of the statue. Here come the judge: His honor ruled in favor of the plaintiff, saying that a tattoo could be covered by copyright if the artist’s conception was expressed in an original way. He also ruled that placing the tattoo on the book cover without citing the artist’s name was “an infringement of the human rights of the copyright holder”, and awarded the artist JPY 480,000 as compensation. That’s a skoche less than $US 6,300.

Explained the judge, “The tattoo differs in expression from the photo (of the statue), and presents the conception and emotions of the artist.” The human rights infringed were the right to decide whether or not the name of the copyright holder should be cited, and the right to prevent the display of an altered form of the copyrighted object without permission.

From the official records:

“It is recognized that creative devices were employed for the composition of the tattoo design and for the expression of the statue. Different tools and techniques were used for the outline and the other lines, as well the gradation of tone. The originality of expression of the plaintiff’s conception and emotions can be recognized. Therefore, it can be affirmed that the tattoo in question has copyrightability.”

The ruling also held that the techniques used to display the photo on the book cover were an infringement of the right to retain integrity.

Prof. Yamada Hajime of the Toyo University School of Economics objected on his website that the verdict was nearsighted and overly legalistic. Prof. Yamada notes that the city of Kobe is conducting a campaign to encourage the use of a local seashore area. Part of their campaign is based on a municipal ordinance that prohibits smoking, littering, and the exposure of tattoos outside designated areas. The ordinance forbids the “ostentatious display” of tattoos, as well as coarse and rough behavior, because it could cause other users of the seashore to become uneasy or frightened.

Japanese concerns about the public display of tattoos stem from the well-known yakuza taste for using them to decorate their bodies. But the gangsters usually show some discretion (or retain the means to smoothly conduct their daily affairs) by limiting even the most elaborate of tattoos on the upper body to the area that a t-shirt would cover.

Prof. Yamada pointed out that sports facilities have similar rules (though he didn’t mention public baths, many of which have a sign in front of the establishment notifying customers that people with tattoos will be denied entry). He takes issue with the decision by carrying its logic to the extreme. For example, anyone who had second thoughts about a tattoo and removed part of it due to social disapproval could theoretically be held to have infringed the right to retain integrity. He also mentions the suggestion of an acquaintance that merely getting fat could also infringe that right.

Finally, he cites one provision of Japanese copyright law that states: “The objective of protecting the rights of the copyright holder is to contribute to the development of culture.”

How, Prof. Yamada asks, does this contribute to the development of culture? It doesn’t, of course, but it’s worthy of note that some in Japan are still asking the question. Ask that question in the United States and you’re likely to be branded a philistine.

The issue of copyrighting tattoos has also arisen in the West. It’s a complicated issue there, too (but unfortunately the problem with the WordPress software that keeps me from adding hotlinks for some reason continues from yesterday). The question in the United States, however, usually involves tattoo artists copying the work of another artist, rather than the point at issue in the Japanese case.

I tried to conduct some discovery but was unable to determine whether the Japanese tattoo artist had legally copyrighted the tattoo before bringing the suit.

Why not take this opportunity to wander over to the right sidebar to examine the link to the Japanese Tattoo Institute, with examples of the ultimate in the art? They sell calendars too. There’s also a link to the excellent Hanzi Smatter site, devoted to the presentation and explanation of the unusual kanji that Westerners tattoo on their bodies. You’ll never laugh at the strange English on t-shirts and signs in Northeast Asia again. At least they’re easily disposable.

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Bending over

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, May 14, 2011

The mouth is tax exempt.
– Japanese proverb

AFTER hashing over the matter in private with Tokyo Electric Power and the utility’s stockholders and creditors — the people who really count — the Japanese government has formulated a mechanism to keep the company afloat as it pays compensation for the damages resulting from the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant after the Tohoku earthquake/tsunami. No one expects a modern government to respect market principles, least of all Japan’s left-of-center government headed by a former “socialist democrat”, and our lack of expectations was fulfilled.

It is also an instructive exercise for observing the asana-like contortions of Big Government and Big Business as they make arrangements to skirt the law, the market, and common sense to perpetuate crony capitalism. The government will issue special bonds, expected to total JPY 5 trillion (roughly $US 62 billion) to provide money to a new institution. This institution will pay the compensation, and Tokyo Electric will repay them out of its profits. The government will have the option to buy preferred stock from the utility to keep it from bankruptcy. They will also set up a separate entity to oversee the utility’s operations and issue recommendations for improving or rationalizing them.

In addition, the plan will force eight other companies with nuclear power plants to contribute funds to the institution, as well as Japan Atomic Power Co., which designs, builds, and operates plants. Okinawa Electric Power is excluded because all their plants are non-nuclear. It is as if someone hit a pedestrian with his car, and all the other automobile owners in the neighborhood will be made to contribute to the hospital bill.

That will mean higher electricity bills for everyone in Japan outside of Okinawa, and that will cause the voters to grow restless. After all, why should they have to pay for a problem they didn’t cause, and for which they are not responsible? Therefore, Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano Yukio is jawboning the financial institutions that have lent money to Tokyo Electric to write off some of the debt. In fact, during a news conference on the 13th, he said it would be a prerequisite for using public funds. Unless they forgave some of the debt, he said, the plan “would not gain the understanding of the people at all.”

Well, that’s what he says now. Before the Fukushima accident, he said financial institutions did have responsibility for the debts:

“Lending the money while taking the risk of accident into consideration is a fundamental principle of the market”.

Did he have to file a return to get a tax exemption for that mouth? A former attorney with ties to radicals in labor unions and Kakumaru, the Revolutionary Marxist Faction of Zengakuren, Mr. Edano’s primary acquaintance with market principles was when he dunned the clients delinquent in paying his bill.

Here are the figures as of March 2010 for the loans some of the Big Swinging Dicks extended to Tokyo Electric:

Development Bank of Japan: JPY 351.1 billion
Nippon Life Insurance Co.: JPY 140.7 billion
Dai-Ichi Life Insurance Co.: JPY 126.3 billion
Sumitomo Mitsui Bank: JPY 121.9 billion
Mizuho Corporate Bank: JPY 81.8 billion

Some of the BSDs lent an aggregate JPY 1.9 trillion to Tokyo Electric after the accident. About those loans, the tax-free mouth said:

“The circumstances and conditions (from the pre-accident loans) are different. They must be thought of separately.”

This novel interpretation caused a sell-off of bank shares in the stock market, and share prices for the utility’s main creditor bank, Sumitomo Mitsui, fell 3.8%.

The opposition parties charge this scheme allows TEPCO’s stock and bond holders to skate, and say the problem should have been resolved using an open process, such as bankruptcy laws. Special legislation could have been created to compensate the disaster victims.

Mr. Edano rebuffed them by asserting that the claims of people suffering damages would have a lower priority of protection under bankruptcy laws, and “most of the claims would be unrecoverable”. He also complained that if bankruptcy laws were applied, it would have required a different scheme on a larger scale. Oh. Besides, they’re the DPJ. They only talk about open processes — they don’t actually use any. They might have to start paying a tariff on their mouth otherwise.

Not all of Tokyo Electric’s stockholders will be allowed to skate, however. The company reports that among its major stockholders are 370 financial institutions, 58 “financial instruments firms”, and 35 entities classified as the central government and local governments and bodies. Notice how a partial list of the top 10 stockholders resembles the list five paragraphs above:

Nippon Life Insurance Co.
Dai-Ichi Life Insurance Co.
Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group
Mizuho Financial Group

Will they have to write off some debt? The government, through Mr. Edano, is trying to force them in that direction, but then the government has also come up with the means to prevent their TEPCO stock certificates from being turned into toilet paper through bankruptcy proceedings. They get to be the Japanese version of Lucky Pierre. Meanwhile, the public gets to be helots forced to bend over with a foot on their necks.

Was there any word about breaking up the company into generating and transmission units, and facilitating the introduction of smart grids, as some have suggested?

Do you have to ask?


Writing in Gendai Business On-Line, Hasegawa Yukihiro passes on comments made at a meeting the Natural Resources and Energy Agency held with newpaper editorial staff members on the afternoon of the 13th after Mr. Edano’s news conference. Agency head Hosono Tetsuhiro was asked how he viewed the chief cabinet secretary’s call for loan write-offs. The answer was a bit circumlatory, but Mr. Hasegawa boiled it down to this: The agency went to a lot of trouble and difficulty to create this scheme and make sure the banks didn’t take a big hit. So if he’s going to ask the banks to write off some of the debt, why did we go to all that trouble to begin with?

Mr. Hasegawa also dismisses as stupidity squared the objection that normal bankruptcy proceedings would prevent the people living near Fukushima from receiving compensation. What are the Diet and the bureaucracy for if not to write and pass special legislation to ensure that doesn’t happen, he asks. (He doesn’t have to mention that the DPJ government is incapable of handling that process with any likelihood of success.) He adds that if a bureaucrat tried to offer that explanation to the editors, they’d think he was treating them as fools.

Finally, he suggests two reasons for Mr. Edano’s bank badgering. First, it’s a performance for public consumption. Second, it’s a way to disassociate himself from the Kan Cabinet. Mr. Hasegawa repeats his observation that the Cabinet is collapsing from within, and that Mr. Kan has very few actual supporters left.


Now it’s been revealed that Prime Minister Kan has cancelled his planned visit to Washington in late June.

And speaking of internal conflict within the Cabinet, the Yomiuri is reporting that the government’s discussions concerning the liability of Tokyo Electric were acrimonious. There is a clause in the law regarding compensation for nuclear accidents that allows power companies to be exempted from compensation in the event of very large claims. Financial Services Minister Yosano Kaoru thought that clause should be applied. Mr. Edano objected and said it was his interpretation the clause was not applicable. (The compensation bill wasn’t high enough?) The Yomiuri says a shouting match erupted between the two. (It must have been difficult for Mr. Yosano, a throat cancer survivor, to keep up.) Mr. Edano won the argument.

Maybe the government could win public support for its scheme by using this for its public service announcements.

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Posted in Business, finance and the economy, Government, Legal system | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »


Posted by ampontan on Saturday, January 29, 2011

HERE’s an interesting website that I discovered by accident: Transparency International, which defines itself as a global coalition against corruption. They have compiled what they call a Corruption Perceptions Index, and offer these details:

Transparency International (TI) defines corruption as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. This definition encompasses corrupt practices in both the public and private sectors. The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) ranks countries according to the perception of corruption in the public sector. The CPI is an aggregate indicator that combines different sources of information about corruption, making it possible to compare countries.

The 2010 CPI draws on different assessments and business opinion surveys carried out by independent and reputable institutions. It captures information about the administrative and political aspects of corruption. Broadly speaking, the surveys and assessments used to compile the index include questions relating to bribery of public officials, kickbacks in public procurement, embezzlement of public funds, and questions that probe the strength and effectiveness of public sector anti-corruption efforts.

Japan is ranked 17th worldwide, with a score of 7.8. That’s just behind Germany’s 7.9 and just ahead of the UK’s 7.6. It is higher than the U.S. in 22nd place with a score of 7.1 and France in 23rd with 6.8.

