Japan from the inside out

Archive for the ‘Russia’ Category

The New World Disorder

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, October 14, 2012

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

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

– George H.W. Bush, 6 March 1991

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


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

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

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

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

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

Q: There are probably many historical documents that say Tsushima is South Korean territory.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

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

Q: What do you think is the decisive material?

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

Q: Japan had already prepared such a map?

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

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

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

Q: Have you seen this map?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Okinawa and Japan itself

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

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

Explains an unidentified journalist in China:

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

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

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

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

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

Jackie Chan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in China, Government, International relations, Military affairs, Russia, South Korea | Tagged: , , | 14 Comments »

Ichigen koji (165)

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, September 8, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

Since the (recent) expansion of the Dokdo (Takeshima) issue, Japan has taken measures of self-restraint in regard to the territorial dispute with China over the Senkakus. The prime minister sent a letter to the Chinese, and showed courtesy in every regard. Ishihara Shintaro, the ultra-rightist governor of the Tokyo Metro District, has wanted his local government to purchase the islets. The national government hurriedly intervened, fearing a collision with China. There was briefly some tension when the Russian president visited the Northern Territories (Southern Kuriles), but at present the Japanese show no signs of making this an issue. Now these people, from the prime minister to all the Cabinet ministers, are making up fictional stories about Dokdo. How long will South Korea and the South Korean people put up with this? It is a test of our capacity to endure.

– From a Chosun Ilbo editorial on 5 September, in Japanese

They seem to have forgotten what happened when the Japanese prime minister sent a polite letter to the South Korean president last month.

Posted in China, International relations, Mass media, Quotations, Russia, South Korea | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Peace-loving peoples

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, February 18, 2012

We, the Japanese people, desire peace for all time and are deeply conscious of the high ideals controlling human relationships and we have determined to preserve our security and existence, trusting in the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world.
– From the Preamble to the Japanese Constitution

Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.
2) In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.
– Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution

The United States has some 70 bases — in Japan. This (state of affairs) is not that of an independent country. I want to eliminate this abnormal state of affairs, and have Japan capable of defending Japan. Absent that concept, how can we conduct discussions with other countries?
– Yamada Hiroshi, former chief municipal officer of Tokyo’s Suginami Ward

(A)n editorial cartoon published during the war years in London’s Daily Mail…shows a neat little man in a bowler hat unhappily shaking hands with a dishevelled colossus. The caption reads: “Ah, Mr. Policy, young Side Effect here has been anxious to meet you …”
– George Jonas

ONE use to which the late author, student of psychology, and man of the world Idries Shah put his many books was to convey certain perspectives on form, function, and how they are frequently misapprehended. Shah held that forms have limitations, and that among those limitations are time, place, culture, and language. If they are neither changed nor discarded, they become fossilized, becoming both museums and exhibits. Some choose to become attached to a form rather than its content. They are unable to make the distinction between the container and its function, and assume the fossil still functions as it did in the past.

The creation of the Japanese Constitution as a way to bend the nation’s behavior is an excellent illustration of the perspectives on form and function Shah wished to convey.

Consider the language of the preamble shown above, which some Japanese find more objectionable than Article 9, the “peace clause”. The nation is supposed to rely on the “justice and faith” of the “peace-loving peoples of the world” for its security and existence. Pluralizing the word people, assuming that peoples are peace-loving, and proclaiming that national survival can be entrusted to their goodwill identifies the sort of people who wrote it, their worldview, and the general time period in which it was written. It belongs in a vitrine in a corner of the museum near the quill pens and dialed telephones, rather than as the first statement of principle atop a document that would express the national consensus for the survival of the state.

In retrospect, it’s curious that people expected a Constitutional requirement in that form to function at all. The authors knew well that the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact also prohibited the use of war as an “instrument of national policy”, so only an ideologue would have thought the Japanese Constitution in isolation would succeed. By 1945, technology had enabled the Europeans to realize the objective inherent in centuries of behavior and turn the continent into a smoldering ruin of a charnel house. Justice and faith in the love of peace were not the motivation for the Western world’s colonization of East Asia. Nor were they the motivation that impelled them to eliminate the East Asian nation that would usurp their position. Such were the high ideals controlling the human relations of the age.

Further, there is no real consensus on what Article 9 even means. Some people claim it was to make Japan a pacifist nation, but that’s difficult to see when the commonly accepted meaning of pacifism is applied. Here’s a brief description of how the Constitution was put together:

Although an American directive allowed him to order reforms “only as a last resort,” with the first postwar general election just two months away and with an 11-nation commission due to take over the issue of a constitution, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Allied Commander, intervened.

He ordered his own 24-member Government Section staff to draft a constitution, and on Feb. 4, his aide, Brig. Gen. Courtney Whitney, convened a meeting and declared: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is a historic occasion. I now proclaim you a constitutional assembly.”

Lieut. Col. Charles Kades, who had been in Japan since a week before Japan’s formal surrender the previous summer after taking part in the invasion of France in 1944 and serving on the War Department’s General Staff, was put in charge of the steering committee and told to produce a constitution by Feb. 12.

But Kades denied that it was strictly pacifist in intent when Japanese journalist Komori Yoshihisa visited him at his Wall Street office in New York in April 1981 and spoke with him for three hours:

“I myself wrote Article 9, including the section about the renunciation of war. I was given a page from a yellow legal pad by Whitney with instructions on three or four main points. I think they were notes he took from a conversation with MacArthur. But every nation has the right to its own self-defense. That’s why I thought (the part prohibiting self-defense) was illogical, and I took the liberty to remove it.”

The references to military forces, war potential and the “right of belligerency” were as written on the paper he was given. Kades admitted, however, that he didn’t understand the meaning of the “right of belligerency”. He said that if Japan had objected to that phrase, he intended to remove it.

“The intent of this Constitution was at first to keep Japan disarmed forever, but that had the effect of tying America’s hands in bilateral relations with Japan, and for the United States, that created a situation that was ill advised.”

Now there’s the unanswerable question: how is a nation disarmed forever supposed to defend itself? By some interpretations, Japan is ranked ninth worldwide in military strength, yet to take the language of the Constitution at face value would mean that it has the world’s largest and most potent police force.

The Constitution also enables the United States to use Japanese territory for its own ends. Here it is from the horse’s mouth. In this case, the pony is Kevin Maher, the former director of the Office of Japan Affairs at the US State Department:

“I don’t think Article Nine of the Japanese constitution should change. If the Japanese constitution was changed the United States would not be able to use Japanese land to advance US interests. The high host nation support the Japanese government currently pays is beneficial to the US. We’ve got a very good deal in Japan.”

Regardless of what one thinks of the Japanese left, their caricature of their own country as an American aircraft carrier has some justification.

Another function of the Constitution has been to contribute to the neutering of the Japanese political class. With domestic policy largely in the hands of the bureaucracy and foreign policy outsourced to the Americans, the Japanese political class has devolved into a group of parasites engaged primarily in emitting gusts of hot air, concocting Byzantine power struggles, and consuming the nation’s time and money.

Defense Minister Tanaka Naoki

Typifying the problem is that the Noda Cabinet has already had two Defense Ministers since its inception five months ago. The criterion for their selection was to balance intraparty factions rather than their ability to oversee the national defense. The first, Ichikawa Yasuo, was known to be aligned with the Agriculture Ministry and had little expertise about defense matters. Mr. Ichikawa insisted this inexperience was the ideal demonstration of civilian control of the military. He was replaced four months and a half-dozen verbal pratfalls later, though he blamed it on bureaucratic backstabbing.

His successor is Tanaka Naoki, another AgMin zokugiin. He is distinguished only as the husband of former Foreign Minister Tanaka Makiko, who knew as much about diplomacy as her husband knows about national defense. Mr. Tanaka stepped in it even more quickly than Mr. Ichikawa. During a live interview on NHK the first weekend after his selection, he confused a question about relaxing the standards for the use of weapons by self-defense forces overseas with the reexamination of weapons export prohibitions. Asked specifically about the first by the NHK moderator, he talked about leaving behind construction equipment after participating in peacekeeping operations overseas. Struggling to rescue Mr. Tanaka, the interviewer asked him whether he had a positive attitude about the use of weapons by self-defense forces. The Defense Minister answered that it was neither positive nor negative.

The one function the Japanese Constitution has not performed, however, is the one it was created for: to prevent the “peace-loving peoples” in the neighborhood from piecemeal attacks on the country to seize or attempt to seize Japanese territory outright. Meanwhile, the Americans either declare it isn’t their business and look the other way, or have been actively complicit in that seizure.

Who indeed are the peace-loving peoples in Northeast Asia?

* The peace-loving people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

Persons of sound mind can stipulate that the North Korean government neither qualifies as a member of the region’s peace-loving peoples nor can be trusted to behave as if they were. Persons of sound mind also know there are some who will disagree with that characterization, but taking them seriously isn’t worth the time or trouble.

While North Korea has no apparent designs on Japanese territory, they have, for reasons that make sense only to them, threatened to turn the country into a sea of fire. They also occasionally fire missiles in a direction where only Japan exists. (To be sure, Pyeongyang actually attacks only South Korea, but in an erratic manner that gives the Americans an excuse to bug out on their promise to defend South Korea as well.)

* The peace-loving people of the People’s Republic of China

It would be possible to agree with the Chinese assertion they are peace-loving people if we overlook their post-WWII invasions of the Korean Peninsula, India, and Vietnam, and their current buccaneering from southern Japan to the South China Sea.

The Chinese boosted their defense budget by 12.7% in FY 2011 to roughly 601.1 billion yuan. That was a resumption of 22 consecutive years of double-digit defense budget increases, a string that ended briefly in 2010, when defense expenditures were limited to a single-digit rise. In contrast, the Japanese Finance Ministry wants to cut the 155,000 members of the Land Self-Defense Force to 141,000. Japan is the only major country whose defense budget has continually declined since reaching a peak in 2002.

The Chinese cited as their reason increases in equipment and military training, personnel training/education, and salaries and benefits for the military.

When asked by reporters whether the increase was to apply pressure to neighboring countries, a government spokesman replied it was still less than 2% of GDP and lower than that of many countries. He also said that China was pursuing defensive policies and would not threaten any country.

Shortly thereafter, the Chinese had their first trial flight of a new stealth fighter. Here’s a look at some more of their new defensive infrastructure.

They didn’t behave as a peace-loving people in the fall of 2010, when they were the belligerents in the Senkaku islets , which they and the Taiwanese recognized as Japanese territory until seabed resources were discovered circa 1970.

This behavior should not have been unexpected. Noted Shimizu Yoshikazu in the monthly Chuokoron:

President Hu Jintao said at the Communist Party Conference in March 2009 that the country will staunchly defend its sovereignty, security, and territory. He also said the country would be more assertive in defending its maritime interests. Mr. Hu modified the dictum of Deng Hsiao Ping, who said, “Hide our abilities, build our strength, and move forward little by little.” The new policy is “Maintain hiding our abilities and building our strength, but be more aggressive diplomatically.”

Mr. Shimizu said that few people noticed because the full text of his address was not published. A senior official in the Chinese Foreign Ministry said it meant the country would perform a more aggressive role in international affairs.

Here’s what the Chinese mean by their “maritime interests”:

“Japanese government officials are weighing China’s intent after the People’s Daily, the newspaper of the Communist Party, called the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea part of Beijing’s “core interests.”

“…The People’s Daily article said Japan’s plan to name uninhabited islands near the Senkakus, known in China as the Diaoyu Islands, “is a blatant move to damage China’s core interests.””

The Chinese also refer to Tibet and Taiwan as part of their core interests.

