Showing posts with label japan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label japan. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Chinese Threat to Australian Openness. By Merriden Varrall

A Chinese Threat to Australian Openness. By Merriden Varrall
The New York Times, July 31, 2017

SYDNEY, Australia — Australians are increasingly concerned about China’s growing influence in the country. Chinese money is being funneled to politicians. Beijing-run media outlets buy ads in Australian newspapers to promote the Communist Party view on local and regional issues. Chinese companies are buying Australian farms and natural resources.

The push extends to Australia’s universities. Chinese agents are said to monitor Chinese students and report on those who fail to toe the Communist Party line. And in another troubling trend, many of the 150,000 visiting Chinese students are importing a pro-Beijing approach to the classroom that is stifling debate and openness.

In 2008-9 I taught international relations to undergraduates at a Chinese university in Beijing, giving me a window into Chinese students’ attitudes and behavior. I was struck by the tendency for students to align themselves with the government view.

I was not given any guidance or warnings about the topics I could cover in the classroom. But throughout the year, I was offered hints that my approach to teaching was inappropriate. Those warnings came not only from the administration but from the students themselves.

On several occasions, students suggested I use a different style of teaching. They found critical analysis and picking apart expert opinion uncomfortable. This was particularly true for readings and class discussions that could be construed as critical of China.

Most students, for example, would reject anything that suggested China had not always been peaceful. The majority of students would react angrily to any reading material implying that Japan was not an inherently aggressive and expansionist country.

Some students told me in private that they were afraid to express their views in class. They feared that their peers would report on them and that they would receive a black mark on their record. The minority of students who showed interest in open discussion were shut down by classmates who parroted Beijing’s talking points.

In one session, students gave a presentation that, unsurprisingly, painted the Japanese in a negative light. One of their classmates wondered aloud whether Chinese people still needed to hate Japan. Another suggested that China also publishes textbooks with self-serving interpretations of history, as Japan does. Outrage erupted. One student furiously accused the two of “not loving China enough.”

At my midyear review, I was told firmly by my department leadership that my approach of “trying to teach through rumor and hearsay” was unsuitable. When I refused to change my methods, I was told that I would not receive my bonus and that my contract would not be renewed.

Chinese students are taking this approach into the Australian classroom.

A recent ABC-Fairfax report gave the example of Lupin Lu, head of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association chapter at the University of Canberra. Ms. Lu said she would not hesitate to inform officials at the Chinese Embassy if she heard of Chinese students organizing, for example, protests against Beijing.

Even here in Australia, Chinese students have said they fear speaking up in class because they worry their compatriots will report them to embassy authorities. Some students ask to be placed in tutorial groups without other Chinese citizens so they can speak openly.

Sally Sargeson, an associate professor at the Australian National University, said to Forbes magazine that every Chinese student she asked about this problem “said they know they are being monitored and adjust their speech so they will not get into trouble.”

When Chinese students self-censor or monitor and report on their peers, it is not necessarily because the Chinese state is bearing down on them. Rather, many Chinese students believe that speaking out against the officially approved view, on any topic, is inappropriate. The anthropologist Erika Evasdottir describes this as “self-directed control.” Monitoring and reporting on peers who diverge from the party line is seen as the right thing to do.

Universities have not adequately addressed this threat to debate and openness. Officials may be reluctant to take action because overseas students bring a lot of money to underfunded Australian universities.

Because many Chinese students have internalized the need to align with official views, maintaining Australia’s standards for free and open debate will remain a daunting challenge. Australian universities could start by facing up to the problem.

Merriden Varrall is the director of the East Asia Program at the Lowy Institute.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Views from Japan: Abe Visit to Yasukuni Shrine

Views from Japan: Abe Visit to Yasukuni Shrine

1  Abe Visit to Controversial Japanese Shrine Draws Rare U.S. Criticism. By George Nishiyama
Visit to Yasukuni Raises Concern Premier Shifting Focus From Economy to Nationalistic Goals
Wall Street Journal, Dec. 26, 2013 3:04 p.m. ET


Mr. Abe visited Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine on Thursday, triggering strong criticism from Beijing and Seoul, but also a rare disapproval by Washington, which has pushed the Asian neighbors to mend ties that are strained by territorial disputes and differences over wartime history.

Many Asian nations that suffered from Japan's wartime actions view Yasukuni as a symbol of Tokyo's past militarism because it honors not just Japan's war dead but also some convicted World War II war criminals, including Hideki Tojo, who was prime minister for most of the war.

"The United States is disappointed that Japan's leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan's neighbors," said the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo on its website, in an unusual direct criticism of Japan's leader by its main ally.

Mr. Abe has repeatedly said he regretted not visiting the shrine during his first tenure as prime minister from 2006 to 2007 and said his critics misunderstood his intentions. "I offered my respects to those who lost their precious lives for our country, and prayed that their souls may rest in peace," he told reporters after the visit. "I have no intention at all of hurting the feelings of the Chinese or the South Korean people."