The only entities in Asia to score higher are Hong Kong and Singapore. With the exception of Germany, all the higher-ranked countries have a significantly smaller population. Also, all the Scandinavian countries, Germany, and Austria are ranked higher.

Meanwhile, South Korea is at #39 and China is at #78. They are given a different color than Japan on the color-coded chart of rankings. Russia, which is also in the same neighborhood–#154.

Corruption, or an aversion to it, is one aspect of a willingness to conduct interpersonal relations with honesty.

Yet, when people outside Northeast Asia observe disputes that arise within Northeast Asia–the content of which they know little or nothing–their views are often tinged with a suspicion toward Japan and a lack of interest in examining the credibility of the other parties’ claims. They seem willing to assume that an unpleasant historical chapter of perhaps 30 to 35 years’ duration that ended more than 65 years ago is the metric by which the country should be judged in its international relations.

A curious phenomenon.

Posted in International relations, Legal system | Tagged: | 7 Comments »

No touch

Posted by ampontan on Monday, September 27, 2010

I say a pressure drop, oh pressure
Oh yeah pressure gonna drop on you
I say when it drops, oh you gonna feel it
Know that you were doing wrong.
– Pressure Drop, Toots and the Maytals (Frederick Hibbert)

THERE IS a class of expressions in the Japanese language known as wasei eigo, or English made in Japan. While the expressions consist entirely of English words, none of them are used by native speakers of English.

Sengoku Yoshito: I know nothingk...

One example is the expression “no touch”, which means “I’m not involved at all”. For example, years ago, when I was an English teacher, some parents would tell me they never checked to see if the children did their homework or kept up with their studies. (They considered that to be the teacher’s responsibility.) They spoke entirely in Japanese, but inserted the wasei eigo, “no touch”, to describe their approach.

As astonishing as it may seem, the government of Japan is claiming that their involvement with the decision to release Zhan Qixiong, the captain of the Chinese fishing vessel arrested by the Coast Guard near the Senkaku islets, is “no touch”.

Prime Minister Kan Naoto and Foreign Minister Maehara Seiji were in New York to attend the UN blabfest, so Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku Yoshito was responsible for handling affairs in Tokyo. (More than a few people in Japan think he’s running the show even when the prime minister is in town.) He held a news conference on the evening of the 24th after it was announced the Chinese captain would be released. He said:

After the prosecutor’s decision, I received word from the Ministry of Justice that the Naha prosecutors would announce the release this afternoon at a news conference. It was a report that (the detained captain) would be released as a result of the prosecutors’ investigation…I understand the comprehensive judgment of the prosecutors.

He then added a phrase for which he and his party are being skinned alive–by all the opposition parties (with the exception of the Social Democrats), some members of his own party, including former Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio, and the news media. He said:

The decision was the prosecutor’s alone. I acknowledge that.

Those last three words are the killer. The expression he used in Japanese has the tinge of legalese, which makes it that much worse. The Cabinet’s insistence that they were not involved, and their explanation for it, has stupefied the political class and those who cover it.

One Japanese commentator summed up what seems to be the prevailing sentiment:

You’d have to be a sucker to believe that.

Yet the rest of the government is backing him up. Prime Minister Kan insists that’s exactly what happened. Said Justice Minister Yanagida Minoru:

It is not true that I exercised authority as Justice Minister based on Article 14 of the Public Prosecutor’s Office Act.

Even Foreign Minister Maehara, known to favor a more robust approach to defense and foreign policy, went along with it, though he talks as if he’s trying to avoid the splatter. In New York on the 24th, he said:

The prosecutor disposed of the case in accordance with Japanese law. It’s not for me to say anything about that decision.

(This makes sense if you believe the rumors that Mr. Sengoku promised him he was next in line to be prime minister.)

Sources within the government are leaking a different story, however. Some say it was Mr. Sengoku who directed the effort to find a resolution and called it the “Sengoku Initiative”. Others say that Mr. Sengoku hinted to a few Cabinet members after the Cabinet meeting on the morning of the 24th that the captain would be released later that day. He also held a meeting with Mr. Yanagida at the Kantei before the prosecutor’s announcement.

It gets even worse. Here’s the Naha prosecutor giving his explanation at a news conference:

We could not determine that the act of the captain was planned. (The release) was made in consideration of the effect (of the matter) on the Japanese people and the future of Sino-Japanese relations.

Commenting on the statement later that evening, Mr. Sengoku said:

Based on the comprehensive judgment of the prosecutors, my thoughts on the release (of the detained captain) and the disposition of the case were that this was possible.


The problem is the prosecutor’s second sentence and Mr. Sengoku’s “acknowledgement” of it. Before the release, the government said it would handle the matter quietly based on Japanese law. But the prosecutor instead cited the effect on the Japanese people and relations with China as the reason for the sudden release. If legal procedures were to be the basis for the determination, why is the prosecutor saying that international diplomacy was a factor in his decision? People expect that to be the business of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister.

The Diet will be called into session on Friday. The opposition LDP has already said they will demand the prosecutor be summoned to testify.

Some members of the DPJ are as stunned as everyone else. Said Yamaguchi Tsuyoshi, formerly of the foreign ministry and the vice chair of the party’s Policy Research Committee (and an Ozawa Ichiro supporter):

The release doesn’t make any sense.

The doubters also include Mr. Kan’s predecessor as prime minister, Hatoyama Yukio:

Some suspicions remain about the release among the public. The government has the responsibility to tell the people the truth, including whether they made any overtures (to the Chinese).

Okada Katsuya, who was foreign minister when the arrest was made earlier this month, but was shifted to the position of party secretary-general after Mr. Kan’s reelection as party president, was pilloried as he defended the process during a discussion on a Sunday TV program. Here’s how some of the dialogue went:

It was the prosecutor’s decision to release the captain. Those who have the misunderstanding that it was done by the government are completely mistaken. President Tanigaki Sadakazu of the LDP said he (the captain) should have been sent home earlier, but would that really have been a good idea? Should we have twisted the law and returned the captain (in the middle of the process)? Japan has done absolutely nothing wrong. Of course it is not necessary to pay reparations or make an apology.

Eda Kenji, Your Party secretary-general:
(The government) said that the release (was made) by the prosecutor for political considerations without making a disposition. This is a suicidal act. You said that the government did not intervene, but verification of that is required. This is an actual crime, and not merely a problem of unlawful entry.

Ishihara Nobuteru, LDP secretary-general:
This is just casuistry. This began with the DPJ’s tone deaf diplomacy. The party was conducting a presidential election (at the time of the incident). You were the foreign minister. This primitive diplomacy made the matter worse.

For the government to intervene and create the impression that the (handling) of the captain was divorced from legal procedures would harm the national interest.

Diplomatic and political strength are exactly the way to handle this. It was a mistake for Mr. Sengoku to say that he “acknowledges” the prosecutor’s political judgment and release.

This was absolutely impossible with the judgment of the prosecutor alone. This is an issue in which the moral position is 100% in Japan’s favor, but after a Chinese victory of 100 to 0 there must be sincere remorse on your part. It is a fact that you have created the impression that the Senkakus are a territorial issue.

True or false?

The government has gotten itself in a rare political mess. They have demonstrated extraordinary incompetence regardless of whether they are lying or telling the truth. If they are lying, as most people think, it comes off as an unwillingness to accept responsibility for an extremely unpopular act with serious international consequences.

The word gutless also comes to mind.

And what if they’re telling the truth? That makes the decision to leave the resolution of the matter to the Okinawan prosecutor an act of sheer stupidity. One Foreign Ministry official called this the most serious diplomatic crisis for Japan of the past 20 years (and that’s probably a conservative estimate). The affair involves an immense neighbor with whom they have extensive economic ties, that admits of no one’s rules other than their own, that has nuclear weapons and military forces 10 times the size of the Japanese, and which is both petulant and very unhappy.

And the government allowed it to be resolved by a minor public official in a provincial city. No touch.

If they are telling the truth, the idea was probably a dull spark from Mr. Sengoku, a University of Tokyo-educated attorney in a country that doesn’t care much for legal hair-splitting. (There’s a reason for the Japanese expression herikutsu, or “fart logic”.)

At the minimum, it is a severe political miscalculation. Schoolteachers used to make their pupils stay after school and write “I will not dip Sally’s pigtails in the inkwell” on the blackboard 100 times. In this case, the government should be forced to examine newspaper articles from the world’s press and see if they can find any story that begins with the sentence, “Today, Naha prosecutors released the captain of a Chinese trawler…”

The Chinese pressure drop

If they thought releasing the captain would resolve the situation and buy them goodwill from the Chinese…really, one can only shake one’s head.

From the Jiji news agency:

The Global Times, affiliated with the People’s Daily, the organ of the Chinese Communist Party, said in an editorial on the 25th that while the Japanese released the captain, “An early return to the status quo ante will not be possible.”

“The Kan administration is inaccurate in its judgment of conditions in Asia, and they lack the discernment to protect the mutual benefits of China and Japan…To the current Japanese government, which has so little experience in governing a nation, we should drive home the point that China is not a country that can be opposed so carelessly.”

In other words, the Chinese are going to take their time about lifting some of their sanctions and they’ll continue to rub the Japanese face in it in the meantime.

From the Mainichi Shimbun:

In addition to stopping rare earth shipments, China halted the shipment of construction materials and semiconductors to Japan on the 26th. Government and trading companies are scrambling to discover the details.

Sources say that customs at the port of Xiamen performed a complete inspection of all freight bound for Japan and stopped shipment of construction materials. The local JETRO office reported it was the first time a shipment to Japan had been subject to a full inspection.

Diplomatic sources familiar with China said:

Did they really only verbally ask for an apology and compensation, or did they hit Japan with even stronger demands? This has to be looked at carefully. It is very possible that China will delay lifting their measures even with the announcement of Japan’s rejection.

The Asahi quotes another Global Times article:

Japan’s claims are the logic of an outright criminal, and are ridiculous. It is not possible that the Chinese government will accept them.

They add:

Chinese sources say the Foreign Ministry got the paper to run the articles to apply pressure to Japan.

From the Yomiuri Shimbun:

Foreign Ministry sources think the Chinese believe if they apply relentless diplomatic pressure, the Kan government will lose its nerve and concede even more. They didn’t expect Japan to apologize or pay reparations. But if Japan, which denies there is a territorial issue, responds to a demand to discuss an apology or reparations, they will be a de facto admission there is a territorial issue. That alone would be a benefit.

Eda Kenji puts it all together:

People who do not know the fundamentals of the state and the ABCs of politics are in charge of the government. I can only say that this sudden release of the ship’s captain shows the Democratic Party is fundamentally lacking in the education that all policy makers should strive to attain, that the judicial system is independent of (matters of) territory or sovereignty, and, by extension, diplomacy.