Chinese newspaper editorials reflect a similar peace-loving attitude. For example, Hu Feiyue was one of four “experts” who presented views in a one-page special on the Senkakus dispute in the China Daily:

“Since Japan has been continually strengthening its control over the Diaoyu Islands (Senkakus), it is not enough for China to only send patrol boats to the islands. Instead, China should continue to modernize its navy. Considering Japan’s actions and the effect of China’s countermeasures, Beijing should think of employing another strategy,”

He also referred to the Japanese arrest of the Chinese fishing boat captain after ramming two Japanese Coast Guard vessels as “Tokyo’s affront”.

More specific was this from the Dongfang Ribao (Oriental Daily) in Hong Kong on 5 April last year:

There will not be peace between China and Japan unless China shows the resolve to use nuclear weapons. Japan is the only country in the world to have been attacked with nuclear (weapons) in the past century twice. The first was when the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb, and the second was during the Fukushima nuclear accident. The Japanese are extremely sensitive to nuclear issues, and China is not without the means to employ this means…For most Japanese, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are a nightmare that can not be forgotten, and it has wounded their spirit. The uneasiness and dread due to the nuclear accident has paralyzed Japanese officials and the public, and politicians continually spout nonsense.

Japan can say no to China, but it cannot say no to nuclear weapons. For China to gain Japan’s respect it must refer to these weapons and present an attitude of not renouncing their use…Japan is a country with a high degree of self-regard, and it bows only to those who defeat it. Even though it lost to the U.S. in World War II, it does not think it lost to China, and pressures China with this strong approach….Now it challenges China through its textbooks on the Senkakus issue. Why should China promise a country such as this that it will not be the first to use nuclear weapons?

China is thought to have deployed 300 nuclear warheads, by the way.

This rhetoric has been backed by the Chinese military harassment of Japan, which began in the Senkakus long before the 2010 incident.

In September 2005, the Chinese sent five naval vessels, including a guided missile destroyer, to the vicinity of the Chunxiao gas field. That’s four kilometers into the Chinese EEZ, but the Chinese have been using it as a platform to siphon off gas from the Japanese side. One of the ships aimed a gun at a Japanese P3-C surveillance aircraft.

A day before the resumption of Japanese-Sino talks on the status of the gas fields, China revealed it had established a “reserve vessel squadron” in the East China Sea capable of “fighting during wars” and equipped to “eliminate obstacles at sea.”

They’ve been engaging in similar activities near or in Japanese air space, particularly in the past five years. From April to December 2010 alone, Japanese Air Self-Defense Forces scrambled 48 times against Chinese aircraft. That was the highest total of the past five fiscal years (starting in April), and did not include the January to March figures. More recent incidents have involved a refusal to provide identification after entering the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). The Chinese military aircraft used to stay outside the ADIZ, but that changed in October 2010.

Last March, a Chinese State Oceanic Administration helicopter flew to within 70 meters of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyer Samidare. Then-Defense Minister Kitazawa Toshimi said, “It was an extremely dangerous act.” That was countered by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu, who replied that China’s right to claim the islands was “indisputable” and that its actions were in accord with international law.

On 30 December 2010, the Asahi Shimbun reported on People’s Liberation Army planning to land on and seize the outlying islands of other countries. The envisioned operations would include the use of bombers and amphibious vehicles.

On 2 January 2011, a commenter in the Communist Party-run Global Times claimed that the Japanese were just trying to worsen relations and suggested the Asahi ran the article at the government’s request.

More troubling still is the Chinese interest in Okinawa. Some in China are now calling for the establishment of a Ryukyus Autonomous District. In other words, they think it’s Chinese manifest destiny to swipe the islands from Japan. Here is a public announcement of an apparently well-funded group to work toward that objective:

Former National Police Agency investigator Bando Tadanobu translated into Japanese an essay that appeared in the Chinese media calling for such a scheme as part of the PRC’s launch of a national strategy — the so-called Ryukyus Millennium.

“The Ryukyu islands must be recovered and a Ryukyu Autonomous District of the People’s Republic of China established for the millennium development of China. The law guarantees China sovereignty of the Ryukyus under the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Declaration. It must be turned into a forward base facing the Pacific Ocean….China will build the Ryukyus, the Japanese and American military shall depart from the East Sea (i.e., what everyone else calls the East China Sea) and the Ryukyus will be a breakwater for Chinese security.”

The essay also asserts that the time to seize Okinawa is now, and the Ryukyu Islanders, who are part of the Chinese people, also seek this. Mr. Bando reminds his Japanese readers that the Chinese government insists the Senkakus are Chinese territory and that senior PLA members openly discuss planning for an invasion of Japan.

This is not an isolated phenomenon. The same argument has also appeared in other Chinese media sources, including three times in the Apple Daily and once on the Boxun News website.

Tang Chungfeng, a specialist in Japan research at the Chinese Ministry of Commerce who also served in the Chinese embassy in Japan, has championed the cause in the aforementioned Global Times, as well as the news site (for Phoenix TV). Mr. Tang claims that the real Japanese objective is not to maintain control of Daioyutai (Senkakus), but to legalize its “illegal control” of the Ryukyus.

He lists four reasons for this.

1. The Ryukyus become the starting point for Japanese territorial waters.
2. It is a strategic move to obtain maritime resources and to keep northern Taiwan in check.
3. It draws their territorial line in the East China Sea.
4. It wipes away the shame of having been defeated in World War 2 by an “inferior race”, the Chinese. The Japanese still say they were beaten by the Americans and the Russians, not us.

Mr. Tang says this is the signal flare for the resurgence of Japanese militarism, in which Japanese bushido will again rule the world. It is a psychological demand of the Japanese right wing, which is more important than natural resources.

With two university professors, Mr. Tang wrote a similar article for the Global Times of 10 November 2010. In the same newspaper two days before that, he urged China to support the Okinawan “independence movement”.

Demonstrations were held in Chengdu in October 2010 after the Senkakus Incident of 7 September. Student leaders said they had been organized a month before with the help of the government. Some of the demonstrators carried signs saying, Recover the Ryukyus, Free Okinawa.

Occasionally the well-meaning superficialissimos of the Western mass media and thinktankeria get nosey and parade their wonderfulness by advising the countries involved it would be so much better if everyone got along and shared the wealth of the sea near the Senkakus instead of fighting about it. The Japanese have always been amenable to that. Now to get the Chinese to match their behavior with their words:

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told reporters Wednesday that Japan protested to China after a flare was seen Tuesday at a Chinese structure at an undersea gas deposit. Japan has made similar complaints several times in the past.

“We have detected a flare, a sign that it is highly likely that there is a gas development going on,” Fujimura said. “Any unilateral exploration is unacceptable.”

The deposit, known as Kashi in Japan and Tianwaitian in China, sits near a median line of the two countries’ overlapping exclusive economic zones.

Japan and China agreed in 2008 to suspend unilateral digging in that field while continuing talks, but talks have stalled since 2010, following a diplomatic spat stemming from a maritime collision near disputed southern islands claimed by both countries, as well as Taiwan.

Two (back-translated) comments allow us to draw conclusions from all this. The first is from Dean Cheng, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center. (The emphasis is mine.)

China has of course warned that Japan is positioned as part of the American alliance, but we must recognize that is not the only point. I interviewed a general with the People’s Liberation Army, who said, “We might be able to achieve accommodation and cooperation with the U.S., but that will not happen with Japan. For China, Japan will likely remain a military threat”. There is a special historical animus towards Japan.

Meanwhile, Dan Blumenthal, current commissioner and former vice chairman of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, said:

In China, there is a memory and anger at Japan based on history, and an intense awareness of revisionism. That awareness is strengthened and inflamed by Chinese Communist Party propaganda. Now, the Chinese think this should be rectified, even with military force, by becoming superior to Japan, and having the ability to threaten Japan.

* The peace-loving people of Russia

Japan and Russia signed the Treaty of Commerce, Navigation and Delimitation on 7 February 1855. The treaty both established official relations between the countries as well as their borders. The Russians confirmed that the islands of Etorofu, Kunashiri, and Shikotan, and the Habomai Islets (just seven kilometers from Hokkaido), were Japanese territory, distinct from the Kurile Islands.

Article 2 of the treaty states:

“Henceforth the boundary between the two nations shall lie between the islands of Etorofu and Uruppu. The whole of Etorofu shall belong to Japan; and the Kurile Islands, lying to the north of and including Uruppu, shall belong to Russia.”

Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai Islets are to the south of Etorofu. They were not mentioned in the treaty because they were understood to be part of Japan.

They stayed part of Japan until after World War II ended. The Soviet Union renounced its neutrality treaty with Japan and declared war on 9 August 1945, three days after the Hiroshima nuclear bombing. The Japanese surrendered unconditionally on 15 August, and on 18 August the Soviets started occupying what Japan calls the Northern Territories. That process lasted until 5 September, three days after the surrender documents were signed.

For reasons impossible to explain, the English-language mass media finds it impossible to simply state these facts. Though the Soviet occupation of the islands occurred after the Japanese surrender, Reuters uses the expression “near the end of the war”. Even though the Japanese position is that the islands are not part of the Kuriles, based in part on the 1855 treaty language, the New York Times accepts the Russian formulation and calls them the South Kuriles. (Then again, the Times thought it was copacetic for the Americans to write the Japanese Constitution, as the text at the above link about Charles Kades shows.)

The Soviets occupied the islands because American President Harry Truman allowed them to. Stalin wanted the entire island of Hokkaido to create a Communist North Japan, as he did with North Korea and East Germany. Truman made a deal to prevent that by tossing Stalin the four smaller fish. This has been confirmed by historian Tsuyoshi Hasegawa (an American citizen) from diplomatic cables and detailed in his book Anto. (That can be translated as Secret Strife or Hidden Battle).

Thus, the Soviets chose to exact their revenge for losing the 1905 war by kicking Japan when it was down. In the 1956 agreement between the two countries that ended the state of war between them and restored diplomatic ties, the Russians agreed to give two of the islands back as part of a future peace treaty. They show no signs of fulfilling their promise.

The Russians saw that the Democratic Party-led government of Japan flinched badly in its confrontation with China in the fall of 2010. Should it be surprising that one thug state would imitate another? Their own military testing of Japan’s territory and defensive posture began almost immediately thereafter and continues to the present.

The Russian navy sent 24 ships through La Pérouse Strait, which separates the southern part of Sakhalin from the northern part of Hokkaidō and connects the Sea of Japan and the Sea of Okhotsk. This was the largest group of Russian ships to make this passage in 10 years, and included cruisers, destroyers, supply ships, tank carriers, and hospital ships.

In September 2011, the Russians conducted their largest military exercise off Kamchatka after the end of the Cold War — with 50 ships and 50 aircraft — to maintain the defense of their continental shelf area. One never knows when the Japanese or the Canadians are going to attack. It is curious that Russian exercises of this sort pass with little or no comment overseas, but the Japanese dispatch of an airplane to observe Chinese provocations is the signal for Western academics to write papers calling for the joint peaceful development of resources.

In early December 2010, Russian maritime patrol and anti-submarine aircraft flew directly above a joint U.S.-Japanese military drill. The main sea drill continued, but the air drill was halted to prevent the exposure of any tactics.

Though it is natural to observe military drills of neighboring countries, the Russians chose to be obnoxious in their observation and their justification afterwards. Said fleet spokesman Roman Markov:

“The area is our zone of responsibility. The airplanes carried out a planned flight in an area of the Russian Pacific Fleet’s regular activity.”

That was a month after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev made the first visit of a Russian/Soviet head of state to the islands since they became Russian territory. Previous leaders had refrained from doing so to avoid antagonizing the Japanese, but discretion in bilateral relations is no longer a priority. A more recent visitor was Nikolai Patrushev, former director of the FSB (the new KGB) and secretary of the Security Council of Russia. This visit, also seen as out of the ordinary, was ostensibly to check on border security and economic development. These two men were followed by the first deputy premier, the regional development minister, and the defense minister.