Although a well-known conservative who has stated that changing the pacifist constitution drafted by the occupying U.S. forces was his "life's work," Mr. Abe had adopted an economy-first policy after taking office in December 2012, putting his nationalist agenda on the back burner.

His so-called Abenomics policy featuring government spending and monetary stimulus has spurred consumption, resulting in the Japanese economy recording the strongest expansion among industrialized nations in the first half of this year, although the country's growth rate slowed in the third quarter.

The improved economy has helped make Mr. Abe one of the most popular Japanese leaders in recent years, with his support ratings hovering around 60% for most of the past year.

All of that has come as a relief to Washington, which faces a rising military power in China and is wary of the regional tensions developing into physical confrontations. The U.S. has also tired of a revolving door of short-lived Japanese prime ministers.

During an October visit to Tokyo, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel paid respects at the Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery, a tomb for Japan's unknown war dead, in a move widely seen as a message to Mr. Abe that there are alternatives to Yasukuni.

While Mr. Abe had refrained from going to Yasukuni until Thursday, on the anniversary of his taking office, some of his cabinet ministers had visited, each time inviting protests from China and South Korea. Mr. Abe's visit, the first by a prime minister in seven years, drew angry responses from the neighbors.

China's foreign minister summoned Japan's ambassador to protest and criticized Thursday's visit as the latest attempt by Mr. Abe to gloss over Japan's militaristic past. "Under these conditions, not only does the Japanese leader not show restraint, but instead makes things worse by manufacturing another incident over history," spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement. "Japan must bear all the consequences arising from this."

Seoul also decried the move. "Our government cannot but deplore and express anger about Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine despite concerns from neighboring countries and the international community," said Yoo Jin-Ryong, a South Korean spokesman.

Analysts in the region agreed the move would further deteriorate relations. The development is severe, said Wang Shaopu, director of Japan Institution at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. "It will worsen China-Japan's already bad-enough relations."

Others said Mr. Abe had gone ahead with the visit because he felt he had nothing to lose given that ties were already frayed. While he has visited all of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, he has yet to visit China or South Korea nor has he held formal bilateral meetings with their leaders.

"Mr. Abe probably thought that a visit to Yasukuni at this point wouldn't have too much of an impact on prospects of future summits with Beijing and Seoul considering how chances already seemed slim," said Masafumi Kaneko, a senior research fellow at the Center for International and Strategic Studies at PHP Institute.

Mr. Abe's aides said what they cared about most was the U.S. reaction. "The biggest, or should I say, the only concern is what the U.S. would say," said a senior government official who was aware of the prime minister's plans in advance. He expressed confidence that the ties between the allies wouldn't be affected, noting that President Barack Obama was relying on the prime minister to help seal a deal over a trans-Pacific free-trade forum and to move forward plans to relocate U.S. troops in the region.

The government official said Mr. Abe intended to stick to making economic recovery the top priority, stressing how investors would start to see deregulatory measures—the last of the three pillars of his economic policy—in action in the new year. "We intend to keep the ball rolling for Abenomics," the official said.

But Mr. Abe may have miscalculated the U.S. response, analysts said. "The U.S. reaction was unexpected. Mr. Abe is moving to bolster the Japan-U.S. alliance, and the focus is whether they can move beyond just a military alliance, and share values," said Koji Murata, a political-science professor and the president of Doshisha University. "The U.S. may be frustrated at Mr. Abe, who is obsessed with history issues."

Diplomatic feuds have shown they can affect business interests in the region. After the previous Japanese government nationalized disputed islands in the East China Sea in September 2012, Chinese consumers boycotted Japanese products, dealing a serious blow to Japanese firms, including car makers.

But the Tokyo stock market took Mr. Abe's visit to the shrine in stride on Thursday, finishing higher. Investors said other factors, including a weaker yen, were more important than diplomatic issues.


—Alexander Martin, Kosaku Narioka and James T. Areddy contributed to this article.

2  A Japanese citizen weighs in:

this is a pretty simple issue... it's a thing about "mind" or "philosophy" for Japanese and "political" for China or Korea. it'd not been a problem until middle of 80s indeed. they are just always looking for something to claim or criticize Japan to let us compromise us one-sidedly. they are just trying to do this in the name of human-right. Japan has to be 100% evil, and they have to be 100% victims forever. so they will never forgive us no matter how we apologized.
if PM Abe didn't do it, they would find something another.

it's not known very much in other countries, but Japan's already apologized many times, paid much and supported in many ways even the countries didn't let their citizens know about that. 
major Japanese started to think it looks waste of time and effort to make a good relationship with them any longer.

more than 70% of Japanese agree with PM Abe's Yasukuni visit this time in a survey of a TV channel (this is so-called "liberal" channel). we all know he just wants to thank people who worked and died for this country, and wishes peace. 
personally, i go to the shrine when i'm in Tokyo (my grand father died in WW2).

have a good new year!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Views from Japan on the air-defense zone recently claimed by Beijing

Views from Japan on the air-defense zone recently claimed by Beijing

1  Excerpts from Japan Questions China's Policing of Defense Zone. By Yuka Hayashi
Officials Also Address Apparent Differences With U.S. Over Response
Wall Street Journal, Dec. 1, 2013 11:50 a.m. ET

"I was taken aback when I heard this," Yukio Okamoto, a former senior foreign ministry official, said in an interview Sunday with NHK. "I can't think of any case like this in the past where the U.S. took a step that hurt Japan's interests over an issue related directly to Japan's national security in a way visible to the whole world."
"We have confirmed through diplomatic channels that the U.S. government didn't request commercial carriers to submit flight plans," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday during a visit to a regional city.