During a recent news conference after the BOJ’s market intervention, Mr. Sengoku was asked if the government’s line of defense was 82 yen, and he said yes. In the worst-case scenario, that statement would result in the intervention going right down the drain. He doesn’t even realize there’s a problem with that.

Even I didn’t think they were this bad. The problem is not limited to their bureaucracy-led politics. The problem is with mistaken politics, with the conduct of politics as if they were children playing house. Their response was even worse than the childish Chinese challenges. If we do not press to have the Diet dissolved immediately and a general election held, and the DPJ government is not replaced, this country is finished.

Japan’s most serious foreign policy crisis in at least a generation is being handled by the people least capable of doing so.

UPDATE: On his Japanese-language blog, Kibashiri Masamizu cites reports that Mr. Sengoku didn’t even want to arrest the Chinese trawler captain to begin with, but had to be talked into it by Mr. Okada and Mr. Maehara. Mr. Kibashiri also wonders about Prime Minister Kan’s seeming abdication of any leadership role, putting him in the “no touch” group as well. He summarizes it this way: Japan has not had a prime minister during the month of September.


Regardless of any diplomatic determination, the government’s decision to release the Chinese suspect without a formal disposition was indeed above the law. In short, it was a supra-legal measure. The timing makes it unavoidable that it will be seen overseas as the capitulation of the Japanese government to Chinese government pressure.

More details on the decision from the Asahi in English, including this, presumably from a Foreign Ministry official:

“It’s a farce to say prosecutors made the decision,” a senior ministry official said. “(The government) is irresponsible.”

The article claims that the Naha prosecutors wanted to indict, but were overruled. It also mentions an “agitated” Kan Naoto, which I’ll have more on later.

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Coming attractions

Posted by ampontan on Friday, September 24, 2010

The build-up of Chinese military capabilities is a real threat.
– Maehara Seiji, the new Foreign Minister of Japan, speaking in the United States in 2005

In ancient Chinese history, the First Emperor sent his adviser Xu Fu (徐福, Jofuku in Japanese) across the sea to what is now Japan to seek out the elixir of immortality. The account records that he was accompanied by many young men and women. Some Chinese believe that the Japanese are descendants of these early travelers. Does this give China a territorial claim over Japan? Of course not.
– Paul Lin, Taipei Times 19 September 2010

FOR THOSE with the eyes to see, China is offering the world a preview of its behavior when it finally assumes the role of Great Power. The screening started when the Japanese arrested Zhan Qixiong, captain of the Chinese fishing boat Minjinyu 5179, in Japanese waters 12 kilometers northwest of Kubashima. That was near one of the Senkaku islets, which the Chinese decided a few years ago was actually theirs after centuries of ignoring them. He was released today without being formally charged, though he could have been held a few more days before Japanese law required a decision.

One of the Senkaku islets

The Japanese suspected illegal fishing, having caught the Chinese with their pants down, so to speak—their fishing tackle was unfurled—so they hailed the boat to stop for boarding and inspection. The Chinese fishermen usually quit the scene when confronted, but this time someone cued up the theme song to Cops: Captain Zhan zipped up, rammed one of the Coast Guard vessels (the Mizuki), and then hightailed it. During the two-hour chase, he also rammed the other Coast Guard ship.

Try that on a highway after being motioned to pull over by an officer in a patrol car and watch what happens.

What happened here is that the Japanese decided to detain the captain before deciding whether or not to formally charge him. After a few days, they sent the Minjinyu 5179 back to China with the 14 crewmen, none of whom were arrested, but one or more of whom might have been CCP members egging on the skipper. They also found some fish.

The subsequent behavior of the Chinese and Japanese could not present a clearer contrast. The Japanese have been a model of calm discretion, while the Chinese government has responded with volleys of cloddish intimidation and ham-handed irredentism that reverberate with echoes of a less sophisticated age. The bluster puts one in mind of the more restrained North Korean propaganda, with hints of a mustachioed Mitteleuropa paperhanger demanding the return of the Sudetenland. It’s all the more revealing because they’re bullying a year-old Japanese government that long ago declared its intention to develop closer ties with them while tilting away from the United States. Perhaps that aggression is to be expected when one’s military budget has quadrupled over the past decade and one is facing a technically pacifist country with only 10% of the military personnel. The urge arises to start kicking sand in other people’s faces just because one can get away with it.

The recently appointed Japanese foreign minister, Maehara Seiji, is portrayed by some as a “hawk” because he favors amending the Japanese Constitution to permit national self-defense. This hawk is carrying an olive branch in its talons, however. He says the incident will be handled in accordance with the rule of law while emphasizing that “there is no territorial dispute in the region”. At the United Nations this week, he said, “(China) is an important neighbor. We must create a solid, strategic reciprocal relationship.”

While inspecting the damage to one of the Japanese ships last weekend, he added this bit of information:

We have a video of the circumstances of the collision, and it’s obvious at a glance who collided with whom.

Here’s a report from NHK, Japan’s quasi-public television network, using a computer-generated representation rather than the video itself. If you don’t understand Japanese, fast forward to the 1:20 mark; the Japanese ship is shown sailing ahead of the Chinese fishing vessel and to its port side when the Minjinyu 5179 suddenly veers left and smacks into it. (The Japanese Coast Guard is keeping the video under wraps and is not allowing copies to be made.) The announcer says the Chinese ship approached from the rear and turned the rudder sharply to hit the Japanese ship.

The Japanese government was able to hold its ground because it completely understands the motivations for the Chinese behavior, both in general and in this particular instance.

Being neighbors of the Chinese, they’ve understood for centuries that China has never seen itself as one nation among others in a cooperative relationship of mutual benefit. China refers to itself as the “flower in the center of the world”, and with their recent reblossoming they are reasserting the suzerainty they created in the region centuries ago. Not only do they consider the Western Pacific a Chinese sea, they’ve also expanded their reach into the Indian Ocean and are eyeing the other oceans of the world:

Now, one of China’s most prominent policy intellectuals is advocating for the creation of overseas bases. Shen Dingli, a professor at Fudan University in Shanghai, asserts that “it is wrong for us [China] to believe that we have no right to set up bases abroad.” He argues that it is not terrorism or piracy that’s the real threat to China. It’s the ability of other states to block China’s trade routes that poses the greatest threat. …As China emerges as a major global power, it will expand its military footprint across the globe, much like that other great power, the US, whose bases surround China. The rapid expansion of China’s naval capabilities and broader military profile is a classic manifestation of its great power status. China’s new naval strategy of “far sea defense” is aimed at giving Beijing the ability to project its power in key oceanic areas, including and most significantly the Indian Ocean.

The Japanese also know that the Chinese now have access to a port on the Sea of Japan, thanks to an arrangement with their closest ally—North Korea:

China has gained direct access to the Sea of Japan for the first time in 100 years through a North Korean port, leaving the other two regional players, Japan and South Korea, deeply concerned about the communist state’s ambitions.

China made an agreement to lease a pier at North Korea’s Rajin Port for 10 years…The North Korean port city is considered a hub that will help forays into the Pacific region from China’s north-east.

Mikyoung Kim, a North Korea expert at the Hiroshima Peace Institute in Japan, said… “It is possible that China’s lease of the North Korean territory [the port] can be extended over the 10 years into a long-term deal. That can complicate the South’s effort for reunification. The South cannot just sit and watch”…She said she suspects China has a long-term goal. “China has been pursuing the North-east Project, a territorially ambitious project. In case of contingency in North Korea through an upheaval there, China may claim the leased territory as its own.”

Despite Chinese security analysts’ downplaying the matter, some outside analysts view the deal as ultimately part of China’s rising world power ambition, a view China strongly denies.

“Although China is a big country, many of its key areas are landlocked. Other powerful countries in the world don’t have the difficulty of entering the sea China faces,” said Global Times newspaper (of China). “The US directly faces two oceans in its east and west. Russia has a big part of its territory that is coastal. Japan is an island country by itself. India is a peninsula,” it said.

China’s oceanic coastline is approximately 18,000 km long (11,185 miles), extending from the Bohai Gulf to the South China Sea. (The former freezes in the winter.)

The Japanese know better than anyone else that the Chinese conducted its most aggressive show of naval strength ever in the Western Pacific earlier this year. They sent warships twice through the waters of Okinawa Prefecture in an attempt to intimidate Japan while the flotilla headed south to confront Vietnamese dealing with other Chinese fishing vessels in the Spratly Islands:

The news from Tokyo on 10 April 2010 that the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force had monitored ten Chinese warships passing 140km south of Okinawa through the Miyako Strait marked a new stage in China’s naval development. The deployment was of unprecedented size and scope for the Chinese navy, and was the second such operation mounted by China in rapid succession: in March, a smaller flotilla had been deployed on exercises. The two sets of exercises, along with Chinese counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, demonstrate the flexibility of China’s naval forces and their greater prominence in Beijing’s strategic calculations…


The ships conducted numerous live-fire exercises, as well as confrontation drills with elements of the South Sea Fleet. The PLA report said the fleet visited Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands, as well as conducting further exercises near the Malacca Strait between Malaysia and Indonesia. The deployment and exercises were a clear message of the willingness of the PLA Navy to assert Chinese power in the region.

The Chinese may be testing the resolve of the new Japanese government, particularly because the latter is having difficulties with the Americans over their military presence. The Japanese government also remembers how the Chinese tested the new Bush administration in 2001:

Analysts from Jane’s Defense say that two Chinese F8 fighter planes “hemmed in” the larger, slower EP-3 in an attempt to make it change course, and thereby caused the collision; one source reports that one of the Chinese fighters was actually flying directly underneath the EP-3….The aggressive and dangerous behavior of the Chinese pilots is later confirmed by the account of the collision by the pilot of the EP-3, Lieutenant Shane Osborn, who says, “He was harassing us.…The third time he hit us, is that an accident? I don’t know. Do I think he meant to hit us? No. I don’t think he meant to have his plane cut in two and go under the ocean. But his actions were definitely threatening my crew in a very serious manner and we all saw what happened.”

The Japanese are also aware the Chinese themselves have no problem arresting fishermen they think are infringing on their territory. The Chinese fisheries department seized nine Vietnamese fishermen on 22 March this year near the Paracels:

The Vietnamese Coast Guard warned and chased away at least 130 Chinese fishing boats that were found illegally fishing in Vietnamese waters off the central coast on January 29.

The naval unit based in Da Nang confirmed the news last Friday, adding that the fishing boats had been organized in groups.

Coast Guard vessels first apprehended 100 boats just 45 nautical miles off Thua Thien Hue.

Four days later they found the other 30 deep in Vietnamese waters off Da Nang and Thua Thien Hue.

Earlier last year China seized 17 Vietnamese fishing boats and arrested 210 fishermen for straying into its waters before later releasing all the men and 13 boats.

It has not escaped Japanese attention that Chinese aggression is limited to those countries it considers unlikely to resort to military retaliation. They are more restrained when dealing with other nation-state thuggery. For example, when the Russian Navy fired on and sank the Chinese cargo ship New Star in February this year, killing eight Chinese sailors, the Chinese response was rather subdued in comparison to the behavior after the arrest of the fishing boat captain in the Senkakus:

Zhang Xiyun, director-general for the Foreign Ministry’s Department of European-Central Asian Affairs, said, “The attitude of the Russian foreign ministry is hard to understand and unacceptable.”