One reason cited for Mr. Medvedev’s visit was to boost his image of strength before elections. That is standard operating procedure for the countries of East Asia — if the national government’s popularity needs a tonic, bash the Japanese. That’s been the drink of choice of Chinese and South Koreans for more than 60 years.

The timing was also right. Japanese defense policy at the time called for a shift in focus from defense of the north and a reduction of equipment and personnel in Hokkaido to upgrade security around the Nansei Islands of Okinawa and in the East China Sea.

What was then-Prime Minister Kan to do? He and his government had already been flayed for their mishandling of the Senkakus incident, and now the Russians were capitalizing on his demonstrated weakness. But Mr. Kan had to trust “in the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world”. He lacked options for dealing with people who are ambivalent about peace and act with injustice and in bad faith. Having only a single dimension as a politician, he reached into his bag of trick and reverted to his origins as a street-corner loudmouth by criticizing Mr. Medvedev’s visit as “an unforgivable outrage”. (He got away with that sort of language in Nagata-cho for years because no one took his New Left grandstanding seriously.) He also said it was “an act of violence”.

The Russians, knowing all about shouting shoe-pounders in diplomatic venues, easily swatted that one away. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded that the Japanese prime minister was being “undiplomatic”. Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko noted:

“The Russian president independently selects routes of his domestic trips. Any recommendations from abroad are inappropriate and unacceptable.”

The time for using the phrase “unforgivable outrage” came that summer after Mr. Medvedev signed a law passed by the Duma making 2 September an annual holiday to celebrate the Soviet victory over Japan. In other words, it took the Russians 65 years to commemorate their week-long struggle in 1945, their postwar seizure of the Northern Territories, and their postwar use of 600-700,000 Japanese servicemen as slave labor from 1946 until 1956 (though most were released by 1949). An estimated 10% of those Japanese died in Soviet captivity.

Why now? Don’t look to Reuters or the New York Times for an explanation.

Mr. Kan might also have chosen to take a stern view when the Russians conducted Vostok 2010, their operational/strategic military exercises, from 29 June to 8 July in the Kuriles over Japanese objections. Or when the Russians established three new artillery and missile testing areas near the Kuriles and the Kamchatka Peninsula.

But it’s too late for that — especially now that there are signs of an anti-Japanese alliance among the peace-loving peoples of the region.

On 8 September 2011, Air Self-Defense Force jets scrambled to meet Russian *and* Chinese military aircraft approaching Japan. Two Russian TU-95 bombers flew around Japan accompanied by refueling aircraft. They started flirting with Japanese airspace from the Tsushima Strait off Nagasaki prefecture, passed south of Okinawa, and then swung up along the Pacific Ocean coast northward to an area near the Northern Territories. It was the first confirmed circumnavigation of Japan by Russian military aircraft, and it was obviously intentional. They passed Fukushima Prefecture in the Pacific at precisely the time Prime Minister Noda was there to view the damaged nuclear plant. The entire flight, including refueling, took 14 hours.

While the Russians were still airborne, a Chinese Y8 intelligence-gathering airplane flew across the dividing line between China and Japan in the East China Sea and came within 100 – 150 kilometers of The Senkakus.

(The Russia must have enjoyed their aerial tour of Japanese territory, as military aircraft made another circuit just outside Japanese airspace last month. Foreign Minister Gemba Koichiro called his Russian counterpart to ask for self-restraint and more information; three days later it was reported that his call hadn’t been returned.)

One year before, on 27 September (shortly after the Senkakus Incident), Mr. Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao met in Beijing to sign a joint statement calling for “mutual support for each other’s core interests, including national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity.”

It also contained these passages:

“During the war (World War II), people in China and Russia sustained major aggressions from the fascists and militarists, and they endured the cruelest ordeals and suffered the heaviest casualties…The fascists and militarists schemed to conquer and enslave us two nations, other countries, and the whole continent. China and Russia will never forget the feat of those who checked those two forces…

Most telling of all was this sentence. It’s worth reading twice:

The glorious history, imprinted with the friendship the people of the two countries forged in the war and their mutual help, has laid a sound foundation for today’s strategic partnership of coordination between China and Russia.

The Russians have even teamed up with the North Koreans. When the late Kim II visited Russia in August 2011, they finalized an agreement for joint military exercises, an unusual step for Pyeongyang. Kim suggested full-scale military maneuvers, including offensive exercises, but that was too much even for the Russians. They also did not respond to requests for aircraft and parts. Meanwhile, the North Koreans kept interaction with Russian forces at a minimum for lower-ranking soldiers. That limited the initial exercises to pilot rescue operations.

It is not clear what peace-loving purpose the Russians — whose navy obtained access to a Sea of Japan port through a 2010 agreement with the North Koreans — think this serves. Only allies conduct joint military operations, after all.

* The peace-loving people of South Korea

Birds of a feather, they say, flock together, so one might assume that South Korea, the only other nominal free market democracy in Northeast Asia, would think its best interests lie in an alliance of some sort with the Japanese. That assumption would be mistaken.

The Japanese suspect that when Chinese pushing comes to shoving, the Koreans will accommodate themselves to the Chinese, regardless of the specifics of the situation. An example is the language in an editorial from the Joongan Ilbo of South Korea. They’ve noticed that today’s Chinese are acting like the Imperial Japanese a century ago. They’re also aware that Chinese behavior could cause nearby countries to behave as Finland traditionally has toward its Soviet Union/Russian neighbor. But that was fine with them:

“(We) must act judiciously. China’s existence is a threat to our security, but essential for us economically. Therefore, for several decades at least, we must ride the wave of an economically prosperous China. That will require South Korea to stay neutral in the struggle between Japan and China.”

They seem to have overlooked that the struggle in East Asia is not between Japan and China, but between China and everyone else in the region with territory the Chinese claim.

Not that the South Koreans are immune from junior grade militarism of their own. They’ve already chosen to stick their saber in the face of the one country that won’t fight back. As detailed by two posts on the masthead here, South Korea seized the Takeshima islets by force after they failed to convince the United States to include it in the San Francisco Peace Treaty specifying what would and would not be Japanese territory. So, despite having ignored the rocks for centuries, they took the islets while the taking was good — knowing the Japanese were relying on the justice and faith of peace-loving peoples.

As this post describes, some South Koreans have their eyes on Tsushima too, and senior members of their military use the invisible Japanese military threat to Takeshima to urge the expansion of their military capabilities. Meanwhile, the North Koreans are the ones who are actually sinking their naval ships, shelling their territory, and murdering their tourists.

But Seoul is buckled up and ready to do battle with the Japanese. On 5 July 2006, their Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs sent a ship to survey ocean currents in Japan’s EEZ near Takeshima. Japan responded by sending a Coast Guard patrol boat to monitor the ship, contact it by radio, and ask them to stop. The Koreans ignored the Japanese request and dispatched their own Coast Guard vessel, which sailed between two ships. Nothing untoward happened, but the Japanese prime minister at the time, Abe Shinzo, said at a symposium in the fall of 2010 that the Japanese government was told the Korean captain had been given permission by South Korean President Roh Mu-hyon to fire on the Japanese ship. The expression used was “attack with the intent to harm”.

Mr. Abe consulted with the Foreign Ministry and the Coast Guard and decided not to stop the Korean ship by abordage. He later explained:

“With China, we would understand what they’re going to do because diplomacy to them is completely a game. One side can predict what the other will do if one does certain things…Roh, however, was strange and even other Korean officials and military men found him somewhat confusing. We didn’t know what he would do, because there seemed to be no logical thought or calculation of profit and loss, and the situation could have escalated beyond imagining.”

Of course, that’s not how the South Koreans remember it. (The emphasis is mine.):

Roh Moo-hyun instructed the military to destroy unauthorized Japanese ships heading for Dokdo while in office, a close aide to the late President said Friday.

This indicates that President Lee Myung-bak’s predecessor braced for the worst possible diplomatic relations with Japan to thwart the neighboring country’s territorial ambitions of Korea’s easternmost islets.

The revelation came amid escalating criticism of the government’s stance of dealing with the issue in a low key manner.

Kim Byung-joon, a former senior presidential secretary for policy planning, said in an article posted on the Roh Moo-hyun Foundation’s website, “In April 2006, when Seoul-Tokyo relations were chilled by Japan’s territorial claim of Dokdo, President Roh instructed his secretaries to consider destroying Japanese ships crossing into our territorial waters without permission.”

Among considered measures for destruction was using a Korean military ship to ram the targeted vessel from Japan, Kim recounted.

What to do?

Many Japanese have always known what this situation requires. When the Liberal-Democratic Party was formed in 1955, its new charter called for Japan to rewrite the Constitution. The members eventually found it easier to indulge in the more profitable political activity of pork distribution, and turned into the Japanese version of RINOs in the bargain. The LDP could have served as the role model for the American GOP to become stealth social democrats.

Somura Yasunobu, then a professor of international politics at the Tokyo University of Science, wrote an op-ed for the January edition of Keizai Orai in January 1991. It was rendered in English by the Translation Service Center Asia Foundation and run in the 23 April edition of the Japan Times that year. (That predates the Internet as we know it today, so it is not online.).

Prof. Somura said then all that needs to be said. Note how one passage echoes the statement of Charles Kades.

During the Persian Gulf War, Americans accused Japan of hiding behind the postwar Constitution to avoid involvement, while liberals here claimed the administration of Prime Minister Kaifu Toshiki was ripping it up in an attempt to send troops overseas. The Americans were right and our poor, pacifist Constitution was both more controversial and ridiculous than ever.

The document was foisted upon Japan when it was still under the thumb of the US occupation (1945-1952). Common sense tells us that the policies pursued by even the most benevolent of conquerors are not designed entirely for the benefit of the conquered. By the same token, a national charter adopted when Gen. Douglas MacArthur ruled Tokyo is irrelevant today.

When Japan regained its sovereignty in 1952, all legislation imposed by the Occupation should have become null and void. Anyone who still wants to preserve this Constitution in effect favors perpetuation of American rule….

…Until recently, many people have justified retaining this made-in-USA instrument as expedient, and in terms of realpolitik, Japan’s most advantageous option. I admit that I have not been among those clamoring for revision. Patchwork reform of a document so fatally flawed makes no sense…

…The heart of the Constitutional issue is the famous war-renouncing Article 9, which says in part, “the right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.” From the standpoint of international law, this makes no sense.

…In the old days, the concept of a belligerent party was used, for example, regarding rebel separatists. It provided the basis for subsequent recognition of a group as a legitimate government or the territory under its control as an independent nation. The 1947 Constitution did not even accord this minimum standing to Japan.

When Japan regained its pro forma independence in 1952, we entered into a mutual security treaty with Washington that left national defense and internal security in the hands of the U.S. military. The pact was later revised, and the Japanese government assumed the latter responsibility.

Nevertheless, the treaty made Japan, for all intents and purposes, a U.S. protectorate. Any Japanese eager to maintain this relationship after all this time is like a middle-aged man who still wants to be breast-fed by his mother.

Of course, the notion of a right to wage war has been rendered absurd by weapons of mass destruction, nuclear and conventional. The only just wars are those of self-defense; the right of belligerency simply means that a nation can protect itself.

It is contradictory to argue that Japan has the right of self-defense but not the right to wage war….This anachronistic document belongs in the national archives, not on the books as the supreme law of the land.

What to do? The Japanese should rip up the American neo-imperialist document dashed off in less than a fortnight and become a nation again.