Speaking privately, Japanese officials say Washington has yet to coordinate views among different branches of the government and come up with a unified stance that can be conveyed to Tokyo properly.

Satoshi Morimoto, a former defense minister who teaches security at Takushoku University, said defense minister Onodera's remarks suggest China wasn't able to "conduct a scramble against American planes even as they flew through its new zone." Japan must determine whether China has the capability to monitor the whole expanse of its new ADIZ using radar located on the mainland and whether its pilots have the experience and expertise to go after foreign planes, Mr. Morimoto said on the NHK program.

2  a Japanese citizen:

[transliteration: Jissai kono mondai wa kantande wa nai to omowa reruga, Nihon to shite wa, Amerika ni wa Chūgoku no rifujin'na kōi oyobi yōkyū o issai mitomenai yō nozonde iru (nipponseifu wa kaku kōkūkaisha ni taishite, Chūgoku no yōkyū ni kotae Nai yō tsūtatsu shita). Nihon to Amerika ga ichimaiiwa de kono-ken ni taisho subekida to no kangae ga shihai-tekidearu. Tada, Amerika to Nihonde wa kōkūkaisha ni kansuru jijō ga kotonaru no wa rikai dekiru. Kongo no baiden fuku daitōryō to no kaidan de Nichibei no kyōryoku o kakunin suru koto o kitai suru. Masaka Amerika ga Chūgoku ni yūwa-teki ni hōshin henkan suru koto wa nai to shinjitaiga.... Kono mondai ni wa Kankoku mo karande kite ori, fukuzatsu-ka shite iru. Kongo dō natte iku no ka chūshi sezaruwoenai.]

honestly, we Japanese has been sick and tired of China's movements lately... some journalists analyze Xi _jinping can't control the force any longer. and underground disorder's coming overground.

a citizen

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Views from Japan: Nuclear Weapons

Views from Japan: Nuclear Weapons

Questions sent to a Japanese citizen:

konnichiwa, dear [xxx]-san

I was reading the book "Strategy in the Second Nuclear Age: Power, Ambition, and the Ultimate Weapon" by Toshi Yoshihara and James R. Holmes (Editors), and there is a chapter on Thinking About the Unthinkable - Tokyo's Nuclear Option

We'd like to publish a post and would like:

1  to have arguments in favor and against (specially in favor, since we never see them published) such nuclear option, made by Japanese politicians;
2  to have your opinion on this.


Thank you very much, sir.

[signature removed]

Answer (edited):

how are you going? it's been incredibly hot these days... I almost start melting.

sorry, I haven't read the book. so i'm not very sure my opinions match to your point. anyway, I give you what I see and think. is it about nuclear weapons? (or total nuclear power?) i refer nuke weapons for this moment. please let me know if you need more about nuclear in japan. seems 3 big opinions among politicians (and citizens too) :

#1. it's better to have nu-bombs. because we are facing dangers of Chinese and North Korean nukes. it's the only way to be against nukes.

#2. let's talk and think about nuclear weapons to possess seriously now. it's actually been the biggest taboo in japan even only to talk about the option because of our experiences of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and recently Fukushima which are big trauma for us. I can call it "nuclear allergy". but we are indeed surrounded and threatened by nu-weapons of China and Korea now. it's the time to think about it... and even just the debates will be able to restrain China and Korea (they know our technology is good enough to make nu-weapons immediately if we try).

#3. nobody should even talk or think about it. all nuclear in the world just should be thrown away and banned. because we've learnt from the past

#2 seems the most major opinion, #1 is a sort of extreme... #3 is mainly supported by liberal people. extreme on the other side.

2. my opinion: I used to think like #3, but slightly have changed to #2. I'm sure #3 is right, but too much ideal. no matter how japan says this to the world, no countries will abandon them (at least near future).

japanese people's been used to live in peace by American forces, however people's started to realize no peace for free. i think we are on the way to "normal" country.

please don't understand me, I believe almost all of people don't want to have nu-weapons in real, people's just getting more serious to think about what our country is and what is the best for us.