Vice Foreign Minister Li Hui told Russia’s ambassador: “The Chinese side expresses shock and deep concern over this incident, We call on the Russian side to begin with a humanitarian spirit… and continue to make all efforts to find the missing personnel.”

The Chinese summoned the Russian ambassador to complain once about eight Chinese deaths. They’ve already summoned the Japanese ambassador six times over the arrest of one man, once in the middle of the night on the weekend. But then mobsters are more likely to push around law-abiding citizens; they tend to pick their fights with rival hoodlums more carefully.

Most important of all, the Japanese government understands that the Senkakus have been internationally recognized as Japanese territory for more than a century—including by the Chinese themselves.

The History

The Senkakus are a group of eight uninhabited islets with an aggregate area of 1,700 acres, slightly more than twice the size of New York City’s Central Park. They are 106 miles north of Ishigaki, Japan (and are part of its municipal district); 116 miles northeast of Keelung, Taiwan; and 255 miles west of Okinawa Island.

The red dots on the top row l-r are Shanghai and Kagoshima City. On the second row they are Taipei, Ishigaki, and Naha. The Senkakus are in the box.

The first recorded mention of the islets was in 1534 in Chen Kan’s Records of the Imperial Mission to Ryukyu. Chen, an envoy of the Ming Dynasty emperor to the Ryukyus, described his trip from China to Naha, as well as the customs of the native Okinawans. In his and several other accounts over the next two centuries, the islets were mentioned merely as geographic landmarks. The Chinese never indicated they considered them their territory, or anything more than specks in the ocean.

The first Japanese mention is in the Chuzan Seikan (Mirror of Chuzan), i.e., records of the Ryukyu Dynasty, which dates from 1650. As in the Chinese records, there is no indication they were considered anyone’s territory.

Fukuoka native Koga Tatsuhiro was making a living in Naha, Okinawa, catching and exporting finfish and shellfish when he discovered in 1884 that the islets were the habitat of the rare short-tailed albatross. He started collecting albatross feathers for sale in addition conducting to his fishing business. Ten years later, he applied to the government of Okinawa Prefecture to lease the islands. They turned him down because they weren’t sure who the islands belonged to. Koga then applied to the interior and agriculture ministries in Tokyo, and they turned him down for the same reason.

That did bring the islets to the attention of the Japanese government, however, and Koga’s persistence paid off. The Japanese claimed the islands under the legal principle of terra nullius—any nation can claim as its own, territory that is unclaimed by any other nation—and it became part of Japan. The Senkakus were uninhabited and unclaimed—indeed, they had never been administered at any time by the Chinese government, and there is no record of any Chinese ever living or working there.

The Chinese later charged the Japanese swiped the islets at the same time they wound up with the booty of Taiwan and the Penghu Islands at the end of the 1894-1895 Sino-Japanese War.

The Japanese Communist Party, nationalist scalawags that they are, addresses those claims on their website:

The Senkaku Islands question has nothing to do with the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95. The Sino-Japanese Peace Treaty to conclude the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 decided to cede Taiwan and the Penghu Islands to Japan. This was Japan’s territorial expansion, which can never be justified. But every historical document tells us that the Senkaku Islands question was dealt with separately from the Taiwan and Penghu Islands question. In the negotiations on the Sino-Japanese Peace Treaty, the question of title to the Senkaku Islands was not taken up.

The JCP, by the way, also complained that the U.S. military used the islets for target practice.

In addition to albatross feathers, the islets for a time became a center for the production of katsuobushi, or dried bonito flakes, which are often used in Japanese cuisine. Koga finally relinquished the business in 1940, however, when more inexpensive sources were found. Other than that, the islets were ignored. The next noteworthy mention of them comes in 1920. That year, the Japanese rescued 31 Chinese fishermen who were shipwrecked on one of the smaller islets. The Chinese consul in Nagasaki wrote a letter of gratitude to the Japanese thanking them for their help. In the body of the letter, he referred to them by the Japanese term Senkaku islets (尖閣列島) instead of the Chinese name, Daiyutai (釣魚島). In other words, the Chinese considered them Japanese territory in 1920.

You can see for yourself. That document still exists, and here is a reproduction. The name is in the fourth column from the right:

The government of China claimed other islands in the South China Sea in 1932 and 1935, some of which were under the control of the French and the Japanese. The People’s Republic claimed them again in 1949. Despite their insistence that other islands in Japanese possession were theirs in 1935, the Chinese said nothing about the Senkakus.

There matters stood until the end of the Second World War in the Pacific. Under the Treaty of Peace with Japan (AKA The San Francisco Treaty), which went into force on 28 April 1952, the Japanese disposed of all the territory they conquered over the years to create their empire. Some of that territory was Chinese:

Article 2 (b)
Japan renounces all right, title and claim to Formosa and the Pescadores.
Article 2 (f)
Japan renounces all right, title and claim to the Spratly Islands and to the Paracel Islands.

The treaty gave the United States the right to continue to administer part of Japan after the Allied occupation ended:

Article 3
Japan will concur in any proposal of the United States to the United Nations to place under its trusteeship system, with the United States as the sole administering authority, Nansei Shoto south of 29 deg. north latitude (including the Ryukyu Islands and the Daito Islands), Nanpo Shoto south of Sofu Gan (including the Bonin Islands, Rosario Island and the Volcano Islands) and Parece Vela and Marcus Island. Pending the making of such a proposal and affirmative action thereon, the United States will have the right to exercise all and any powers of administration, legislation and jurisdiction over the territory and inhabitants of these islands, including their territorial waters.

The Senkakus were considered part of the Nansei Shoto, as a U.S. State Department official later explicitly stated:

“The term “Nansei Shoto” was understood to mean all islands [south of 29 degrees north latitude] under Japanese administration at the end of the war … The term, as used in the treaty, was intended to include the Senkaku Islands.” (Suganuma Unryu, Sovereign Rights and Territorial Space in Sino-Japanese Relations, p. 134)

In fact, though several island groups are mentioned, most of the territory here was—and still is—a single administrative unit: Okinawa Prefecture (state/province). In short, everything cited in Article 3 of the treaty is just as much Japan as is The Ginza in Tokyo. (The Nanpo Shoto lie to the east and are part of the Tokyo Metro District.) Uninhabited islands are part of the territory of most maritime nations; not all of the 5,000 islands that are part of China are inhabited either.

The Americans administered the rest of Okinawa until they returned the prefecture to Japanese control under the 17 June 1971 Agreement between Japan and the United States of America Concerning the Ryukyu Islands and the Daito Islands:

Article I
1. With respect to the Ryukyu Islands and the Daito Islands, as defined in paragraph 2 below, the United States of America relinquishes in favor of Japan all rights and interests under Article 3 of the Treaty of Peace with Japan signed at the city of San Francisco on September 8, 1951, effective as of the date of entry into force of this Agreement. Japan, as of such date, assumes full responsibility and authority for the exercise of all and any powers of administration, legislation and jurisdiction over the territory and inhabitants of the said islands.

2. For the purpose of this Agreement, the term “the Ryukyu Islands and the Daito Islands” means all the territories and their territorial waters with respect to which the right to exercise all and any powers of administration, legislation and jurisdiction was accorded to the United States of America under Article 3 of the Treaty of Peace with Japan other than those with respect to which such right has already been returned to Japan in accordance with the Agreement concerning the Amami Islands and the Agreement concerning Nanpo Shoto and Other Islands signed between Japan and the United States of America, respectively on December 24, 1953 and April 5, 1968.

Neither Taiwan nor the People’s Republic of China were signatories to the San Francisco Treaty, but neither objected to the inclusion of the Senkakus at the time. That’s because they considered them to be part of Japan. To be specific:

8 January 1953: Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily) published an article titled “The Ryukyu Islanders’ Struggle against American Occupation” (i.e., Okinawa). The article mentioned the Senkakus, used that name, and stated they were part of the Ryukyus. Here’s a post from Michael Turton’s fine blog, The View from Taiwan, with more more detail on the article.

November 1958: A Beijing company published a map of the world showing the Senkakus as Japanese territory and using the Japanese name.

October 1965: The Research Institute for Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense published a series of world maps. It showed the islets as part of Japanese territory and used the Japanese name Senkakus. Here is a color reproduction of the map itself on a Taiwanese website. The poster worries about how the map would affect the Taiwanese claim. Scroll down to see the magical mystery change on the map for the 1972 edition.

6 October 1968: The Taiwanese newspaper Lianhebao (United Daily News) published an article explaining that Taiwanese fishermen were prohibited from fishing in the Senkakus. They used the Japanese name.

12 October – 29 November 1968: Maritime specialists from Taiwan and South Korea conducted sea floor surveys of the East China Sea with the cooperation of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE), the regional arm of the United Nations Secretariat for the Asian and Pacific region. The report stated there was a possibility of large quantities of oil and natural gas under the seabed. It was later confirmed that there are at least 92 million bbl of oil available, with estimates of up to 100 billion bbl of oil, roughly equivalent to the 112.4 billion bbl of Iraq.

May 1969: The government of Taiwan provided oil exploration rights to Gulf, planted the Taiwanese flag on the Senkakus, and notified the world’s wire services of its action.

January 1970: The Taiwan government published a geography textbook for junior high school students that called the islands the Senkakus and treated them as Japanese territory. The following is a copy of the key part of the map. (Refer to the respective Chinese characters for the name of the islets above):

September 1970: The Okinawan police sent a ship to the Senkakus, removed the Taiwanese flag, and gave it to the Americans.

11 June 1971: The Taiwanese government claimed the islands as their own territory for the first time. Less than one week later:

17 June 1971: The treaty returning Okinawa to Japan from American control was signed.

30 December 1971: The People’s Republic of China claimed the islands as their own territory for the first time.

In 1992, China adopted legislation that authorized the use of force to enforce Chinese claims to the islets.

The Chinese and Taiwanese change of mind was followed by a few decades of posturing by the Chinese, low-profiling it by the Japanese, and occasional forays by small boatloads of buckos from China, Taiwan and Japan planting flags on the islets. In 1996, a group Japanese put up an aluminum lighthouse. The Chinese excitables stepped up their activity in 2004, which prompted Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to make a clear statement of American policy about the islands. Here’s how the Asahi Shimbun described it on 2 February 2004:

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage made the following comments at a news conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo Feb. 2 with reference to the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty: “That treaty would require any attack on Japan, or the administrative territories under Japanese control, to be seen as an attack on the United States.”

The statement simply reiterated the contents of Article 5 of the treaty and is nothing new. However, an expert on East Asian affairs at the U.S. State Department noted that Armitage used the phrase administrative territories under Japanese control instead of simply saying Japan or Japanese territory and pointed out that it connotes the Senkaku islands (Chinese name Diaoyu islands) whose ownership is disputed between Japan and China.