After all, based on actions rather than words, they’re the only peace-loving peoples in Northeast Asia.


* It is easy to identify the peace-loving peoples of the world even at international sporting events.

Japan has hosted the Olympics in exemplary fashion three times. It is beyond the realm of imagination that the incidents in Seoul and Hangzou could have happened anywhere in Japan. It is inconceivable that a Japanese crowd would boo another country’s national anthem, boo a national team throughout a sporting event, throw garbage on players and fans, and behave so badly the army is required to keep them in line. International sporting events in Japan have never been cancelled due to public health concerns. And no Japanese officials have ever thrashed a judge from another country because they were unhappy with the decision.

* Here’s a report of how American soldiers in Japan keep in training.

* The drive-by academic, Walter Russell Mead, drove by again:

“Japan, Russia Build Ties As Asian Balance Shifts”

Note that he calls the islands the Kuriles and says nothing about how they were occupied. Does he know? His wishful thinking is based on a few quotes in one Kyodo report that could have been recycled by every Japanese and Russian foreign minister for the past half-century.

He missed this in the rearview mirror as he drove away:

Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said on Saturday that a heated, decades-long territorial dispute with Russia was far from solved even as they agreed to boost security and economic cooperation.

Gemba said the territorial issue must be solved before Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, invests further in the islands and Russia’s underdeveloped Far East region.

“We would consider joint business activities if it helps solve the sovereignty issue,” Gemba said.

“But we must not violate Japan’s legal stance…In that sense, the positions (between Japan and Russia) remain far apart.”

The day the other countries in the region can produce an indie band like Kiwi and the Papaya Mangoes is the day they reach the level of Japanese internationalism.

On their previous album, KPM did a Brazilian forro tune with Indian percussion and a flute. The Korean writing seen briefly in this video spells out the name of the Japanese national anthem.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Posted in China, Government, History, International relations, Military affairs, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, World War II | Tagged: , | 7 Comments »

By jingo

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, January 15, 2012

At the moment, we lose, but in ten years, the U.S. will lose. We can be more patient than a U.S. administration,
– Shen Dingli, a professor at the Center of American Studies at Fudan University

The tremendous defeat at Hawaii was first ascribed to treacherous Japan, launching an attack at the very time that the American government was trying to lead the erring war lords of Nippon into the ways of peace. The administration conveniently forgot to remind the American people of the part played in bringing about the result of December 7 by its campaign of economic warfare, its secret diplomacy, its covert military alliances, the submission of demands which Japan found “humiliating,” and its own complete abandonment of neutrality in favor of non-declared war.
– George Morgenstern, Pearl Harbor: The Story of the Secret War

THE world is entering a new age of imperialism, according to a former Japanese Foreign Ministry official in an article written for a monthly magazine currently on the newsstands. Perhaps the term he should have used was neo-imperialism. Just as today’s neo-socialist eschews such overt efforts as the nationalization of industry in favor of subtle and incremental changes to the economic and cultural wiring behind the walls, the modern neo-imperialist no longer works through trading empires or the combination of colonialism and mercantilism favored by the Europeans and later imitated by others, including the Japanese. There is a preference instead for the semi-subjection of satellite states in which the hegemons exert their power and manipulate those states for economic and political advantage without having to assume direct administrative control of their neo-fiefdoms. Both past and present, however, the justifications and self-congratulation are the same.

That China is exhibiting many of the symptoms of the neo-imperialist syndrome is apparent to the casual observer and need not be explained. But the Japanese commentator was referring to an “age” inhabited by more than one neo-imperialist actor. What was apparent to the commentator, but less so to the casual observer, is that the United States is presenting the same symptoms as well.

Consider: Again the world is sinking into the quicksand of Depression, and again the Americans are sticking pins in the heads of rattlesnakes in East Asia. The strategy of the current occupant of the White House is to focus on economic issues while outsourcing cultural and foreign policy matters to others in government. As a result, Mr. Obama’s foreign policy is moving along the same rails laid down by his gloriously initialed predecessors FDR, JFK, and LBJ, and, to a lesser extent, the more singular and sober W. It isn’t just Asia, either — in addition to making the Middle East safe for Islamicism last year by leading in Libya from behind and encouraging the Arab Sprung, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate dispatched 100 troops to Uganda in October. Imperators need not trouble themselves to obtain Congressional approval when issuing commands to the legions for overseas operations.

As troubling as the behavior is the enthusiasm with which that behavior is hailed by the court heralds. Again, the Chinese taste for hegemony and their belief in the local version of Manifest Destiny is apparent to the casual observer and need not be examined. What is now becoming apparent, however, is the American enthusiasm for the mission.

More troubling still is that some members of the credentialed American “opinion leaders” are serving as willing cheerleaders for Team USA’s feats on the geopolitical gridiron while either grossly exaggerating or ignoring the facts.

One of those now shouting through a megaphone is Walter Russell Mead. Prof. Mead has a wall covered in credentials — he serves in an endowed professorship at Bard, teaches at Yale, is the editor of American Interest, and writes for all the Big Top journals, magazines, and newspapers. He also wrote an article for a website in November with the incongruous title of Softly, Softly, Beijing Turns the Other Cheek — For Now. Its tone is so extreme one wonders if the point of the exercise were to lead the underclassmen in cheers of Yay, Eagles!

Take a deep breath:

The cascade of statements, deployments, agreements and announcements from the United States and its regional associates in the last week has to be one of the most unpleasant shocks for China’s leadership — ever. The US is moving forces to Australia, Australia is selling uranium to India, Japan is stepping up military actions and coordinating more closely with the Philippines and Vietnam in the South China Sea, Myanmar is slipping out of China’s column and seeking to reintegrate itself into the region, Indonesia and the Philippines are deepening military ties with the US: and all that in just one week. If that wasn’t enough, a critical mass of the region’s countries have agreed to work out a new trade group that does not include China, while the US, to applause, has proposed that China’s territorial disputes with its neighbors be settled at a forum like the East Asia Summit — rather than in the bilateral talks with its smaller, weaker neighbors that China prefers.

Does he — or anyone — really think China’s leadership was “shocked” by any of this? The Chinese were building dynasties long before people in the West were numbering their years; an understanding of this behavior is inherent in the East Asian version of the classical education. Considering that the timeline of “ever” for unpleasant shocks encompasses everything China’s been involved with for the past 60 years, including great leaps forward, cultural revolutions, and massacres at Tiananmen Square, it is unlikely to have caused little more than a raised eyebrow in Beijing.

Let’s examine the specifics of the American counteroffensive.

The Marines in Australia

The initial deployment is 250 troops this year in the tropical north, rising eventually to all of 2,500. The mission of Marines is not to serve as defenders, much less defend Australia. Their mission is to attack, and the only reason for stationing them here is to threaten an attack if the Chinese behave unacceptably in the South China Sea. The status quo is therefore a faceoff of the neo-imperialists: the Chinese claiming “indisputable sovereignty” over the region, and the United States, through Secretary of State Clinton, countering with the new idea that international law in the South China Sea is a matter of American national interest. In other words, Globocop holds that the Monroe Doctrine now extends to the other side of the world.

As Sam Spade observed to Casper Gutman in The Maltese Falcon, however, the threat of force is meaningless unless the other party believes the threat is real. That is by no means a given in this situation, if only because the Americans are threatening a country larger than itself that can inflict serious damage on it in return. Now then: Does anyone think this American saber swishing is credible? Does anyone believe that Marines in Australia will make the Chinese reconsider? It’s been a while since anyone seriously thought the Americans would come to the defense of Japan in the event of an attack, and the American military infrastructure here consists of nearly 40,000 troops at 100 installations. The Chinese are unlikely to become alarmed about the possibility of a robust American military response to their behavior in the South China Sea.

It makes one wonder how much thought was invested by the people responsible for the American policy. The Marines are a formidable force, but 2,500 of them are insufficient to either deter China beforehand or push them back afterwards. They’re certainly not meant to serve as a tripwire in Australia, either.

As for the Australians selling uranium to India, the Indians have had nuclear weapons since 1974. Will they not buy uranium from somewhere?


By the “deepening” military ties with Indonesia, Prof. Mead seems to be referring to the dispatch of 24 F-16s to that country. Rather than being one of the bold new initiatives in a geopolitical That Was The Week That Was, it represents an ongoing development that gained impetus after Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s visit in the summer of 2010.

Congress cut off military training assistance to Indonesia in 1992 after Indonesian security forces shot and killed East Timorese demonstrators in November 1991. The restriction was partially lifted in 1995, but military assistance programs were suspended again after violence and destruction in East Timor following an Aug. 30, 1999, referendum favoring independence from Indonesia. Though normal military relations between the United States and Indonesia have resumed, the issue of providing training for Kopassus remained unresolved until earlier this week, the official said.

“I was pleased to be able to tell the president that as a result of Indonesian military reforms over the past decade, the ongoing professionalization of the [Indonesian armed forces], and recent actions taken by the ministry of defense to address human rights issues,” Gates told reporters after his meeting with Yudhoyono, “the United States will begin a gradual, limited program of security cooperation activities with the Indonesian army special forces.”

If wading into the surf up to the calf is your idea of deep, then these are deepening ties. This again is unlikely to have jolted the Chinese, even taken in combination with the assignment of the Marines to a pleasant duty station in Oz. In fact, that combination may not have had the desired effect in Beijing at all — especially after the Indonesian foreign minister said the announced deployment of Marines to a neighboring country could create “a vicious circle of tension and mistrust”.


Assertion: Japan “is stepping up military actions”. Reality: Japan will assign some Land Self-Defense Forces to the small island of Yonaguni, the westernmost part of the Japanese archipelago, 110 kilometers from Taiwan. Rather than being a part of a grand strategic mosaic, it is a move the Kan administration began talking about last February after the contretemps with the Chinese in the Senkakus in September 2010.

Placing troops on the island had been under discussion for some time, as then-Prime Minister Aso Taro made a reference to it in July 2009. The Japanese have been carefully monitoring that part of their territory for years. When serving as foreign minister in 2006, Mr. Aso told local government officials from Yonaguni that the Japanese government had dissuaded Taiwan from conducting a planned naval artillery exercise west of the island. Concerns about Taiwan began as early as 1996, when the Taiwanese navy began moving their exercises northward. Local fisherman complained that the artillery was scaring away the fish.


Is Myanmar really “slipping out of China’s column”?

Myanmar vowed on Saturday to address concerns raised by President Barack Obama, outlining far-reaching plans to make peace with ethnic rebels, gradually release all political prisoners and relax controls on freedom of expression.

But its government, fearing an Arab Spring-style revolution if it moves too quickly, stressed reforms must be gradual after nearly a half century of isolation and authoritarian rule that ended when the army handed power in March to a civilian parliament stacked with former generals.

Mr. Obama himself said only that the country, which has a border with China, was making “flickers of progress”. Again, someone forgot to tell the Chinese that they were supposed to be shocked:

Vice President Xi Jinping of China welcomed the leader of Myanmar’s military on Monday in a ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing and called for closer military ties between the countries, in what appeared to be a response to the visit by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Myanmar later this week. (Emphasis mine)

Mr. Xi, the heir apparent to President Hu Jintao, met Min Aung Hliang, the commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s military, and said that China would “work with Myanmar to further bolster the comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation,” according to China’s official Xinhua news agency.

Others offered a better perspective on this bilateral relationship than Prof. Mead:

Myanmar’s past isolation meant it sought friends only where it could find them. It became heavily reliant on China for weapons, international diplomatic support, trade and investment. But the relationship with China has never sat well with Myanmar’s military rulers. While some exploited the situation for personal gain, others became very concerned about Beijing’s growing presence and commercial influence.