I wish I got points you need. mail me if you have something not sure.

best regards(^_^)/

[signature removed]

Thursday, June 6, 2013

South Korea: National Security or National Pride Regarding Japan?, by Krista E. Wiegand

South Korea: National Security or National Pride Regarding Japan?, by Krista E. Wiegand
Asia Pacific Bulletin, No. 214
Washington, D.C.: East-West Center
May 22, 2013

Krista E. Wiegand is Associate Professor of Political Science at Georgia Southern University and a recent POSCO Visiting Fellow at the East-West Center. She explains in this bulletin that "The South Korean government will not be able to deal with the larger issue of security relations with Japan until disputed issues symbolized by Dokdo/Takeshima are sufficiently resolved—and the likelihood of this happening anytime soon is fairly low."

The first official state function of newly inaugurated President Park Geun-hye was a ceremony on March 1 commemorating Independence Movement Day—celebrating Korean resistance in 1919 to Japanese occupation—where she appealed: “It is incumbent on Japan to have a correct understanding of history and take on an attitude of responsibility in order to partner with us in playing a leading role in East Asia in the 21st century.” Her speech outlined a hard line stance regarding ROK-Japan relations. It also did not help that at the end of March, the Korean Foreign Ministry summoned a high ranking Japanese official in Seoul to strongly protest the inclusion of the islets as being called Takeshima in newly released Japanese school books. Japanese cabinet members then went to Yasakuni Shrine in April which further exasperated matters, resulting in South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se cancelling a proposed visit to Japan.

If Park wants to maintain high approval ratings and not lose credibility regarding her tough position towards Japan, she will have to take into account domestic public opinion on any future security plans with Japan, even under US pressure. Yet, taking this tough approach causes unconstructive tensions in the ROK-Japan-US security relationship, and at a time of recent unprecedented heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Moreover, Korea’s role as an increasingly important actor in regional security indicates that Japan and South Korea will have to cooperate more in the future.  They are both democracies, have shared values and interests, and each looks to the United States as the preferred security partner. Park will have to balance Korea’s security interests with domestic opposition to closer ties with Japan, an extremely difficult challenge under current circumstances.

Even if Korean officials are not as supportive of the GSOMIA as their counterparts in Japan and the United States, moving forward on security relations with Japan is critical. Yet, domestic opposition to issues related to Japan has effectively prevented such cooperation. The South Korean government will not be able to deal with the larger issue of security relations with Japan until disputed issues symbolized by Dokdo/ Takeshima are sufficiently resolved—and the likelihood of this happening anytime soon is fairly low. The United States has encouraged better bilateral relations between its two closest allies in East Asia, yet at the same time, the US government has been hesitant to take sides in a dispute that the United States itself inadvertently created as a result of its ambiguity in its role as mediator of the 1951 San Francisco Treaty. President Park and future Korean presidents will have a tough time successfully pursuing any plans of security engagement with Japan as long as the Dokdo/Takeshima dispute and related issues flare up. The United States is in a unique position to influence both Korea and Japan and it should continue to pressure both states to work toward reconciliation.

Friday, March 29, 2013

America's Voluntary Standards System: A 'Best Practice' Model for Asian Innovation Policies? By Dieter Ernst

America's Voluntary Standards System: A 'Best Practice' Model for Asian Innovation Policies? By Dieter Ernst
East-West Center, Policy Studies, No. 66, March 2013
ISBN: 978-0-309-26204-5 (print); 978-0-86638-205-2 (electronic)
Pages: xvi, 66


Across Asia there is a keen interest in the potential advantages of America's market-led system of voluntary standards and its contribution to US innovation leadership in complex technologies.

For its proponents, the US tradition of bottom-up, decentralized, informal, market-led standardization is a "best practice" model for innovation policy. Observers in Asia are, however, concerned about possible drawbacks of a standards system largely driven by the private sector.

This study reviews the historical roots of the American system, examines its defining characteristics, and highlights its strengths and weaknesses. A tradition of decentralized local self-government has given voice to diverse stakeholders in innovation. However, a lack of effective coordination of multiple stakeholder strategies constrains effective and open standardization processes.

Asian countries seeking to improve their standards systems should study the strengths and weaknesses of the American system. Attempts to replicate the US standards system will face clear limitations--persistent differences in Asia's economic institutions, levels of development, and growth models are bound to limit convergence to a US-style market-led voluntary standards system.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Views from Japan: Comments on the incidents with China's naval forces

Q&A session with "aki", a Japanese citizen, on contemporary politics

Q: Maybe you'd like to publish some short comments on the incidents with China's naval forces

A: yes, i've been interested in it indeed.