The State Department official added that Armitage’s statement amends the ambiguous stance of a past U.S. administration over the issue, meaning the neutral position of the Clinton administration, which implied that the United States is not necessarily obliged under the bilateral security treaty to oversee the defense of the Senkaku islands.

One month after Mr. Armitage spoke in Tokyo, the BBC ran an article on Chinese swashbuckling on the Senkakus. They noted:

China and Taiwan both laid claim to the Senkaku Islands in the 1970s after oil deposits were found nearby.

They were declared Japanese territory in 1895 and fall under the jurisdiction of Japan’s southern Okinawa prefecture.

The responses this month: A comparison


From Shikata Noriyuki, a spokesman for the Japanese prime minister’s office:

Regarding individual issues, what is needed is to respond calmly without becoming emotional.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku Yoshito called for calm and warned about extreme nationalism on both sides. Japan is the country least affected by nationalism in Northeast Asia; his inclusion of Japan in the warning of about extreme nationalism is to prevent any incidents the Chinese can use for a pretext.

The political opposition is firm, sometimes critical of the government, but always responsible. LDP Secretary-General Ishihara Nobuteru thinks the government’s response is insufficient, but then offers the Japanese political consensus: “Since there is no territorial problem, let the courts handle it quietly.” Former Defense Minister Koike Yuriko thinks the Chinese behavior highlights the worst aspect of the security treaty with the U.S.: It makes other countries think the Japanese can be easily steamrolled. The Japanese left was hysterical with their fantasies of an Abe Shinzo foreign policy when he was prime minister, but he too was subdued. He merely pointed out that Japan has to maintain its resolve because the next Chinese step “can only be economic sanctions”.

All of the above statements are representative of the tone in the media, from what I’ve seen.

Your Party Secretary-General Eda Kenji might well have encapsulated the sentiments of the general public in a blog post:

There’s no need to respond to every one of the childish retaliatory measures of the Chinese. That’s the sort of nation China is. They don’t realize just how much they lower their standing in the international community, and besides, they’re still just a developing country.

That last one cuts deeper in Japanese than it does in English.

Saber-rattling? The Defense Ministry announced that it’s mulling an increase in the size of the self-defense forces by 13,000 troops from 155,000 to 168,000, the first rise since 1972. They cite conditions in East Asia and the terrorist threat as their reason.

The United States

We’ve seen that six years ago, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage specifically used language to include the Senkakus as Japanese territory the Americans would defend. In Tokyo recently, he said he thinks China is taking advantage of a “chill” in Japan-U.S. relations, and that Beijing is “testing what they can get away with.”

He also said he thought the incident and the Chinese reaction should be a “warning” to other Asian countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei about Chinese behavior in territorial disputes.

While the Bush administration stood up for the Japanese through Mr. Armitage, the Obama administration, in keeping with their attitude toward allies, sat right back down.

Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg now says the American position is “as it was before”, and that they won’t support either side. When “before” was, he didn’t say.

Mr. Steinberg, by the way, coined the phrase “strategic reassurance” to describe U.S.-China relations. That means the United States should reassure China that they will welcome China’s new status, and China should reassure the US and its Asian neighbors that it would not conflict with their interests.

So much for Steinbergian strategic reassurance.

The American Defense Department is more sanguine, however. Though few noticed, the Sasebo-based minesweeper Defender called on the Port of Hirara in Miyakojima, Okinawa, this week. It is only the third time since 1972 an American naval vessel called on a civilian port on a friendly visit and the first ever for Hirara. The port is in the southern part of the Ryukyus 400 miles from Taipei and 110 miles from Naha. Play around with the map at this site to get an idea of the location. The white specks to the northeast of Taiwan are the Senkakus.

The Governor of Okinawa was unhappy about the visit because the American navy is supposed to enter civilian ports only in case of an emergency. About 40 people showed up to demonstrate, mostly from labor unions.

Meanwhile, at a Pentagon news conference, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said:

“Obviously we’re very, very strongly in support of … our ally in that region, Japan.”

Added Defense Secretary Robert Gates: “We would fulfill our alliance responsibilities.”

China, in word and deed


Since the Japanese seized Capt. Zhan, here’s what the Chinese have done:

  • Summoned Japanese Ambassador Niwa Uichiro six times to complain, once in the middle of the night
  • Ended all contact with the Japanese government at the ministerial level and above. There will not be a summit at the UN between Prime Minister Kan Naoto and Premier Wen Jibao.
  • Sent a Ministry of Agriculture “fishing observation vessel” to the area near the Senkakus. These ships are often armed and have been active in the South China Sea to back up Chinese claims in that area.
  • Suspended negotiations on joint development of the gas fields in the East China Sea
  • Suspended discussions for increasing air travel between the two countries
  • Suspended discussions about coal shipments from China to Japan
  • Suspended corporate exchanges
  • Chinese customs officials stopped shipments of rare earth elements to Japan by preventing them from being loaded aboard ships at Chinese ports, according to three industry sources. Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Chen Rongkai denied it, but the sources (one of whom was Australian) said Chinese customs notified companies they couldn’t ship rare earth oxides, salts, or pure rare earth metals. Ordinarily, the Japanese could file a complaint with the World Trade Organization, but that will be difficult because the Chinese handled the matter administratively rather than through direct government order.

The Chinese might find this step to be counterproductive. The American House of Representatives is discussing this week legislation to subsidize the reopening of rare earth mines in the U.S.

  • Fined Toyota Motor Corp.’s finance unit for bribing car dealers, a charge Toyota denies
  • Sent equipment to the Chunxiao gas field (Shirakaba in Japanese), according to Japanese sources, apparently to begin drilling. Said Foreign Minister Maehara: “If it has been confirmed with proof, we will take the measures that should be taken.” That would include taking the case to the international maritime court.
  • Postponed the planned five-day trip of Li Jianguo, vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, to Japan at the invitation of the Japanese lower house of the Diet.
  • Cancelled permission for 1,000 members of a Japanese youth exchange group to visit the Shanghai World’s Fair

Cutting off their nose to spite their face #1

  • The Chinese arrested four Japanese and one Chinese working for Fujita Corp, a construction company. They are charged with violating Chinese law regarding the protection of military facilities. Chinese authorities said they entered a military zone without authorization and were illegally filming military targets.

    A Fujita spokesman said the employees were in China for a project to dispose of chemical weapons abandoned by the Japanese military at the end of World War Two. Japan has been helping China dispose of the weapons as a gesture to improve bilateral relations. Kyodo reported the men were preparing a bid on the project.

Cutting off their nose to spite their face #2

Words: The government

Dai Bingguo

State Councilor Dai Bingguo summoned Niwa Uichiro at midnight on a Sunday to tell Japan to make a “wise political resolution” by releasing the fishing boat and its crew detained in disputed waters six days ago, and “expressed the Chinese government’s grave concerns”.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Jiang Yu

This incident was incited by Japan. Now they add error to error and escalate the problem.


China is firmly opposed to any kind of investigation by the Japanese side on the illegally detained Chinese trawler…unconditional and immediate release of the detained Chinese citizens was the only way to settle the dispute. Japan will reap as it has sown, if it continues to act recklessly.


The Diaoyu islands are China’s inseparable territory and the Japanese side applying domestic law to Chinese fishing boats operating in this area is absurd, illegal and invalid, and China will never accept that.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu

When the Japanese extended the detention of the ship captain, Ma said it was “illegal and invalid.”


We demand the immediate and unconditional release of the Chinese captain. If Japan acts willfully, making mistake after mistake, China will take strong countermeasures, and all the consequences will be borne by the Japanese side.

Premier Wen Jibao

Threatened Japan by saying China will take ”further actions” if Japan does not immediately release the ship captain.

During a 2007 visit to Japan, Mr. Wen pledged to make the East China Sea a “sea of peace, cooperation and friendship.” A few months later, the Japanese Coast Guard and the Chinese State Oceanic Administration set up a hotline.


Gao Hong, deputy director at the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences:

The inexperienced government of the Democratic Party of Japan will gradually learn that it is important to maintain a stable and healthy relationship with China.

Zhou Yongsheng, a professor of Japanese studies at China Foreign Affairs University:

(China has) more cards in hand than the Japanese, as their economy is largely dependent on China. China should take strong countermeasures.

Jin Yongming, legal scholar with the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences and Chinese Maritime Development Research Center, in the 10 September issue of the China Daily:

“Japan infringed upon China’s sovereignty and territory integrity when Japanese patrol ships chased the Chinese fishing trawler and boarded it forcibly. But the Japanese Coast Guard did not stop at that. It even applied Japanese law in the waters off the Diaoyu Islands, which since ancient times have been Chinese territory. Japan had no right to press charges against the Chinese fishermen according to its domestic laws,” said Jin.

“To strengthen its presence around the Diaoyu Islands, the Japanese Coast Guard has been sending patrol ships for some time now and has repeatedly chased Chinese fishing and survey vessels. But such action cannot alter the fact that Diaoyu Islands belong to China. And history vouches for that.”

He also demanded that Japan should apologize and offer the fishermen adequate compensation.


Li Nan, the China Federation of Defending the Diaoyu Islands

If the Chinese government continues to simply declare the Diaoyu Islands are Chinese territory while avoiding substantive action then I feel the islands are drifting further and further away from us. China should send patrol ships from the PLA Navy, like Japan, and establish (the) Diaoyu Islands as a shooting range.

Print media

The Global Times, an official Chinese newspaper, published a front page article on “severe countermeasures” that could be taken against Japan, including extracting “economic damage”.

It included this passage:

”We should send regular battle-capable fisheries vessels to the Diaoyu area to protect navigation,” said General Peng Guangqian, an analyst at the Chinese Academy of Military Science.

Does not the concept of “battle capable fishery vessels” speak for itself?

Global Times editorial: Finding the Achilles Heel of Japan

Bilateral relations between the two countries have plunged recently due to Japan’s diplomatic recklessness…China’s Japan policy has been based on friendly ties stressing warm public communication since the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two in 1972. But the public emotions of Japanese society toward China have altered significantly recently. It seems that conflicts originating from Japan are continually escalating….It should be apparent by now that China will be forced to endure long-term conflicts with Japan, and emphasizing only friendly relations is not prudent.

China needs to be certain of Japan’s soft spots for clearly targeted reactions. The pain has to be piercing. Japanese politicians need to understand the consequences – votes will be lost, and Japanese companies have to be aware of the loss of business involved. Japanese citizens will feel the burden due to the downturn in the economy. China’s domestic law, business regulations and consumers can all be maneuvered.

There is a lingering question in China: Why do hawkish Japanese politicians who are obviously against China emerge one after another without China provoking Japan?

Suspension of the East China Sea gas field talks, scheduled for mid-September, is the first move of China’s counter strike. Given the decades of relationship building after WWII, China will probably not resort to force over this incident. But, if the protests from the Chinese government and public don’t bring the Japanese back from the brink of a relations breakdown, Beijing has to consider stronger retaliatory measures.