It is unlikely that Naypyidaw intends to unilaterally ally itself with one great power over another. During its decades-long period of isolation and international condemnation, it has become adept at playing bigger powers off against one another, and has a long-established tradition of nonalignment in its foreign relations. The power games being played between Washington and Beijing, and also with New Delhi, are certainly not lost on Myanmar’s leaders.

Days before Clinton’s visit, military head General Min Aung Hliang travelled to Beijing in what was interpreted as a move to assuage Chinese fears of growing relations with the US. Despite a rift over the recent cancellation of the important Chinese-backed Myitsone dam project, the general held discussions with Vice President Xi Jinping, slated to become China’s leader next year, and chief of the general staff of the People’s Liberation Army, General Chen Bingde. Both sides pledged continued military cooperation and signed a new defense cooperation agreement.

Because the sincerity of Thein Sein’s reforms are far from certain, Clinton’s visit and concessions represent a diplomatic gamble.

The Philippines

Manila is also supposed to be deepening military ties to the United States, though Prof. Mead offered no specifics. A search of recent newspaper articles turns up one from the New York Times dated 16 November 2011, just before the East Asia summit. The first sentence reads:

During a high-profile visit to the Philippines on Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton stood on the deck of an American warship in Manila Bay and reaffirmed the strong military relationship between the United States and the Philippines.

That’s it.

Just as important, if not more so, were the last two sentences:

“The Philippines does not want to be the representative of the U.S. military in Southeast Asia,” (a local analyst) said. “I think the Philippine government wants to maintain its friendship with both these great powers and not become a ball in the middle being kicked by both sides.”


Prof. Mead refers to a “new trade group” that does not include China, by which he means the Trans-Pacific Partnership. What is new about the trade group is that the United States hijacked regional discussions among four smaller states to employ it as a double-edged sword. One side of the blade cuts against the Chinese, and the other stimulates the American economy while doing little for the other partners.

The American-decreed terms of the partnership make it unlikely China will be interested in participating. This letter to three U.S. Cabinet members signed by 257 academics offers one reason for that:

Many U.S. free trade agreements and bilateral investment treaties contain provisions that strictly limit the ability of our trading partners to deploy capital controls. The “capital transfers” provisions of such agreements require governments to permit all transfers relating to a covered investment to be made “freely and without delay into and out of its territory.” Under these agreements, private foreign investors have the power to effectively sue governments in international tribunals over alleged violations of these provisions.

And this from a site in New Zealand:

Another secret document from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations has been leaked, the first dealing with issues other than intellectual property and medicines.

This follows yesterday’s leak of documents showing the US is pushing for rules on healthcare products that would give its pharmaceutical giants new tools to attack national drug buying agencies like Pharmac

“We warned the government that obsessive secrecy surrounding the TPPA negotiations would spawn more leaks, and that’s what is happening,” said Professor Jane Kelsey, a critic of the proposed agreement.

The leaked regulatory coherence text sets out the agencies, mechanisms and processes that governments should use when deciding on domestic regulations. This has never been included in a free trade agreement before.

“It is totally inappropriate for a ‘trade’ agreement to dictate how governments should structure their domestic bureaucracy and procedures”, said Professor Kelsey.

The way the TPPA is shaping up, large, mainly foreign corporations and powerful lobby groups will have the right to exert undue influence over New Zealand’s (or any country’s) policy and regulatory decisions and demand minimalist regulation. There would be no equivalent rights to public interest groups that may have contrary views.”

Speaking of healthcare:

“The US proposals would allow drug companies to challenge every Pharmac decision as not appropriately recognising the ‘value’ of patents – a dangerous and undefined standard. Adopting this standard would open floodgates of litigation against Pharmac and will ultimately raise medicine prices and ration access.”

What the New Zealand critics are referring to has also been a point of contention among opposition politicians in Japan: the ISD clause, or Investor State Dispute (Settlement). That allows entities in Country A to initiate dispute settlement proceedings against Country B under international law, rather than in the courts of Country B, as has been customary in the past.

As you might expect, the Americans see it differently:

The trans-Pacific trade pact that the United States is negotiating with eight other nations is not directed against China, a top White House adviser says.

The Obama administration has made the Trans-Pacific Partnership a key plank of its enhanced engagement in Asia. But it does not include the region’s largest economy and rising power, China, which Washington has criticized for its currency policy and support of state-owned enterprises.

Does this mean the U.S. won’t export GM autos to East Asia?


In a commentary published Tuesday in the Indian daily, The Economic Times, Jagdish Bhagwati, a professor of economics and law at Columbia University in New York, criticized the U.S. trade policy, which he said aimed to marginalize an assertive China….

“A closer look reveals that China is not a part of this agenda. The TPP is also a political response to China’s new aggressiveness, built, therefore, in a spirit of confrontation and containment, not of cooperation.”

Froman recounted that Chinese officials at the November summit of Asia-Pacific leaders in Hawaii expressed concern that they had not been invited to join the pact.

“Our response is that TPP is not something you are invited to, it’s something you aspire to. If countries aspire to achieve these standards they’re welcome to (join) the TPP as well,” he said.

People understand that great powers behaving as neo-imperialists will try to stifle their adversaries. They understand that great powers will promote an international order tailored to their specifications with the primary benefits accruing to themselves.

What the Americans fail to understand, however, is that no one appreciates the arrogance of self-interest masquerading as the global gold standard of idealistic behavior.

Then there is the demand of one hegemon to another that the latter settle its claims in the South China Sea at a multinational venue, though the former makes no such demand of its client states. (e.g., the Japanese – South Korean dispute over Takeshima) But Prof. Mead does not stop there:

Rarely has a great power been so provoked and affronted. Rarely have so many red lines been crossed. Rarely has so much face been lost, so fast.

Rarely has a professor of foreign affairs indulged in such profligate exaggeration in three short sentences. The entire geopolitical and diplomatic history of nation-states is a cyclopedia of great power provocations, effronteries, and red line crossing. As for the idea that the Chinese lost face, it’s unfortunate that Westerners whose understanding of East Asian social concepts doesn’t extend beyond the words insist on parading a sophistication they don’t possess, but that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

Or are we to think that because “in your face” is a crowd-pleaser in the NBA, it will go down well when conducting foreign relations in this part of the world?

The timing turned out to be brilliant. China is in the midst of a leadership transition, when it is harder for important decisions to be taken quickly.

Harder for whom?

Prof. Mead is referring to Xi Jinping, who will become China’s general secretary next year and president in 2013. The former Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations does not mention this transition has been underway for almost three years. The Japanese knew he was to become the next Chinese leader when then DPJ Secretary-General Ozawa Ichiro outraged many in late 2009 by breaching an informal protocol to finagle an audience for Mr. Xi with the Emperor. (He didn’t schedule a month in advance.) Mr. Xi has also toured Europe and Latin America.

He does not seem to be a man who is easily shocked. The Japanese consider him a hardliner who could shift from what they perceive as the softer line of the current leadership, though none of this has soaked into Western consciousness yet. Here’s a taste of Mr. Xi’s thinking:

“There are some bored foreigners, with full stomachs, who have nothing better to do than point fingers at us. First, China doesn’t export revolution; second, China doesn’t export hunger and poverty; third, China doesn’t come and cause you headaches. What more is there to be said?”

Transitions in China might be quite different than those Prof. Mead and other Americans are familiar with. Four years before the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama was a part-time Illinois state legislator and part-time adjunct law professor. He needed a crash course to serve as the chief executive of government (and it shows). Xi Jingling won’t.

Back to Prof. Mead:

The (Chinese) economy is looking shaky, with house prices falling across much of the country.

Unlike the robust American housing market:

Lender Processing Services reports that the percentage of mortgages in foreclosure is at its highest level ever. “Foreclosure inventories are on the rise,” LPS writes, “reaching an all-time high at the end of October of 4.29 percent of all active mortgages.”

Now for the truly appalling:

The diplomatic blitzkrieg moved so fast and on so many fronts, with the strokes falling so hard and in such rapid succession, that China was unable to develop an organized and coherent response. And because Wen Jiabao’s appearance at the East Asia Summit, planned long before China had any inkling of the firestorm about to be unleashed, could not be canceled or changed, premier Wen Jiabao was trapped: he had to respond in public to all this while China was off balance and before the consultation, reflection and discussion that might have created an effective response.

…The effect of this passive and low key response (the only thing really, he could have done) is to reinforce the sense in Asia that the US has reasserted its primacy in a convincing way. The US acted, received strikingly widespread support, and China backed down.

Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth:

China and Japan pledged Wednesday to boost political trust between the two countries during Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba’s visit to Beijing…

…China is ready to make joint efforts with Japan to further advance their strategic relationship of mutual benefit in a sustainable way, Yang told his Japanese counterpart, Gemba.

At Yang’s invitation, Gemba was in Beijing to pave way for Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s planned visit to China in December. If his trip is made, Noda will be the first Japanese prime minister to visit China since the Democratic Party of Japan came to power in 2009.


The Chinese premier attended the 6th East Asia Summit in Bali, Indonesia on Saturday and put forward a five-point proposal for boosting the regional economy, such as carrying out and improving agreed free trade arrangements, advancing the building of new free trade areas and opening markets further.

Here’s a photo of the Chinese foreign minister backing down with the Japanese foreign minister a week later:

Finally, we come to the professor’s agenda:

That (i.e.; backing down) is in fact what happened, and it was as decisive a diplomatic victory as anyone is likely to see. Congratulations should go to President Obama and his national security team. The State Department, the Department of Defense and the White House have clearly been working effectively together on an intensive and complex strategy. They avoided leaks, they coordinated effectively with half a dozen countries, they deployed a range of instruments of power. In the field of foreign policy, this was a coming of age of the Obama administration and it was conceived and executed about as flawlessly as these things ever can be…(T)he effects of the President’s re-assertion of American primacy in the Pacific will reinforce the public perception that he has grown into the foreign policy side of his job. He looked very presidential in Asia; those things count.

Prof. Mead self-identifies as a Democrat and has stated that he voted for Mr. Obama in 2008.

You’ve heard of drive-by journalists, who make ex cathedra declarations on subjects they hadn’t heard of the week before? There are drive-by Thinktankers too:

But a successful opening is not the same thing as a final win. The opening American gambit in the new great game was brilliant, but China also gets a move. On the one hand, the sweep, the scope and the success of the American moves make it hard for China to respond in kind; on the other hand, the humiliation and frustration (and, in some quarters, the fear) both inside the government and in society at large over these setbacks will compel some kind of response.

China must now think carefully about its choices and to work to use all the factors of its power to inflict some kind of counterblow against the United States. Look for China to reach out much more intensively to Russia to find ways in which the two powers can frustrate the US and hand it some kind of public setback.

Two months before Prof. Mead drove by:

High-ranking military officials from China and Russia held talks here Friday, pledging to further step up bilateral military cooperation between the two countries.

During an official visit to Moscow, Guo Boxiong, Vice Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, met with Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov on bilateral military relations.

Guo noted that this year marks the 10th anniversary of the signing of the China-Russia Treaty of Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation, adding that the China-Russia comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership have maintained the momentum of a robust growth.

He stressed that Chinese President Hu Jintao’s successful visit to Russia in June and the consensus reached by both countries’ leaders during Hu’s visit have determined the future direction of the development of bilateral ties and laid solid political foundations for the further promotion of military relations between the two countries.

But he got this prediction right:

Certainly any Chinese arguments against massive military build ups will be difficult to win. The evident weakness of China’s position will make it impossible to resist calls for more military spending and an acceleration of the development of China’s maritime capacity.

Sure enough:

Chinese President Hu Jintao on Tuesday urged the navy to prepare for military combat, amid growing regional tensions over maritime disputes and a US campaign to assert itself as a Pacific power.