Chinese government seems pushing themselves to the edge of cliff. they are scared of that their citizens make disorder against the them, so they need to make "scapegoats" outside of the country to distract the people's view to protect themselves.

recently Chinese citizens' been tending to show their frustration to the government, because of the corruptions of politics and unfair distribution of wealth.

they are trying to make Japan the "scapegoat" now. but the government of Japan never reacted their provocations, just do what we should do in internationally "right" way. that makes China nervous - if they stimulate japan more, they will be censured in the world, but never can show their citizens compromising attitude... these days, their behavior looks like north Korea's. never look they are the economically 2nd biggest country.

need to watch it carefully. (personally, a sort of fun to see how they do)


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Q&A session with a Japanese citizen on contemporary politics

The comments of a Japanese citizens on politics and our questions:

- what do supporters of Tokyo's governor say about him? I always read comments against him, but he wins the elections, so there are lots of (silent) supporters.

our present PM Shinzo Abe is supported by citizens pretty well so far. he showed a policy for economics called "Abenomics" lately. then even though nothing's done yet just show it to us, stock prises' been rising and rising, curency rate's been much better (Yen got too much strong and international exporting companies as even Sony, Panasonic or Toyota were getting big loss for these 3 years).

also, his strategy of international is evaluated. former government always compromised to Chinese or Korean's unreasonable accusations just for economical reasons. but he is trying to build a strong relationships between South-east Asian countries, Australia, India and Russia. especially SE Asian countries welcome this because they've been threatened by Chinese forces, they've actually wanted Japan to have leadership against China.
he seems doing very fine now.

i have to say many of japanese medias have big problems... many people in medias are kind of "traitor". they pick up "noisy minority" and show it just like the majority to give Japan bad names to the world... it's fine if their opinions are to make things better, but just critisise. it will be too long if i explain this.

Question: what do supporters of nuclear arms say? I always read assurances about the Japanese not wanting the A-bomb, but from time to time some politician says that Japan is considering protecting herself (against North Korea and China)

i think there are not many supporters of nuclear arms. some polititians and scholars are saying to discuss it. because almost all of Japanese has a sort of allergy for nuclear weapons (it comes from trauma of WW2) and even discussions are taboo. indeed, even though we have been aimed by Chinese and maybe Korean A-missiles. so they are claiming to get out of trauma now. also they say even only discussion will be a detterent to the countries. (personally i agree with them, we don't need to have it, but it's nonsense not to even talk). recently it seems peoples who agree with it has been increasing.

PM Abe is trying to have a good relationship between US, but on the other hand, trying to protect ourself with proper forces. and it's generally supported by majority (at least it seems so to me). almost all of people likes US better than China in politics, but lately people started to think stand by ourselvs.
actually now is the turning point of Japan after WW2 i think...

if you want to understand how Japanese are, it might be important to understand "Shinto". it's a domestic thoughts/philosophy of Japan, quite religious but not religion. it says we have 8 million gods in our land - god of fire, god of wood, god of sea, god of marrige, god of traffic, god of study... so we should thank to everything, be good and respect others. it is the base of moral of Japanese, we are brought up with it by our parents. it's easy to accept other religion for Shinto, because any god or buddha of other religions can be one of the god. (Japanese buddism are a lot influenced and mixed with Shinto). our Tenno (emperor) is regarded as offspring of the god.

last year, South Korean president insulted Tenno, then all of Japanese citizens got angry, (i have never seen such angry Japanese ever!), i understood Tenno is the symbol of this country and Shinto at the moment.

sorry it's getting out of focus.


take care,


Remember Ozawa: "If Japan desires, it can possess thousands of nuclear warheads." 2009.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Japan - Major political parties and their pledges

Japan - Major political parties and their pledges
Japan Today, Dec 16, 2012

TOKYO — A dozen political parties and many independents will contest Sunday’s election. Here is a list of major parties and their campaign promises:

The Democratic Party of Japan is a centrist group that has governed Japan since 2009 after ousting long-governing conservatives from power.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda serves as party president.

The DPJ is promising to:

—phase out nuclear power generation by the end of the 2030s.

—promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal, along with a trilateral free trade pact with China and South Korea.

—work with the Bank of Japan to try to end deflation in fiscal 2014.

—boost measures to protect Japanese territory, including islands in disputes with neighbouring nations.

The Liberal Democratic Party is Japan’s main conservative force which ruled the nation almost continuously from 1955 to 2009.

LDP president Shinzo Abe is a hawkish ideologue who was prime minister in 2006-7.

The LDP has pledged to:

—review all nuclear reactors in three years to decide whether to restart them.

—decide within 10 years Japan’s new energy mix, which may or may not include nuclear power generation.

—achieve three-percent nominal economic growth.

—set an inflation target of two percent and may review the Bank of Japan law to push the central bank to take further easing measures.

—strengthen Japan’s administration of islands that China claims.

—expand the Self Defense Forces and rename them National Defense Forces.

—cut more than 2.8 trillion yen in public spending by reducing welfare and government personnel costs.

—conduct a 10-year program to make infrastructure disaster-resistant.

The Japan Restoration Party was launched this year, originally under reformist Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto. It is now headed by controversial ex-governor of Tokyo Shintaro Ishihara.

The JRP was born out of a coalition of small parties with varying ideological backgrounds, and is united in its aim to take power from established parties.

The JRP has promised to:

—draft a new constitution to replace the current one written by the United States shortly after World War II.

—achieve three percent nominal growth and two percent inflation.