English-language print media

Apart from items that could be found on any police blotter, the English-language news media can no longer be counted on to provide correct information on anything. It’s a bit like shooting dead fish in a barrel, but here are a few examples of their coverage.


The Japanese have been behaving decorously, so they offer no photo opportunities. The Chinese have been the ones to foam at the mind, so photos the media chooses to run seem designed to create associations with the Second World War, such as this one from AP:

News agencies such as Reuters and outlets such as the New York Times like to include references to “lingering resentments” over the war. Everyone in this part of the world, however, understands that Chinese popular opinion toward the Japanese is cynically manipulated like a spigot by the government to deflect dissatisfaction with the regime. Notice how often the phrase “(the Chinese government) allowed some demonstrations” is used.

The Epoch Times has a worthwhile piece here, pointing out that the demonstrations are stage-managed. The Japanese understand this, and usually wait until the Chinese government calls them off when they begin to worry popular discontent will be transferred to them.

Globe and Mail, Canada


Beijing asserts new dominance over waning Tokyo in diplomatic row

That guy in jail—where was he from again?

The dispute over the island chain, which is also claimed by Taiwan, dates to the end of the Second World War.

Possibility #1: The author was too lazy to look it up.

Possibility #2: He believed his Chinese source and was too lazy to confirm it.

The Age, Australia:

Japanese commentators and politicians are responding in kind to China’s increased maritime assertiveness, after China’s rolling conflicts with the United States and south-east Asian nations over control of the South China and Yellow seas. Japan’s Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, said the islands were an ”integral part of Japanese territory”.

Responding in kind?

American screenwriter, novelist, and blogger Roger L. Simon has observed that journalist bloggers at mainstream publications sound so many false notes they’re like white boys trying to sing the blues. Exhibit A is this post at the New York Times by Nicholas Kristof.

Look out—his (or the paper’s) framing of the narrative starts with the headline:

Look Out for the Diaoyu Islands

The Japanese detained the Chinese captain for questioning and the two countries have been exchanging indignant protests.

Readers are hereby invited to send in any examples of indignant protests by anyone in an official capacity in Japan. Good luck finding one.

The other problem is that, technically, the U.S. would be obliged to bail Japan out if there were a fight over the Senkakus. The U.S. doesn’t take a position on who owns the islands, but the Japan-U.S. security treaty specifies that the U.S. will help defend areas that Japan administers. And in 1972, when the U.S. handed Okinawa back to Japan, it agreed that Japan should administer the Senkakus. So we’re in the absurd position of being committed to help Japan fight a war over islands, even though we don’t agree that they are necessarily Japanese.

As you pick out the obvious mistakes in that passage, realize that you already know more about the issue than Kristof, who has two Pulitzer Prizes and has been called “the moral conscience of our generation of journalists…the Indiana Jones of our generation of journalists.”

In reality, of course, there is zero chance that the U.S. will honor its treaty obligation over a few barren rocks. We’re not going to risk a nuclear confrontation with China over some islands that may well be China’s. But if we don’t help, our security relationship with Japan will be stretched to the breaking point.

If the U.S. doesn’t help in the case of a Chinese attack, its security relationship with Japan will cease to exist.

Apart from being the only person to suggest a defense would necessarily be nuclear, Kristof seems to have missed the statements by both Mr. Armitage and Mr. Gates.

Then again, he is talking about the Obama administration.

He also feels his way through the legal issues:

So which country has a better claim to the islands? My feeling is that it’s China, although the answer isn’t clearcut.

He continues:

Chinese navigational records show the islands as Chinese for many centuries, and a 1783 Japanese map shows them as Chinese as well.

Incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial, as we’ve seen.

Kristof’s obviously been talking to Chinese sources without confirming what he heard from Japanese sources. Here’s the 1783 map. The Chinese contend the Senkakus are the same color on the map as the Chinese mainland (red). They are. (They begin at the third island at the vertical line.) But Taiwan is a different color (yellow). The first two islands on the vertical line are also red, but they were at that time (and are today) Taiwanese territory. In any event, the map was rendered by Hayashi Shihei, a retainer of the Date clan in the Sendai domain in the far northeast corner of Japan. He had no relationship with the Ryukyus–which at that time was an independent country–nor did he have the authority to set anyone’s national boundaries.

Note also that because of the different colors used for Taiwan and the Chinese mainland, a Chinese who accepts this map as proof that the Senkakus belong to China must also implicitly accept that Taiwan is independent from China.

Japan purported to “discover” the islands only in 1884 and annexed them only in 1895 when it also grabbed Taiwan.

Guess who whose hired researchers didn’t spend 15 minutes on the web looking anything up.

(You can also make a case that they are terra nullis [sic], belonging to no nation.)

No, you can’t, because that’s the basis by which Japan claimed them. That claim has been recognized by the rest of the world outside of the New York Times headquarters building for the past 115 years—including China for 76 of those years.

As Chinese nationalism grows, as China’s navy and ability to project power in the ocean gains, we could see some military jostling over the islands. You read it here first.

He also seems to have missed the Global Times editorial that says China will take no military action.

Is his degree of self-importance in inverse proportion to the amount of time he spent on research?


What we are witnessing is how a nation with arrested political development and without a sense of morality, with neither real friends nor real ideals–only size, money, and the desire to recreate the world as it existed two millenia ago–tries to seize the territory of another nation in the modern age and create a contemporary suzerainty. The incident seems to have at last focused the attention of people outside of East Asia on Chinese behavior, apart from those who populate the offices of a dying media culture and the fashionable salons of the elite.

Paul Lin of the Taipei Times wrote:

Japan’s response — releasing 14 crew members while keeping the captain detained — is basically designed to be reasonable without being a capitulation of Japan’s authority. In the long term, however, China’s biggest foe remains the US — still the most prominent democracy. Beijing will try to appeal to the common writing system and heritage of China and Japan to dissolve the US-Japan security treaty, so that it can gain control of the island chain. The US, Japan and Taiwan have to keep a watchful eye out for this, and must not show any sign of weakness lest China exploit a chink in the armor.

When he says island chain, it’s possible he is also referring to Okinawa itself, several decades down the road. The Ryukyu kingdom once paid tribute to the Qing Dynasty, and the Chinese never forget.

After the debacle with the United States over the Futenma marine base and this incident with China, Japan’s Democratic Party might yet learn something about the realities of governing. It is unlikely there will be more talk any time soon from the party about an “equilateral triangle” among Japan, China and the United States, much less any of the silliness about yuai and an East Asian entity.

They’re about to get another lesson when Wallace Gregson, the American Assistant Secretary of Defense, Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, shows up in Tokyo next week to ask the Japanese to increase their financial contribution for American bases and personnel in Japan. Several US sources have confirmed he will use as justification Chinese activity in the East China Sea and the Senkakus dustup.

The current agreement for payment expires next March, and the DPJ has long called for Japan’s financial contribution to be reduced.

If we’re lucky, perhaps the DPJ will also realize they might have brought it on themselves with their handling of the Futenma base issue, former party leader Ozawa Ichiro’s annual jaunts to fawn to the Chinese, and breaching the standard domestic protocol and forcing the Tenno (Emperor) to meet with a Chinese political leader last winter.

The authorities could legally have kept the Chinese sea captain in detention for a few more days, so his early release might open the government to criticism for weakness–particularly as the Chinese have been stepping up the economic pressure. One of the Chinese commentators said the Japanese government might have to pay for their acts with votes. He might be right, but perhaps not in ways he anticipated. Then again, what would mainland Chinese know about democracy?

Japan released Zhan Qixiong today, but the incident will likely have repercussions that last for quite a while.


* A Japanese government source who saw the videos of the incident said it would be difficult to prove the malicious intent of the captain at a public trial because the effect of the sea currents couldn’t be completely ruled out.

* Here’s a fascinating and informative paper about how the Chinese are becoming a global fishing power. The author also says:

(C)onsistent with the Chinese tendency toward close integration of civil and military institutions, China’s large fishing fleet is already integrated into a maritime militia that could render crucial support in a hypothetical military campaign, whether ferrying troops across the Taiwan Strait or laying mines in distant locations. The sheer number of fishing vessels that could be involved would present a severe challenge to any adversary attempting to counter this strategy.

* During his 16th century visit to the Ryukyus, Chen Kan wrote about the natives’ fondness for a beverage that can only be awamori, the Okinawan version of shochu.

* Japan has its useful idiots, too.

Even though Suganuma Unryu quoted an American official as stating that the Senkakus were included in the territory Japan was to keep in the peace treaty, he still argues that the islets are Chinese. He’s now at Oberlin University, and here’s the About page on his blog. He used to be a senior research fellow at the Institute of Moralogy.

Go ahead, read that website. I dare you.

A website called The China Desk likes a paper that historian Inoue Kiyoshi wrote on the issue in 1972 so much, they posted it:

(I)n collusion with U.S. imperialists, reactionary rulers and militarist forces within Japan are clamoring that the Senkaku Islands are Japanese territory, attempting to drag the Japanese people into a militarist, anti-China whirlwind. This whirlwind is certain to become fiercer after US armed forces return the so-called “administrative right over Okinawa” to Japan on May 15 of this year. We who are striving for the independence of the Japanese nation, for friendship between Japan and China, and for peace in Asia, must smash this conspiracy by U.S. and Japanese reactionaries. As a weapon in this struggle, I am providing a brief account of the history of the so-called Senkaku Islands.

* It’s curious that Japan’s Social Democrats are keeping a low profile. I haven’t seen any of their comments quoted in the media, and they hadn’t written anything for their website the last time I looked. Then again, this isn’t the ideal time to promote their view that Japan can trust its security to “the peace-loving peoples of the world”, as stated in the preamble to the Japanese Constitution.

Thanks to Bender for the Kristof link.

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Posted in China, India, International relations, Legal system, Military affairs, World War II | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 38 Comments »

Here’s one thing the Koreans like about Japan

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, July 8, 2010

THE 3 JULY issue of the weekly Shukan Gendai contains an interview with Murakushi Eiichi, who’s written a book about the prosecutorial system in Japan. The locus of Mr. Murakushi’s book is the investigations into the activities of Ozawa Ichiro of the Democratic Party of Japan.

The interview is a discussion of the possibility that the prosecutions of Mr. Ozawa might continue, but what I found interesting was a parenthetical comment from Mr. Murakushi. Here it is in English:

The South Korean mass media speaks with the highest praise about the recent investigations of Ozawa Ichiro, saying, “This is how investigations should be conducted.” Authorities in that country have cracked down on lame duck administrations, but they are referred to as “political prosecutions”, and their fairness is questioned. They are now in the process of reforming their system to achieve investigations of the strictest impartiality. They’re using Japanese prosecutions as a model, which probe into the suspicious activities of senior party officials currently in office.