The navy should “accelerate its transformation and modernisation in a sturdy way, and make extended preparations for military combat in order to make greater contributions to safeguard national security,” he said.

In a translation of Hu’s comments, the official Xinhua news agency quoted the president as saying China’s navy should “make extended preparations for warfare.”

…Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao last month also warned against interference by “external forces” in regional territorial disputes including in the South China Sea, a strategic and resource-rich area where several nations have overlapping claims.

The Pentagon wasn’t surprised either:

“They have a right to develop military capabilities and to plan, just as we do,” said Pentagon spokesman George Little, but he added, “We have repeatedly called for transparency from the Chinese and that’s part of the relationship we’re continuing to build with the Chinese military.”

Transparency? When two card sharps play high-stakes poker, does one expect the other to show his hand?

Prof. Mead presses on:

Longer term, the conviction in the military and among hard liners in the civilian establishment that the US is China’s enemy and seeks to block China’s natural rise will not only become more entrenched and more powerful; it will have consequences…China’s military or factions within it could begin to take steps on critical issues that the political authorities could not reverse. Islands could be occupied, flags raised and shots fired.

Yet Prof. Mead lauds American efforts to publicly humiliate the Chinese as brilliant and a sign that the Obama Administration has come of age. Is he having second thoughts before the essay is finished?

An intense debate in China will now turn even more pointed. There will be some who counsel patience, saying that China cannot win an open contest with the US and that its only hope is to stick with the concept of “peaceful rise”: eschewing all conflict with the US and its neighbors, behaving as a “responsible stakeholder” in the US-built international system, and growing richer and more powerful until such a time as alternative strategies can be considered. That in my opinion is China’s wisest course.

That in my opinion is one of the most futile efforts at propaganda and wishful thinking ever delivered from a credentialed academic writing about serious international issues. China sees itself on the rise and the US on the wane, but its wisest course is to do as the Americans say in a US-built international hegemony with US rules that give the biggest advantages to its own companies?

What’s next? All your base are belong to us?

The Obama administration and its successors will now have to deal with a long term contest against the world’s most populous country and the world’s most rapidly developing economy. The Obama administration may not have fully counted the costs of the new Asian hard line…

True, in the midst of a brilliant diplomatic blitzkrieg announcing that you’ve come of age, it’s not hard to lose count along the way.

…for one thing, it is hard to see significant cuts coming in defense spending after we have challenged China to a contest over the future of Asia.

That prediction didn’t pan out. Note the concern from a client state:

A new, more austere U.S. defense strategy unveiled Thursday gives up on fighting major wars overseas and reduces active-duty troops from 570,000 to 470,000. The aim is to cut more than US$450 billion in defense spending over the next decade. The new strategy would make it virtually impossible for the U.S. military to fulfill a pledge to South Korea to deploy 690,000 troops on the Korean Peninsula in an emergency.

By this time, Prof. Mead is neck deep in The Big Muddy, but that doesn’t stop him:

Given where things now stand, follow through will be as important as the first steps; the US must now try to make it as easy as possible for China to accept a situation that, in the short to medium term at least, it cannot change.

What situation is it that China can’t change?

Beijing wants to open full negotiations on a free trade agreement with Japan and South Korea next year, Chinese state media said yesterday, amid growing rivalry with the United States.

The report in the Global Times daily follows efforts by US President Barack Obama to woo countries from across the Pacific Rim into a US-led free trade agreement, which China has so far not been invited to join…

…Yesterday’s report said China’s Premier Wen Jiabao had pledged to speed up work on the agreement with Tokyo and Seoul during a meeting on the sidelines of last week’s East Asia Summit on the Indonesian island of Bali.

And here we were told that Mr. Wen was stunned speechless in Bali.

“Wen proposed that joint studies by governments, industries and experts on the FTA from the three countries be completed by the end of this year and that formal negotiations on the trade pact begin next year,” it said.

South Korea, Japan and China said in January 2010 they would conduct a feasibility study within two years on creating a single free trade bloc grouping their three countries.

Rather than going for the blitzkrieg — which didn’t work so well in the end for Germany — the Chinese are taking the long view and combining both hard and soft approaches. For example, at almost the same time Mr. Wen was making this proposal, six Chinese naval vessels made a show of sailing between the Japanese islands of Okinawa and Miyakojima.

They’re taking another approach with the United States:

When we last checked in on the low-level trade war between China and the US, which was sparked by President Obama’s 35% tariff on Chinese tires, the Chinese government had ruled that American large cars and SUVs were being “dumped” on the Chinese market, but wasn’t doing anything about it. Now, Reuters reports that China is doing something about it, namely saying that it plans to impose tariffs of up to 22% on imports of American-built large cars and SUVs. And the “up to” is key: GM and Chrysler are being hit hardest (unsurprisingly), while American-made BMW, Mercedes and Acuras are receiving considerably lower tariffs.

In fact, however, what Prof. Mead presents as a new strategy by an administration coming of age is not new at all, but rather a limp extension of a strategy already in place. Here are excerpts from an article in Salon last year:

This summer, despite America’s continuing financial crisis, the Pentagon is effectively considering trading two military quagmires for the possibility of a third. Reducing its commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan as it refocuses on Asia, Washington is not so much withdrawing forces from the Persian Gulf as it is redeploying them for a prospective war with its largest creditor, China.

According to the defense trade press, Pentagon officials are seeking ways to adapt a concept known as AirSea Battle specifically for China, debunking rote claims from Washington that it has no plans to thwart its emerging Asian rival. A recent article in Inside the Pentagon reported that a small group of U.S. Navy officers known as the China Integration Team “is hard at work applying the lessons of [AirSea Battle] to a potential conflict with China.”

AirSea Battle, developed in the early 1990s and most recently codified in a 2009 Navy-Air Force classified memo, is a vehicle for conforming U.S. military power to address asymmetrical threats in the Western Pacific and the Persian Gulf — code for China and Iran….It complements the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance, a government white paper that precluded the rise of any “peer competitor” that might challenge U.S. dominance worldwide. The Planning Guidance is the Pentagon’s writ for control of what defense planners call “the global commons,” a euphemism for the seaways, land bridges and air corridors that are the arteries of international commerce. For a foreign power to challenge this American dominion is to effectively declare war on the United States, and that is exactly what China appears to be doing in the South China Sea, a resource-rich and highly contested waterway in Southeast Asia.


A U.S. mobilization in Asia is well underway, in faith with a spring 2001 Pentagon study called “Asia 2025,” which identified China as a “persistent competitor of the United States,” bent on “foreign military adventurism.” Three years later, the U.S. government went public with a plan that called for a new chain of bases in Central Asia and the Middle East, in part to box in the People’s Republic…

…Unlike America’s allies in Asia and Europe, however, China is not about to outsource its national security obligations to a foreign power, particularly when it comes to the South China Sea. There more than ever, and not without reason, Beijing identifies the U.S. not as a strategic partner but as an outright threat. In 2007, when China destroyed one of its weather satellites with a ballistic missile, it served as a warning to Washington after the ramming six years earlier of a U.S. spy plane by a Chinese fighter jet off the coast of Hainan Island…

…In March 2010, when a Chinese official was quoted by Japanese media as identifying the region as a “core interest” of Chinese sovereignty, the White House retaliated by declaring that freedom of maritime navigation is a U.S. “national interest.” As it turns out, according to the China scholars Nong Hong and Wenran Jiang, writing in the July 1 edition of the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation’s China bulletin, the core interest to which the official referred was “the peaceful resolution” of the disputes in question.

The authors of this article in McClatchy agree:

The Obama administration pledge to shift American military strategy toward Asia overlooks a key fact: The United States never really dropped its focus on the region.

The authors are not blinded by the strategy’s brilliance, however:

But the current budget proposal that might flow from that pledge contains a potentially crippling contradiction: The plan might cut the big-ticket items the United States needs to increase its presence in Asia and counter China’s growing military capability.
The result, some analysts fear, is a muddled approach that could end up with a tough-talking United States saying it will do more in Asia but not committing the resources needed. That, they say, could leave America and its allies in the region exposed if China’s military moves aggressively in the future.

And that brings us to the most troubling aspect of this business that Prof. Mead calls a “game”:

U.S. alliances in the region have caused some in China, particularly in military circles, to charge that the United States is working to contain China’s rise. The phrase harkens back to the Cold War and the globe-as-chessboard strategy of “containment” toward the Soviet Union.

I submit that it harkens back to an even earlier era and a geopolitical game that required the expenditure of more blood than money to win: The American attitude and behavior toward Japan before Pearl Harbor. Roosevelt’s predecessor Herbert Hoover kept a contemporary account of what he viewed as American foreign policy blunders and FDR’s “lost statesmanship”, but he never published it. Edited by historian George Nash, it was finally released last year under the title, Freedom Betrayed: Herbert Hoover’s History of the Second World War and Its Aftermath. It is 920 pages long and meticulously documented. Here’s a description of part of the contents:

Consider Japan’s situation in the summer of 1941. Bogged down in a four year war in China she could neither win nor end, having moved into French Indochina, Japan saw herself as near the end of her tether.

Inside the government was a powerful faction led by Prime Minister Prince Fumimaro Konoye that desperately did not want a war with the United States.

The “pro-Anglo-Saxon” camp included the navy, whose officers had fought alongside the U.S. and Royal navies in World War I, while the war party was centered on the army, Gen. Hideki Tojo and Foreign Minister Yosuke Matsuoka, a bitter anti-American.

On July 18, 1941, Konoye ousted Matsuoka, replacing him with the “pro-Anglo-Saxon” Adm. Teijiro Toyoda.

The U.S. response: On July 25, we froze all Japanese assets in the United States, ending all exports and imports, and denying Japan the oil upon which the nation and empire depended.

Stunned, Konoye still pursued his peace policy by winning secret support from the navy and army to meet FDR on the U.S. side of the Pacific to hear and respond to U.S. demands.

U.S. Ambassador Joseph Grew implored Washington not to ignore Konoye’s offer, that the prince had convinced him an agreement could be reached on Japanese withdrawal from Indochina and South and Central China. Out of fear of Mao’s armies and Stalin’s Russia, Tokyo wanted to hold a buffer in North China.

On Aug. 28, Japan’s ambassador in Washington presented FDR a personal letter from Konoye imploring him to meet.

Tokyo begged us to keep Konoye’s offer secret, as the revelation of a Japanese prime minister’s offering to cross the Pacific to talk to an American president could imperil his government.

On Sept. 3, the Konoye letter was leaked to the Herald-Tribune.

On Sept. 6, Konoye met again at a three-hour dinner with Grew to tell him Japan now agreed with the four principles the Americans were demanding as the basis for peace. No response.

On Sept. 29, Grew sent what Hoover describes as a “prayer” to the president not to let this chance for peace pass by.

On Sept. 30, Grew wrote Washington, “Konoye’s warship is ready waiting to take him to Honolulu, Alaska or anyplace designated by the president.”

No response. On Oct. 16, Konoye’s cabinet fell.

In November, the U.S. intercepted two new offers from Tokyo: a Plan A for an end to the China war and occupation of Indochina and, if that were rejected, a Plan B, a modus vivendi where neither side would make any new move. When presented, these, too, were rejected out of hand.

At a Nov. 25 meeting of FDR’s war council, Secretary of War Henry Stimson’s notes speak of the prevailing consensus: “The question was how we should maneuver them (the Japanese) into … firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves.”

“We can wipe the Japanese off the map in three months,” wrote Navy Secretary Frank Knox.

As Grew had predicted, Japan, a “hara-kiri nation,” proved more likely to fling herself into national suicide for honor than to allow herself to be humiliated.