—join negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks.

—reduce parliamentarians’ salary and seats.

—end reliance on nuclear power.

—aggressively push for decentralisation of power.

The Japan Future Party was launched after the election was called in mid-November. It is headed by Shiga prefecture governor Yukiko Kada on an anti-nuclear platform.

Many pundits say Kada is a figurehead for a party that is really run by veteran backroom deal-maker Ichiro Ozawa.

Among its pledges, the party promises to:

—end nuclear power generation in 10 years.

—stop the consumption tax hike.

—offer special allowances to families with children.

The New Komeito is a party of lay Buddhists that enjoys a narrow but loyal support base. It advocates pacifist policies and social programs to help the vulnerable.

It formed a coalition government with the LDP between 1999 and 2009 and has worked with it in opposition.

The party has pledged to:

—phase out nuclear power “as soon as possible” by not approving plans to build new reactors.

—expand scholarships for high school and college students and freeze fees for pre-schools and nursery schools.

—get Japan out of deflation within two years, achieving nominal 3-4 percent growth.

—boost diplomacy to protect Japanese territory including islands in disputes with neighbouring nations.

—seeks to build a Free Trade Area of Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) through making free trade deals.

© 2012 AFP

Sunday, May 13, 2012

What Tokyo's Governor supporters think

A Japanese correspondant wrote about what Tokyo's Governor supporters think (edited):
I'll reply one of your questions about Tokyo's governor. He is a famous writer in Japan. Once in Japan, it was said "Money can move Politics." A leading politician who provided private funds to friends in politics, Tokyo's governor was once a lawmaker.

He gained funds by his writer activity, always speak radical statements since he was young, and he had been clearly different from other influential politicians. He was independent. He always strives to influence politicians with his great ability.

Thus, he was on the side of populace.

However he became arrogant now. But the Japanese people expect great things from him, in particular, people living in the capital, Tokyo. He always talks about "Changing Japan from Tokyo."

We think that he can do it.



Monday, May 17, 2010

Beijing is poised to project ever greater power in the Pacific. The U.S. doesn't appear up to the challenge

Farewell to America's China Station. By MARK HELPRIN
Beijing is poised to project ever greater power in the Pacific. The U.S. doesn't appear up to the challenge.
WSJ, May 17, 2010

The United States and China are on a collision course in the Western Pacific. Far sooner than once anticipated, China will achieve effective military parity in Asia, general conventional parity, and nuclear parity. Then the short road to superiority will be impossible for it to ignore, as it is already on its way thanks to a brilliant policy borrowed from Japan and Israel.

That is, briefly, since Deng Xiaoping, China has understood that, without catastrophic social dislocation, it can leverage its spectacular economic growth into X increases in per-capita GDP but many-times-X increases in military spending. To wit, between 1988 and 2007, a tenfold increase in per-capita GDP ($256 to $2,539) but a 21-fold purchasing power parity increase in military expenditures to $122 billion from $5.78 billion. The major constraint has been that an ever increasing rate of technical advance can only be absorbed so fast even by a rapidly modernizing military.

Meanwhile, in good times and in bad, under Republicans and under Democrats, with defense spending insufficient across the board the United States has slowed, frozen, or reversed the development of the kind of war-fighting assets that China rallies forward (nuclear weapons, fighter planes, surface combatants, submarines, space surveillance) and those (antisubmarine warfare capacity, carrier battle groups, and fleet missile defense) that China does not yet need to counter us but that we need to counter it.

We have provided as many rationales for neglect as our neglect has created dangers that we rationalize. Never again will we fight two major adversaries simultaneously, although in recent memory this is precisely what our fathers did. Conventional war is a thing of the past, despite the growth and modernization of large conventional forces throughout the world. Appeasement and compromise will turn enemies into friends, if groveling and self-abasement do not first drive friends into the enemy camp. A truly strong country is one in which people are happy and have a lot of things, though at one time, as Edward Gibbon describes it in "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," "So rapid were the motions of the Persian cavalry," that the prosperous and relaxed citizens of Antioch were surprised while at the theater, and slaughtered as their city burned around them. And the costs of more reliable defense and deterrence are impossible to bear in this economy, even if in far worse times America made itself into the greatest arsenal the world has ever known, while, not coincidentally, breaking the back of the Great Depression.

China is on the cusp of being able to use conventional satellites, swarms of miniature satellites, and networked surface, undersea, and aerial cuing for real-time terminal guidance with which to direct its 1,500 short-range ballistic missiles to the five or six aircraft carriers the United States (after ceding control of the Panama Canal and reducing its carrier fleet by one-third since 1987) could dispatch to meet an invasion of Taiwan. In combination with antiship weapons launched from surface vessels, submarines, and aircraft, the missile barrage is designed to keep carrier battle groups beyond effective range. Had we built more carriers, provided them with sufficient missile defense, not neglected antisubmarine warfare, and dared consider suppression of enemy satellites and protections for our own, this would not be so.