(end translation)
Few people in Japan think Mr. Ozawa is as clean as he claims; more than 80% of the respondents in a recent poll said his resignation as DPJ secretary-general was “a good thing”. That’s an even higher ratio than the 70% + who were glad to see him go as DPJ president last year. Kan Naoto realized he could boost the fortunes of his new government and the party by isolating him (though the good vibes generated from that have dissipated.) How much more has to happen before he realizes that the public is really tired of having him around?

There is reason to suspect, however, that the prosecutions were motivated in part by the national bureaucracy’s desire to protect itself. (It’s difficult to determine just how sincere Mr. Ozawa is about any policy question apart from closer ties with China, but he does seem to be on the side of those who want to wrest political control from the bureaucracy.) Some thought the Liberal Democratic Party was behind the investigations, but from what I’ve read, it’s more likely that they were kept abreast of the proceedings rather than having been the ones to spur the prosecutors into action.

Legitimate complaints notwithstanding, the prosecutors have every reason to figuratively hold the man upside down by his ankles and shake him to see what falls out. When people go public in reputable national magazines to describe how they helped hide evidence that incriminates him, he needs to be shook until his back ain’t got no bone, as the old song has it.

As the Koreans have learned from experience, soon is better than late when it comes to rousting a crooked pol.

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Posted in Legal system, Politics, South Korea | Tagged: , , | 8 Comments »

Free free speech

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, January 31, 2010

“Freedom of assembly and association as well as speech, press, and all other forms of expression are guaranteed.”
Article 21, the Japanese Constitution

NOW THAT they’ve been caught with their pants down yet again, the Democratic Party of Japan is proposing to further trash Article 21 by banning corporate political contributions altogether.

That this is a pointless exercise is demonstrated by Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio’s own fund-raising strategies. His entire political career has been bankrolled by an individual–his fabulously wealthy mother. He was also probably the one—notwithstanding his shifting of the blame and the legal responsibility to his aides—who managed to disguise, until recently, the source of those funds.

What’s the next bright idea? Banning contributions from dead people?

The reaction of the country’s political class to the funding scandals of the 1990s was to raid the public till to bankroll the parties, defined as groups with five seats in the Diet. The amount of funding corresponds to the number of seats each party holds. Putting aside the problems of numerically defining a political party and the serious obstacles this erects to the growth of new parties—which just by coincidence solidifies the dominant position of the big boys and other incumbents—this is also a clear violation of the right to free speech.

That right is not limited to allowing the expression of unpopular ideas. It also includes preventing the government from forcing people to dress alike, march to a nearby stadium, and sing hymns written by the Propaganda Ministry to the Dear Leader, if they happen to think the Dear Leader and everything he stands for is the political equivalent of leprosy. In other words, free speech also includes the right to remain silent.

But the proposed political funding law means that Japanese taxpayers (including me) are forced to subsidize, and thereby promote, the speech of people and ideas they dislike. This isn’t just a personal issue. Of course I abhor the idea that the government is rifling through my wallet to take the money I earned through honest labor to pay for the political activities of people like Social Democrat Fukushima Mizuho. But it also means that the government picks the pocket of teachers’ union apparatchiks to facilitate the political speech of those who think teachers should be required to sing the national anthem at school assemblies.

Forcing everyone to equally support everyone else doesn’t make it fair; it just means that everyone’s right to free speech is equally violated.

The case that limiting political contributions also limits free speech has become a point of discussion recently in the United States with the recent Supreme Court Decision striking down McCain-Feingold. As (Canadian) David Warren explains:

(T)he U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that the First Amendment, which guarantees free speech, trumps the McCain-Feingold campaign finance act of 2002, and any other attempt to restrict election spending by “corporate persons” (in the broad sense that includes unions and any other formal organization). As Justice Anthony Kennedy explained in the majority decision, “The government may regulate corporate speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress that speech altogether.”

The majority also homed in on this crucial point: that bureaucratic regulation of speech constitutes a de facto prior restraint…

Mr. Warren gets to the heart of the matter here:

(The) Nanny (state) audits political spending through an immense bureaucracy, which has the effect of reversing power relations between the “wise” political parties and those crazy voters.

Is this the argument for campaign spending controls? I think it is the real argument, but it is not the argument commonly offered. The “official” argument is that, sans Big Nanny, those big corporate interests on Bay Street or wherever would “buy” the elections.

This premise, in turn, is even more insulting to the electorate. It holds that we can be bought, as easily as politicians. The insult is also quite unfair. Canadians, as all other electors, have a human tendency to resent obvious attempts to buy them, and to express that resentment through the secret ballot.

He also offers a suggestion as to the real reason some politicos detest the Supreme Court ruling:

(T)he chief (ramification) is that the decision attacks the contemporary lobbying system. In effect, those advancing special interests are condemned to lobbying the entire electorate, instead of just lobbying the politicians behind closed doors. This directly undermines the political class. It goes to the heart of their ability to broker deals not in the public interest, and pass them into law without public debate.

Translated into Japanese, of course the connections between large construction companies and the likes of DPJ Secretary-General Ozawa Ichiro are squalid and detestable. The solution, however, is not to prevent the companies from contributing to his campaign war chest. Rather, force the disclosure of any and all contributions of big business, big labor, and big religion to the politicians and let the electorate draw its own conclusions.

If you think the electorate is incapable of drawing its own conclusions, take another look at the polling trends for the DPJ-led government since it assumed office. There are also dozens of similar examples in recent years at the sub-national level.

Taken to its logical extreme, this attempt to limit political contributions is an expression of the political class’s contempt for the voters, whom they treat as children unable to make the informed decisions only they are capable of. They’re going to cook the law books anyway with recipes that enable them to finance their campaigns by hook or by crook–mostly by the latter. They’re also going to compound the problem by making the public pay for whatever it is they decide to do, including taking three-day junkets to European capitals on fact-finding missions that could just as easily be accomplished through meetings with officials at Tokyo embassies. (Exhibit A: Kan Naoto’s trip to London last spring. Exhibit B: The smartly dressed Fukushima Mizuho’s recent trip to Paris)

It is an attitude profoundly antithetical to liberty. Take the shackles off, free free speech, and let the chips fall where they may. I trust the people to make the right decision more often than not.

Why don’t the politicians?


Lest you think I exaggerate about how politicians view the public, not two hours after I put up this post, I ran across this comment from Financial Services Minister Kamei Shizuka on television today:

“Substantial numbers of the people now lack the ability to make dispassionate judgments from their cerebral cortex.”

He was defending Ozawa Ichiro.

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Marked man

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, January 30, 2010

IS THE JAPANESE MASS MEDIA being manipulated by Tokyo prosecutors to turn public opinion against DPJ Secretary-General Ozawa Ichiro in the latest installment of his political fund scandals?

That’s what some members of the media suspect, and a large Amen Corner of Ozawa supporters is backing them up in the Japanese blogosphere.

The 5 February issue of the weekly Shukan Asahi that hit the newsstands this week threw some more red meat into the cage. The magazine claims someone in the prosecutors’ office is feeding them leaks to make things look bad for Mr. Ozawa, and they slam the prosecutors for their conduct of the investigation. Here’s an excerpt.

“Someone sent the editors this information immediately before prosecutors interviewed Ozawa. It’s not clear whom the source is, but it is a leak from the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s special investigative team.”

‘Whatever happens, they’ll get Ozawa. Otsuru (Motonari, the head of the special investigative unit) is a hard-liner, and he said, ‘We’ve got the proof. Now it’s just a question of how we’ll do it.’ The goal is to get him for accepting bribes for influence peddling, but if that doesn’t work, it’ll be as an accomplice in violating the political funds law. They can even get him for tax evasion. In the end, there’s also the possibility of striking a deal in exchange for him resigning his Diet seat.’

“In fact, the same person brought us information last week.”

‘The person leading the investigation now is not Sakuma Tatsuya, the division head, but Mr. Otsuru. He’s deadly serious, so he lit a fire under his less aggressive superiors, which led to the arrest of Ishikawa (Tomohiro, a lower house MP and former Ozawa aide). That’s because Ishikawa lied his head off during voluntary questioning. The Shukan Asahi is going to badmouth the prosecutors anyway, but you’ll wind up embarrassing yourselves if you don’t quickly change your tune. Sources at the construction companies are blabbing. Ishikawa is going to go down. Ozawa’s done for too. If they indict and convict him, he won’t be able to serve in the Diet.’

“According to this source, six top-notch prosecutors have been brought in from Osaka, Kyoto, and other places in the Kansai region, so it’s possible there’ll be more support to build a case against Ozawa. Both the Justice Ministry and the lead prosecutor are worried about getting ahead of themselves, however.”

‘They’re going up against the Democratic Party, so Mr. Otsuru is well aware that the Justice Minister may exercise her right to halt the investigation. They have to use the mass media to further fan the flames and prevent that from happening. They might have to seek permission from the Diet to arrest him.'”

The reference to the magazine criticizing the prosecutors is clarified by the title of the article: The Out Of Control Prosecutors. The author of the article is Uozumi Akira, who writes: “The aim is to have Mr. Ozawa resign from the Diet. This is a crisis for parliamentary democracy.” He quotes former prosecutor Goharu Nobuo as saying: “The prosecutors have no clear direction. They’re just attacking Mr. Ozawa.”

If that’s the objective, they’ve gotten the public on their side. Here are the numbers from a recent Nikkei/TV Tokyo poll

61%: Think Ozawa should resign from the Diet
30%: Think Ozawa should not resign from the Diet
9%: Don’t know

Poll numbers notwithstanding, some in the media and the Japanese blogosphere think the prosecutors are abusing their power. Mr. Uozumi elaborated the reasons they’re going after Ozawa in a radio interview:

“They’re upset because Mr. Ozawa has political control of Japan. Kasumigaseki (the bureaucracy) wants to control politics. But they can’t put up with him because he’s reversing that situation. The special prosecutors are at the top of Kasumigaseki, and the structure is “All-Kasumigaseki vs. Ozawa”. It’s a struggle for control between politicians and the bureaucracy.”

Another reason cited for the prosecution’s full-court press is that the ambitious Mr. Otsuru is trying to recover from a previous setback. He was the lead prosecutor in a collusion case involving construction companies and politicians in Fukushima. Though local prosecutors were not anxious to pursue the matter, he is said to have brushed aside opposition because he wanted to further his career.

They eventually arrested and tried Gov. Sato Eisaku, who was found guilty, sentenced to three years in jail, and given a five-year stay of execution. Last September, the appeals court reduced that to a two-year sentence with a four-year stay of execution, though the court found that the governor received no money in bribes. Mr. Sato claims the prosecutors created the case out of whole cloth by the prosecutors.

Some hold that Mr. Otsuru—who also led the prosecution team that put young Internet entrepreneur and media sensation Horie Takafumi in prison—is trying to nail Mr. Ozawa to restore his reputation.

Other, more outré conspiracy theories abound. Some claim that Mr. Ozawa is being targeted by Wall Street capitalists and the CIA working with certain LDP factions, the Kasumigaseki bureaucracy, and the big Japanese advertising agencies (i.e., television sponsors).