That description was written by Patrick Buchanan, a notorious isolationist whose views I seldom agree with. I quote this excerpt because his review contains the most details pertinent to the issue available, and in any event, the sentiments are Hoover’s. Further, this is not to defend Japanese behavior before 1945 or Chinese behavior now. It is rather a historical comparison that must be made in view of American actions and the Veg-O-Matic salesmanship with which they are being plugged.

Prof. Mead continued his discussion in an article published in The Wall Street Journal (that requires a subscription). It plays the same notes, but in a different key. The first sentence reads:

The United States has quietly established a bipartisan Asia policy that may well be as influential on that continent as the Marshall Plan and NATO were in Europe.

If we examine the record and bet on form, the odds for this initiative (and other initiatives extrapolated into the future) are likely to favor a result more similar to the events of December 1941 than to a 21st century Asian version of the Marshall Plan and NATO (used in this case as triumphalist symbols of the Cold War victory). That would be a bet we should all hope to lose. It behooves us, therefore, to ignore the racetrack touts regardless of their academic credentials.

What are the Japanese to do if they are not to become a ball in the middle being kicked by both sides, as the Filipino analyst warned? Japan has the wherewithal to choose a course that is perhaps not available to The Philippines, but it is unlikely to do so until the status quo becomes untenable. That might happen sooner than we think.

But more on that in the next post.


* From Global

America has nearly twice as many aircraft carriers – 20 – as the rest of humanity combined – 12 – and America’s aircraft carriers are substantially larger than almost all the other’s aircraft carriers. The Navy likes to call the big Nimitz class carriers “4.5 acres of sovereign and mobile American territory” — and all twenty American carriers of all classes add up to nearly 70 acres of deck space. Deckspace is probably a good measure of combat power. The rest of the world’s carriers have about 15 acres of deck space, one fifth that of America’s.

At least ten of the American carriers are more than 100,000 tons, and the Enterprise is more than 90,000. The largest “for the rest of humanity” are the new Chinese carrier at more than 60,000 tons and the Russian carrier at more than 50,000. None of the others are even close.

That’s one reason the Chinese are focusing on submarines.

* Yan Xuetong, a professor of political science and dean of the Institute of Modern International Relations at Tsinghua University, wrote in the New York Times:

I am a political realist. Western analysts have labeled my political views “hawkish,” and the truth is that I have never overvalued the importance of morality in international relations. But realism does not mean that politicians should be concerned only with military and economic might. In fact, morality can play a key role in shaping international competition between political powers — and separating the winners from the losers.

I came to this conclusion from studying ancient Chinese political theorists like Guanzi, Confucius, Xunzi and Mencius. They were writing in the pre-Qin period, before China was unified as an empire more than 2,000 years ago — a world in which small countries were competing ruthlessly for territorial advantage.

Prof. Yan was writing in Chinese for a Chinese audience that desperately needs to read it. It should also be required reading for the officials in Washington, but the Times’ translation will be wasted on them. They’re already convinced of their morality.

* The journos are joining the chorus, with their usual combination of ham-handedness and superficiality. Try the first paragraph of this piece by William Pesek in the Sydney Morning Herald and see if you can bother yourself to finish.

* Xi Jingling’s reference to people with “full stomachs” was a clever barb that might have gone over the heads of the porkers he was referring to.

Here’s Peter “I’m a Different Species” Garrett and his band Midnight Oil of Australia performing live a song called US Forces. The lyrics start, “U.S Forces give the nod / It’s a setback for your country,” before falling down the elevator shaft of unintelligibility.

And here’s the lede of an article in The Telegraph of Australia following a speech by Barack Obama in that country last November as part of the Bali blitzkreig:

Labor minister Peter Garrett personally told Barack Obama his speech on an expanded US military presence was “inspiring” – almost three decades after he attacked the same armed forces in song.

Yeah, it’s the same Peter Garrett. Neo-socialists quite like neo-imperialism as long as it comes from another neo-socialist.

Add to: Facebook | Digg | | Stumbleupon | Reddit | Blinklist | Twitter | Technorati | Yahoo Buzz | Newsvine

Posted in China, History, International relations, Military affairs, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, World War II | Tagged: | 8 Comments »

If we can’t have the perestroika, how about the glasnost?

Posted by ampontan on Friday, May 6, 2011

VASILY Golovnin, the Tokyo Bureau Chief for the ITAR-TASS news agency, recently filed a critical report on the Japanese response to the problems at Fukushima. I looked around on the web and couldn’t find it in English, so here’s the English version of a Japanese-language excerpt. Forgive the clumsiness, but that’s due to translating from a language once removed.

“Where are the robots? Japan is known for robotics, but why did it take more than one month for them to be used? All of the work at the nuclear power plants was done by manual labor. That is not the image of an advanced, industrialized country. Both the technological level and the ideas used to deal with the accident were negative. I think the collapse of the myth of a safe, technologically advanced Japan will have serious repercussions…

“The crisis presents a chance for a new beginning. But Japan’s political system is in a cul-de-sac. It resembles an old man. The complexity of the decision-making process is like that of the former Soviet Union and the former Communist Party—introverted and self-righteous. It will be very difficult to escape from that…

“Russia has begun to supply Japan with LNG. Russia wants to sell, and Japan needs to secure energy. This is a good opportunity for Japanese-Russian relations — if Japan thinks of it that way.”

So — A Russian journalist for Tass based in Tokyo observes the DPJ government in action and is struck by its resemblance to the former Soviet Union and the former Communist Party.

Really, who needs to read fiction?

N.B.: The word I translated as self-righteous was 独善的 in the Japanese excerpt. Japanese critics of the DPJ-led government and Prime Minister Kan often use the same word.

Add to: Facebook | Digg | | Stumbleupon | Reddit | Blinklist | Twitter | Technorati | Yahoo Buzz | Newsvine

Posted in Foreigners in Japan, Government, I couldn't make this up if I tried, Mass media, Russia | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

The truth is out where?

Posted by ampontan on Friday, April 15, 2011

EARLIER this week the Japanese government raised the level of the Fukushima disaster to seven, the maximum on the scale of international atomic crises. That is the same level as Chernobyl. Some in Japan are saying it could be even worse than the Russian accident.

Some outside of Japan, however, are saying it doesn’t add up.

Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Russia’s state nuclear agency Rosatom, is in Sanya, China, for the BRICS summit. He said:

“It is hard for me to assess why the Japanese colleagues have taken this decision…I suspect this is more of a financial issue than a nuclear one.”

By a financial issue, Mr. Kiriyenko might mean the Japanese government wanted to lessen the hit on insurance companies.

“I guess that maybe it could be linked to the definition of force majeure with regards to insurance? I would pay attention to that. It is a bit strange….Our estimates have shown that the level was between five and six. Today it doesn’t reach the sixth level.”

Lest one dismiss that as a manifestation of the often inimical attitude the Russians have toward Japan, the report points out that the French nuclear safety agency also said this week that Fukushima was not comparable to Chernobyl. Further, both the WHO and the IAEA said that the identical crisis rating did not mean the accidents were identical in severity.

I understand how force majeure would apply in this situation regardless of the level, but I don’t understand how raising the level defining the extent of the crisis would have an effect on insurance payments.

Another possibility the report doesn’t mention is that the anti-nuclear power wing of the ruling party might want to use the rating as the means to limit the use of nuclear power in Japan in the future. That’s just speculation on my part, however.

And those who enjoy funky rumors will love this one. A reporter/columnist with ties to the DPJ wrote last month that stories were circulating among the left wing of the DPJ and what he described as Tokyo Electric Power “lobbyists” that Prime Minister Kan Naoto’s highly publicized temper tantrum with TEPCO officials was really just a performance. He met with them for three hours behind closed doors after that outburst. According to this account, the prime minister cut a deal with the utility that his government would let them off lightly in exchange for some heavyweight political contributions. Tokyo Electric’s political funds now go to the Liberal Democratic Party. The younger left-wing DPJ pols seem to think that was quite a stroke by Mr. Kan. If the new level helps mitigate insurance payouts, does that mean the fix is on?

Meanwhile, politicians from all the opposition parties have already started to use the new seven rating as a weapon against the Kan Cabinet.

Is Level Seven the truth, or just a convenient fiction for a lot of different people for reasons of their own?

UPDATE: Reader 21st Century Schizoid Man sent in a comment that led to this article by Shimatsu Yoichi in Global Research. Here’s the lede:

Confused and often conflicting reports out of Fukushima 1 nuclear plant cannot be solely the result of tsunami-caused breakdowns, bungling or miscommunication. Inexplicable delays and half-baked explanations from Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) seem to be driven by some unspoken factor.

Breakdowns, bungling, and miscommunication seem like reasonable explanations to me. One could also add CYA to the list. But no!

The smoke and mirrors at Fukushima 1 seem to obscure a steady purpose, an iron will and a grim task unknown to outsiders. The most logical explanation: The nuclear industry and government agencies are scrambling to prevent the discovery of atomic-bomb research facilities hidden inside Japan’s civilian nuclear power plants.

A capital idea, if true. Unfortunately, Mr. Shimatsu offers no logicial explanation in his article. We do have references to Imperial Japan’s occupation of Manchuria, however, as well as Class A war criminals, a three-generation conspiracy among politicians, government, and big business, and the always-sinister Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.

Here’s my favorite passage:

The head of the Liberal Democrats, which sponsored nuclear power under its nearly 54-year tenure, has just held confidential talks with U.S. Ambassador John Roos, while President Barack Obama was making statements in support of new nuclear plants across the U.S.

The substance of undisclosed talks between Tokyo and Washington can be surmised from disruptions to my recent phone calls to a Japanese journalist colleague. While inside the radioactive hot zone, his roaming number was disconnected, along with the mobiles of nuclear workers at Fukushima 1 who are denied phone access to the outside world. The service suspension is not due to design flaws. When helping to prepare the Tohoku crisis response plan in 1996, my effort was directed at ensuring that mobile base stations have back-up power with fast recharge.

A subsequent phone call when my colleague returned to Tokyo went dead when I mentioned “GE.” That incident occurred on the day that GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt landed in Tokyo with a pledge to rebuild the Fukushima 1 nuclear plant. Such apparent eavesdropping is only possible if national phone carrier NTT is cooperating with the signals-intercepts program of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).

Some people offer links for educational purposes. I offer this one for entertainment purposes.

Posted in Politics, Russia, Science and technology | Tagged: | 11 Comments »

Letter bombs (11): Boomerangs

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, September 26, 2010

It is difficult for men in high office to avoid the malady of self-delusion. They are always surrounded by worshipers. They are constantly, and for the most part sincerely, assured of their greatness. They live in an artificial atmosphere of adulation and exultation which sooner or later impairs their judgment. They are in grave danger of becoming careless and arrogant.
– Calvin Coolidge

READER M-BONE has given me permission to quote his comments before, so I’ll take the liberty of quoting two more, because they’re quite good. This time he writes about the reaction outside of East Asia to Japan’s problems with China in the Senkaku dispute. Here’s the first:

China is making like Gamilus – fighting against their own interests in a state of sublime belligerence. (Amp. note: Space Battleship Yamato reference)

They’ve given a huge boost to the US-Japan alliance (arguably at its shakiest since 1960 during the DPJ tenure, now likely to be coming on like gangbusters), spat on some of their best friends in Japan, and this time it isn’t just (Martin) Fackler – everyone from The Economist to tea party trolls on Yahoo comments seem to be calling China the petulant child of current international relations – many of these are the same people who gave China a free pass in 2005 because of the emotive history issue. And for what? A petty domestic PR coup in a media environment that the Chinese government runs anyway? AND Japan gave them the perfect out by releasing the captain and they STILL found a way to screw the pooch by demanding apology and compensation doubling down on their domestic propaganda but leaving much of the rest of the world shaking their heads.