Had we not stopped production of the F-22 at a third of the original requirement, its 2,000-mile range and definitive superiority may have allowed us to dominate the air over Taiwan nonetheless. Nor can we "lillypad" fighters to Taiwan if its airfields are destroyed by Chinese missiles, against which we have no adequate defense.

With the Western Pacific cleared of American naval and air forces sufficient to defend or deter an invasion, Taiwan—without war but because of the threat of war—will capitulate and accept China's dominion, just as Hong Kong did when the evolving correlation of forces meant that Britain had no practical say in the matter. If this occurs, as likely it will, America's alliances in the Pacific will collapse. Japan, Korea, and countries in Southeast Asia and even Australasia (when China's power projection forces mature) will strike a bargain so as to avoid pro forma vassalage, and their chief contribution to the new arrangement will be to rid themselves of American bases.

Now far along in building a blue-water navy, once it dominates its extended home waters China will move to the center of the Pacific and then east, with its primary diplomatic focus acquisition of bases in South and Central America. As at one time we had the China Station, eventually China will have the Americas Station, for this is how nations behave in the international system, independently of their declarations and beliefs as often as not. What awaits us if we do not awake is potentially devastating, and those who think the subtle, indirect pressures of domination inconsequential might inquire of the Chinese their opinion of the experience.

In the military, economic, and social trajectories of the two principals, the shape of the future comes clear. In 2007, a Chinese admiral suggested to Adm. Timothy J. Keating, chief of U.S. Pacific Command, that China and the United States divide the Pacific into two spheres of influence. Though the American admiral firmly declined the invitation, as things go now his successors will not have the means to honor his resolution, and by then the offer may seem generous.

None of this was ever a historical inevitability. Rather, it is the fault of the American people and the governments they have freely chosen. Perhaps five or 10 years remain in which to accomplish a restoration, but only with a miracle of leadership, clarity, and will.

Mr. Helprin, a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, is the author of, among other works, "Winter's Tale" (Harcourt), "A Soldier of the Great War" (Harcourt) and, most recently, "Digital Barbarism" (HarperCollins).

Friday, May 14, 2010

U.S. Alliances in East Asia: Internal Challenges and External Threats

U.S. Alliances in East Asia: Internal Challenges and External Threats. By William Breer, Senior Adviser, Center for Strategic and International Studies
The Brookings Institution, May 2010

May 20 marks the 60th anniversary of the ratification of the U.S.-Japan alliance by Japan’s House of Representatives. While the alliance is a bilateral arrangement, it has had a significant impact on Asia as a whole and is regarded by other nations as a key part of the regional security structure. The following is a brief survey of the treaty's role in the maintenance of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific. It also demonstrates that the tensions currently confronting the U.S.-Japan alliance are not unique, but in fact have been faced by various bilateral alliances in the region; some have been resolved successfully and some have not.

Most experts believe that the series of alliances the United States created after World War II was one of the most astute and far-sighted acts of diplomacy in history. The alliance with Japan laid the foundation for reconciliation between two enemy nations and the groundwork for the reconstruction of a nation whose industrial power, infrastructure, and morale lay in shambles but which rose to become the world’s second largest economy. The alliance played a key role in the Cold War by allowing the United States to cover the USSR's eastern flank and demonstrating to China and North Korea that we would defend our interests and those of our allies in East Asia.

The arrangements with Japan provided a base from which the U.S. was able to defend its Republic of Korea ally from aggression by the North. Although the Korean War ended in an armistice—not a victory for the ROK, U.S., and their allies—without the use of facilities in Japan the peninsula could have been lost. Another plus was that American protection relieved Japan of having to acquire an offensive military capability, possibly including nuclear weapons. This reassured Japan’s neighbors that it would not again become a threat to their independence.

The result has been five decades of peace in Northeast Asia without a serious arms competition and remarkably few serious threats to the peace. This, along with the stimulus of Korean War procurement, enabled Japan to devote its resources to economic development which resulted in a previously unimaginable economic expansion and improvement in living standards. The ROK, Taiwan, and later China, piggy-backing on Japan's success and partaking of Japan's foreign aid and investment policies, replicated Japan's experience and delivered even faster rates of economic growth and prosperity to their people. None of this would have been possible without the American alliance system and the stability it provided throughout the region. The American presence in East Asia has been reassuring to allies, and our naval and air deployments beyond the region have played a major role in protecting the key energy trade routes through the Malacca Strait and Indian Ocean.

American alliances around East Asia

While the results have been good and generations of alliance managers on both sides can take considerable satisfaction in their accomplishments, the presence of foreign military bases in sovereign countries is not necessarily a natural phenomenon. Many Americans feel that we are motivated by altruism in undertaking to defend other peoples and that our actions are benign. But this view is not necessarily shared by citizens of host countries, many of whom view the American presence as an extension of the occupation in the case of Japan, an intrusion on sovereignty, or as a nuisance. These feelings are reinforced by a complex legal regime governing our bases and serious incidents (rape, hit-and-run accidents, etc.) involving American personnel. At the same time, the base arrangements provide significant employment opportunities for local populations there are some who welcome their presence. The policies of the new Hatoyama government reflect these contradictory views.