Here’s the most entertaining theory of all: Arrayed on one side is the Rothschild Freemasons of Europe (of which Mr. Ozawa is supposedly a member), the Chinese government, and the Ozawa-led DPJ, who are squared off against the Tokyo prosecutors, a “certain large religious group” (read: Soka Gakkai, whose political arm is New Komeito, whom Mr. Ozawa is trying to crush), the American embassy in Japan working with the CIA, and the Rockefeller-backed Freemasons of the United States.

The American Freemasons are supposedly upset because the DPJ is trying to worm its way out of the agreement to move the Futenma air base to another location.

One part of this theory holds that Mr. Ozawa has convinced Chinese President Hu Jintao to agree to force North Korea to release the remaining Japanese abductees in North Korea this summer just before the July upper house election. That, goes the story, has enraged the Americans because it will allow the Chinese to maintain the upper hand in dealing with the North Koreans.

This yarn has faint echoes of the case against Mr. Ozawa’s mentor as a political boss, Tanaka Kakuei. His daughter Makiko, Prime Minister Koizumi’s first foreign minister, suspected the CIA of being behind the plot to bring down her father—an advocate of closer relations with China.

Those inclined to look for leaks, conspiracies and the print media’s involvement might have a point considering the rash of stories over the past two months describing Mr. Ozawa as a dictatorial, iron-fisted, anti-democrat who brooks no opposition inside the DPJ. They’re believable, seem well sourced, and have turned public opinion against Mr. Ozawa and the DPJ. There are now more people who do not support the Cabinet than do, a sharp reversal in just four months.

Be that as it may, Mr. Ozawa is not helping his own cause. He is a very unlikely Sir Galahad. His political fund management committee has extensive real estate holdings, which have been a source of suspicion for years.

He hasn’t come up with plausible cover stories for the funding of the questionable real estate deal for which his aide was arrested, either. He’s told four different tales over the past year or so, and his most recent is that the money came from his father’s estate. Yesterday, however, a 27-year-old newspaper article surfaced in which Mr. Ozawa said that he received no money from his father’s estate.

When he finally did agree to talk to the prosecutors earlier this month, the conversation lasted four and a half hours in a Tokyo hotel room. He also reportedly spent several hours before the interview mulling over his strategy with his attorneys in a different room of the same hotel.

That doesn’t sound as if the facts behind the real estate deal in question and the money that paid for it are so cut and dried.

This week, some influential members of the DPJ seemed as if they started to put some distance between the party and Mr. Ozawa. There wasn’t as much talk of a full frontal assault against the prosecutors as there was before. For example:

24 January
Sengoku Yoshito, Minister of State for Government Revitalization and Civil Service Reform

We’ll make a decision (on Mr. Ozawa) when the matter is resolved taking public opinion trends into account.

25 January
Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio

I support his continuation in his post for now.

(The Japanese immediately seized on the “for now” part, or 現在は (genzai ha). The Japanese expression makes it obvious that Mr. Hatoyama was giving a clear signal he might not be so supportive in the future.)

26 January
Prime Minister Hatoyama (Referring to the extensive real estate holdings of the Ozawa fund management group)

That wouldn’t be possible for an ordinary Diet member, and I don’t think (an ordinary Diet member) would do it. I think the people view that (in the same way).

Maehara Seiji, Minister of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport

(Fund management groups) shouldn’t use political funds to buy real estate.

Haraguchi Kazuhiro, Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications

Generally speaking, politicians and groups about whom there are suspicions must make a sincere effort to clear up those suspicions in the Diet.

(This one is also telling; Mr. Haraguchi is an Ozawa ally.)

29 January
Noda Yoshihiko, Deputy Finance Minister

I do not think the people want to return (government) to the LDP. The most important issue before us is achieving a stable government in the July upper house election. After some facts emerge (about Mr. Ozawa), we will make a judgment in accordance with that issue.

It is theoretically possible that Mr. Ozawa is going to be vindicated, but that will take some time to play out.

In the meantime, staying on as DPJ Secretary-General could seriously harm the party’s chances of achieving a majority in this summer’s upper house election.

If the party disassociates itself from Mr. Ozawa, however, or if he is forced to resign his Diet seat, it’s an odds-on bet that the DPJ will not hold together for the three and a half years remaining in the lower house term.

Yet it’s also unlikely the LDP as presently constituted could regain power. As Mr. Noda says, the brand has become too degraded, and the current leadership is in such a retrograde mode, the public will not be willing to hand them the reins of government anytime soon.

The cement of Japanese politics is still wet.


If you like conspiracy stories, you’ll love this. Rockefellers, Rothschilds, yakuza, the Imperial household, ninjas, earthquake machines–you name it, this one’s got it. In fact, this guy might be the source for the Rockefeller/Rothschild stories in the Japanese-language part of the web.

As whacked out as it is, I have to admit I was intrigued by the mention of LDP pol Kato Koichi getting wads of cash in an envelope, and the claim later in the interview that the North Koreans bought off the police and the LDP government with the income they received from Japanese pachinko parlors so the authorities would overlook their amphetamine exports.

Recall that Mr. Kato was adamantly opposed to the Abe hard line against North Korea…

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Japan’s anti-reform reformers

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, April 14, 2009

THE ONLY REFORM OF GOVERNMENT worthy of the name is that which puts power in the hands of the people. While that phrase has a bit of a leftist tinge, the left’s actual interest in reform that puts power in the hands of the people is usually an impolite fiction. For them, reform involves control by latter-day Orwellian pigs prancing on their hind legs and decisions made by a self-appointed intellectual elite that is alternatively dismissive of and patronizing to the people. Their governing principles are based on a discredited philosophy that flies in the face of empirical evidence and life its own self.

Haraguchi Kazuhiro

Haraguchi Kazuhiro

The only reform of government in Japan that has attempted to take real power out of the hands of politicians and bureaucrats and put it in the hands of the people was either created or inspired by former Prime Minister Koizumi Jun’ichiro and his acolytes. One of the most important of the Koizumian reforms is due to take effect on 21 May—the start of the lay judge system in court trials.

One is unlikely to find a reform measure in any of today’s free-market democracies with the potential of the lay judge system to reshape society through the devolution of power. Today, decisions in court cases, including murder trials, are decided by panels consisting of three judges. Next month, those judges will be joined by six lay judges—in other words, private citizens. They will have to rely on common sense and life experience instead of a legal background as they serve on a case-by-case basis to hear trials and render verdicts. The head judge will then determine the sentence for those defendants found guilty.

For those who believe that governments and their administrative apparatus should be as small and as close to the people as possible, this measure is both breathtaking and heartening in an age when even those who claim to champion these principles provide them with little more than lip service.

It should also be no surprise that many are dead set on neutering this reform as well as the other Koizumian innovations, including the privatization of an entire Cabinet ministry.

Those with their knives out include the mudboat wing of Mr. Koizumi’s own Liberal-Democratic Party. They were aghast at his policies to begin with, and only went along with him because they enjoyed the electoral ride on his coattails. Others are the members of the legal profession, who, as is the case with guilds everywhere, will attack anything they perceive as a threat to their exclusivity and professional privileges.

A third group anxious to halt the lay judge system is the primary opposition group, the Democratic Party of Japan. They claim to be reformers, but other than perfunctory proposals to pass a few laws preventing bureaucrats from working for government after retirement, they support measures that are profoundly reactionary in the truest sense of the term. For example, they have promised to halt the privatization of Japan Post, whose savings accounts and life insurance system provided the funding for pork barrel construction projects allocated by the bureaucracy. Party head Ozawa Ichiro has even called for the reinstatement of the lifetime employment system at Japanese corporations. Perhaps next they’ll come out in favor of arranged marriages and teeth blackening for women.

The following is an interview with Haraguchi Kazuhiro, a lower house proportional representative from Saga who is spearheading the party’s effort to limit the transfer of power to the people in the legal system. A member of the Hata Tsutomu group/faction, Mr. Haraguchi has the Internal Affairs and Communications portfolio in the party’s shadow Cabinet. The English is my quick and dirty translation from the Japanese.

You’ve formed the “Diet Members’ League to Reexamine the Lay Judge System” with members of several parties. What is your objective?

I agree with the concept that civil law should be brought closer to the people, but the gap with the way the system was designed is too large. Five years ago, when the law was passed, the government said during questioning in the Diet that it would gain the understanding of the people to smoothly implement the system. Today, however, most of the people remain confused. It is necessary for us as a legislature to clean up the problem areas.

What are the problem areas?

One is that it is difficult for people to withdraw from consideration as lay judges if they do not want to serve based on their beliefs. People will have to serve as judges for serious crimes that could result in the death penalty, but it is a substantial psychological burden for some to be shown gruesome photographs of a crime scene. It is also possible that they will reach hasty conclusions. I’d suggest (using the system) for lesser crimes, cases involving governmental administration and the conduct of democracy, and cases involving financial affairs. The obligation to secrecy is also a problem. It is strange that people will not be able to say, “That judge is strange”. The experience should be one that can be shared by everyone.

21 May, the date of implementation, is approaching. What are you doing now?

Even some members of the ruling party are having regrets, saying they passed the bill in a kind of fever. Our objective is to freeze the implementation of the system after convening several study groups with experts and other informed people. At the same time, I also want to reexamine our pre-modern civil law system in which investigations are regularly carried out in secret, in light of the manipulation of public opinion through prosecutorial leaks that were so prominent in the Nishimatsu Construction case.

(Note: Under the new system, divulging the content of discussions and the voting results of the panel of judges is punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine of up to 500,000 yen (about US$5,000. The objective is to protect privacy and to prevent retaliation.)

Most of Mr. Haraguchi’s objections, if not all of them, are really excuses masquerading as reasons. For example, he speaks as if looking at bloody photographs is the equivalent of a conscientious objector refusing military service in wartime.

While there is some opposition among the Japanese public to serving as lay judges, that opposition has little to do with peeping between one’s fingers at pictures of stab wounds and more to do with the inconvenience of having to interrupt their lives for public service. I’m not slagging the Japanese here; many people in the West would rather not serve on juries for the same reason. That’s why it is unlikely a jury system could be created there now from scratch if it didn’t already exist.

That’s also why it is often difficult in practice to give power to the people, despite it being the right thing to do. How many are anxious to assume the responsibilities required for the rights provided?

Note also that Mr. Haraguchi brings up the Nishimatsu Construction case: he’s referring to the political contribution scandal that threatens to bring down party leader Ozawa. It already has taken the wind out of the DPJ’s electoral sails.

Interjecting complaints of this type in public issues are a hallmark of the party—they are incapable of discussing governmental policies without blatantly trying to politicize them for their own benefit. The most prominent example was the DPJ’s reprehensible attempt to use Japan’s contribution to the UN-approved NATO effort in Afghanistan (refueling ships) as the means to shake the LDP loose from power.

Once upon a time, politics ended at the water’s edge. For the DPJ, however, there is no water’s edge. Everything is grist for the perpetual campaign.

How odd that the politicians most interested in giving real power to the people are those described as “conservative”.

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