How long before China pisses off Russia and India and finds itself surrounded on all sides by a FCL (F**k China League)?

Two from me:

1. India and Russia have been wary of China for some time, and are probably charter members of the FCL. India came to blows with them in the early 60s, and the Soviet Union almost did.

2. I don’t think it’s just for domestic consumption. As I tried to argue in my Friday post, and as Michael Turton does on his Taiwan website, this is how China will behave as it tries to recreate its hegemony/suzerainty in the future. It’s how they’ve always behaved when they’ve had the wherewithal in the past. The DPJ played into this Chinese conceit with their fawning behavior. The Chinese do not treat other countries as equal partners, and they have no intention of doing so with “Little Japan”.

M-Bone Comment #2

China has not been anxious to get into scuffs with India and Russia yet and if you want to beat on a country for no good reason with no chance of retribution, Japan is probably the world’s best candidate. However, when you think about it, if ANY part of this latest Chinese show was designed to improve their geo-political position and to increase their chance of actually ending up with the Senkakus (instead of a rather banal ‘the captain came home’ moment) what transpired can only be considered a huge failure. China will now (likely) face a surging Japanese-American partnership where it was once waning and the greatest lasting legacy out of all of this will likely be the US’s unambiguous statement that the islands are covered by the security treaty. If the Chinese leaders were really dumb enough to catalyze this, who is to say that some colossal f%”k up with another neighbor won’t be coming down the line?

…Even the domestic Japan bashing to distract from Chinese government problems blah blah argument isn’t a good one in this case. If they had played it stern and waited, the Japanese would still have likely released the captain, giving them a victory without all of the hotheads taking to the streets. Then, if they really wanted to, they could have waited a bit and jumped on a random history issue a few weeks or months on.

My general feeling is that most people are more pissed at China than supportive of Japan, but it seems to me that China, obviously used to manipulating nationalism, doesn’t seem to grasp how quick and how powerful turns in American nationalism can be.

Two more from me:

1. Someone in the Japanese print media (in the flood of information over the past few days) noted that during the Koizumi administration, there was an official with a high position in the Chinese leadership who had a good understanding of Japan. He’s not there anymore, and no one’s replaced him.

2. I suspect Chinese leadership concluded that the U.S. under the Obama administration and with its financial problems became a paper tiger and behaved accordingly. (Or, they suspected it had become a paper tiger and wanted to make sure.) The Futenma issue gave them another opportunity to test that theory.

I think Chinese imperial ambition, hubris, nouveau riche / narikin environment, lack of understanding (at the top) of other countries, and a general we-don’t-give-a-sh*t-what-you-think attitude are all part of the mix.

21st Century Schizoid Man sent in a good comment from a Japanese forum. Here it is in English:

“There is no question that Japan caved in to the Chinese this time, but nevertheless, the negative aspects for the Chinese are by no means inconsiderable. The argument that the Chinese are a threat is bound to increase, so it will be argued that Japan must also strengthen its military capabilities. Japan’s relationship with the U.S. will grow stronger and resemble conditions during the Koizumi era. Even more, the world now knows that if anything should occur, (China is a) country that will respond as if hostages had been taken. This will likely open the eyes of those who harbored fantasies about the Chinese.

“In short, it would be a good idea not to have any fantasies about the Chinese, eliminate any sentimental emotionalism, and create a cool relationship in which we use those aspects we can use.

“Japan has effective control of the Senkakus, If the Chinese seize them it will rupture Sino-Japanese relations, and would, in a real sense, be an act of war, so that is likely impossible right away. For now, we should quietly build up our military capabilities to prepare for any contingencies. It is important to never again be entertained by the fantasy of ‘friendly Sino-Japanese relations’”.

One comment from me:

1. As I tried to argue yesterday, I don’t think we’re going to be hearing any more about yuai and an East Asian entity for a while.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Posted in China, India, International relations, Military affairs, Russia | Tagged: | 19 Comments »

Rocket science

Posted by ampontan on Monday, April 20, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Communist Party of Japan

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

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

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

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

Maybe the JCP meant some other Security Council resolution.

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

Social Democratic Party

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

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

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

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

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

Democratic Party of Japan

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

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

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

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

While a former socialist MP in the DPJ told them:

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

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

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

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

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

The Aso administration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The United Nations

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

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

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

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

See what I mean about smoke and mirrors?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The United States

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

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

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

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

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

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

That surely eased the concerns of the Japanese defense establishment.

His statement also said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

After she had initially said:

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

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

Japan and the United Nations, Part Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

North Korea

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

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

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

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

Ozawa Ichiro

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in China, International relations, North Korea, Politics, Russia | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

This is nationalism?

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, November 8, 2008

OF THE several simmering territorial disputes between Japan and its East Asian neighbors, the most well known involves the miniscule islets in the Sea of Japan collectively known as Takeshima. One reason for its high name recognition is the perpetual Korean effort to demagogue the issue for political advantage both in domestic politics and bilateral relations. The other is an international press corps that delights in diplomatic spats because it gives them another excuse to pursue their primary occupation of gossip-mongering. It also offers the press another opportunity to pull out their cardboard cutout of an unregenerate and potentially recidivist Japan from their collection of cartoon villains.


But the territorial dispute most likely to engage the Japanese involves what are known as the Northern Territories: the islands of Kunashiri, Etorofu, Shikotan, and the Habomai islets. These islands were seized by the Soviet Union in 1945. There were no hostilities between the two countries for most of the Second World War because of the Soviet-Japan Neutrality Pact, but the Soviets abrogated the treaty on 9 August 1945 and declared war on Japan—three days after the Hiroshima atomic bombing. Japan surrendered unconditionally on the 15th, and the Soviets struck while the striking was good to occupy the southern Kuriles (to the north of Hokkaido) in the latter part of August. They didn’t finish until September 5.

No nation likes to be kicked when they are down, particularly when they have conceded the fight and the referee has called a halt to the fisticuffs. So it’s no wonder the Japanese still haven’t forgotten or forgiven.

Some of those who suffer from the handicap of depending on the press for their knowledge of international affairs might suspect there is an overheated element in Japan anxious to reclaim the Northern Territories by any means necessary, including military action. But Japan is rather laid back about matters such as these, particularly in comparison to its four closest neighbors. Therefore, the efforts to reclaim the illegally seized territories focus on sporadic diplomatic discussions with Russia and a low-key public awareness campaign.

For an example of the latter, take a look at the poster accompanying this post. It won the grand prize in a recent Hokkaido contest to select a poster for publicizing 7 February, which is Northern Territories Day. (Don’t get excited—it’s not a national holiday). While events are held throughout the country on the 7th, the focus of the efforts is in Hokkaido, that part of Japan closest to the territories. The poster will be hung throughout the prefecture to keep the issue alive in the minds of the public.

The designer of the winning poster was Mori Shota, a student at a vocational school in Sapporo. The vertical script at the right reads, “There is a problem that must not be forgotten.” The script at the bottom says that 7 February is Northern Territories Day. The blue circles are supposed to represent water.

And that—literally–is it. No strident or inflammatory appeals to patriotic pride. No demands that the government take immediate action. No marching in the streets or burning foreign leaders in effigy. No chopping off one’s fingers and mailing them to the Russian ambassador.

While I usually agree with Shakespeare that comparisons are odious, this is one exception. A comparison in this case is instructive.

Imagine how any other country in the world might behave if it found itself in a similar situation. (Or, in the case of the Falkland Islands, how one actually did behave.)

This comparison might be useful to remember the next time you encounter a story somewhere in one of the mass merchandisers of infotainment about the diehard Japanese “rightwing”. Those who are looking for countries where nationalism is a serious problem would more profitably spend their time looking elsewhere.

Posted in History, International relations, Russia, World War II | 2 Comments »

Japan’s Northern Territories: Still simmering after 60 years

Posted by ampontan on Friday, February 9, 2007

nt-map1You probably missed it, but February 7 was Northern Territories Day in Japan. But don’t feel bad—most people in Japan missed it, too. Television talk shows didn’t debate the subject, newspapers didn’t editorialize about it, and citizens didn’t meet to listen to discussions in auditoriums or demonstrate in the street. In fact, I wouldn’t have known about it myself had it not been for a small ad at the bottom of the front page of my local newspaper inserted by the Cabinet Office, with a Japanese-language URL. (Here’s the Foreign Ministry’s position in English.)

The term Northern Territories refers to the small islands of Kunashiri, Etorofu, Shikotan, and the Habomai islets. Formerly Japanese territory, the islands were seized by the Soviets in 1945. There were no hostilities between the two countries during World War II because of the Soviet-Japan Neutrality Pact. That is, until the Soviets abrogated the treaty on August 9, 1945, by declaring war on Japan—three days after the Hiroshima atomic bombing. Though Japan surrendered unconditionally on the 15th, the Soviets started occupying the southern Kuriles (to the north of Hokkaido) in the latter part of August, and didn’t finish until September 5.

Their only reason for this, of course, was to regain the territory they lost with their defeat in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905. In other words, the Soviets chose to exact their revenge by kicking Japan when it was down. And the Japanese haven’t forgotten or forgiven.

Japan has longstanding territorial disputes with its three closest neighbors—China, South Korea, and Russia—and all involve small islands. More than national pride is at stake, as the potential financial benefits from the rights to oil and maritime resources could be enormous. Though the Japanese seldom spout off about the issue, they also won’t sign a separate peace treaty with Russia officially ending World War II until the Northern Territories issue is resolved. (The Soviets refused to sign the San Francisco Peace Treaty.) And Japan won’t provide significant financial assistance to the Russians until that happens.


The Japanese thought they were going to get all four back when Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev promised to settle the issue. But Gorbachev had more pressing problems, and his successor Boris Yeltsin later backed off, promising to return two of the islands. Current Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to give back Shikotan and Habomai, which account for about 6% of the land area, if the Japanese renounced their claims to the other two islands, but that idea didn’t fly in Tokyo. The European Parliament passed a resolution in 2006 calling on the Russians to return all four to Japan, but that suggestion got shot down when it entered Moscow’s air space.

It might be instructive at this point to compare the approach of Japanese politicians and the public with that of their counterparts in China and South Korea.

When fewer than 0.1% of Japanese junior high schools adopted a history textbook that the Chinese didn’t like, the Chinese public raged nearly out of control, smashing and trashing Japanese businesses, attacking the Japanese embassy, burning the Japanese flag, and boycotting Japanese products. These activities received the implicit approval and material assistance of the Chinese government.

When Shimane Prefecture declared an official Takeshima Day for the islets it claims but South Korea occupies, the Koreans behaved just as badly, if more bizarrely, as demonstrators launched flaming arrows onto the grounds of the Japanese embassy. Some even cut off fingers in protest and mailed them in (apparently unaware that the Japanese would not be impressed, as finger amputation is a gesture of apology to one’s gang leader among the yakuza). Here too, popular emotion was inflamed by the government, particularly by the hopelessly unpopular President Roh, who has never passed up the opportunity to demagogue the issue in the hope of shoring up his plummeting popular support. (It didn’t work; South Koreans are literally counting the minutes until he vacates the Blue House for good.)

Yet what happened in Japan on Northern Territories Day? Did the Japanese run wild in the streets, attacking Russian businesses and government institutions? Did young Japanese torch the Russian flag? Did the Japanese media whip up chauvinistic sentiment among the people? Did the Japanese government covertly foment malice in the citizenry, or overtly rail against the Putin regime?

The answers are no, nope, nah, and nyet, respectively. On Northern Territories Day in Japan, everyone stayed cool.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in History, International relations, Politics, Russia, World War II | 10 Comments »