Governments have responded to these issues in different ways. In Japan we have developed mechanisms for dealing with problems and have accumulated a great deal of experience in working together. As a result Japanese citizens have tolerated a foreign military presence remarkably well. This may be a historic first. The leaderships of both nations realize the important role that the alliance plays in maintaining stability in East Asia and have striven to protect it.

In the Philippines, where we had maintained major naval and air facilities for many decades, a combination of domestic political pressure, the destruction of one base by a volcanic eruption rendering it unusable, and a strategic reassessment in Washington resulted in the withdrawal of U.S. forces, but the continuation of the defense treaty. In recent years, small numbers of U.S. military advisors have assisted the Philippine armed forces in countering Muslim insurgents in the southern islands of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago.

This was followed a few years later by the New Zealand government's refusal to allow port calls by U.S. Navy vessels, as clearly envisioned in the ANZUS treaty, without a prior finding by the prime minister of New Zealand that the ships in question were not carrying nuclear weapons. This was contrary to our long-standing policy of neither confirming nor denying the presence of nuclear weapons aboard our ships and put at risk our arrangements with Japan. The result was a suspension of our defense relationship with New Zealand and strained relations with this ally for a number of years. When the U.S. Navy revised its "neither confirm nor deny" policy our defense relationship gradually improved. However, as Secretary of State George Shultz stated at the time of the break in 1986, "We remain friends, but we are no longer allies."

We do not have a security treaty with Taiwan and do not maintain forces on the island. Under the Taiwan Relations Act, however, we are obligated to provide certain defensive weapons and equipment and it is understood that we would come to Taiwan's defense in a clear-cut emergency. While this is not an explicit or legal commitment, U.S. policy toward Taiwan has assured the people of Taiwan and other countries in the region that the United States takes the security of Taiwan seriously and that only a peaceful, non-coercive resolution of the political issues across the Taiwan Strait would be satisfactory.

Under our mutual defense treaty with the Republic of Korea we deploy sizable ground and air forces to the peninsula to backup ROK defenses in the event of aggression by North Korea. We have made clear to the North that the American commitment to the defense of South Korea is rock solid, and the peace has been maintained. While the U.S. posture has effectively deterred North Korea from a frontal attack, it has not prevented North Korea from mounting provocations, ranging from the capture of the USS Pueblo in 1968, through the tree-cutting incident in 1976, to the recent apparent sinking of an ROK warship. The biggest challenge posed by North Korea is its determination to acquire deployable nuclear weapons which would threaten U.S. interests throughout East Asia, potentially pose an existential threat to Japan, and create a proliferation problem of vast proportions. Our treaty relationships with Japan and Korea, and our many decades of experience working together, have greatly facilitated our cooperation on this issue.

From time to time, base issues (one of our major bases is in the center of Seoul) and occasional incidents caused by American personnel have aroused latent nationalism among the people, which has in the past resulted in large scale demonstrations, strains in our relations with the host government, and pressure to relocate our facilities. That we are making necessary adjustments to our deployments without significantly reducing our support for the ROK or the effectiveness of our deterrent is a credit to the common sense and foresight of Korean and American officials, many of whom have devoted entire careers to the management of the defense of the ROK.

Australia and Southeast Asia have been direct beneficiaries of America's alliance structure. While Australia is a member of ANZUS it has never become a platform for large scale American deployments. It has a keen interest in the stability and economic well-being of Northeast Asia because of its enormous and profitable economic ties with the region. It is also a beneficiary of American attention to the sea lanes to its West and North on which it depends for the bulk of its international commerce. Australia has been a valued ally in a large number of military operations in which the U.S. has engaged over the last fifty years, despite periodic internal opposition to American policy.

What about the future?

Despite periodic outbursts of opposition to nuclear ship home-porting or other aspects of the U.S. deployment in Japan, support among the Japanese people for the security relationship has remained at a remarkably high level. As a result the U.S. has had a relatively free hand in the use of our facilities and in the deployment of forces there. Generations of Japanese leaders have cooperated with U.S. security needs. These include a contribution of $13 billion in support of the first Gulf War, the dispatch of ground forces in support of our operations against Saddam Hussein, and generous foreign assistance to many places in which we have a strategic interest, including Afghanistan. Japan has also for the past 25 years made major contributions - $4-5 billion per year - to the support of U.S. forces in Japan. Who would have imagined 60 years ago that there would be significant U.S. military facilities in Japan in 2010?

There are some clouds on the horizon. The planned relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma has posed major political issues for both Japan and the United States. Okinawa is host for the majority of U.S. forces in Japan and has endured the lion's share of the impact of foreign bases. Under considerable local pressure, Tokyo and Washington in 2006 reached an agreement to move the noisy Futenma facility from a densely populated area in central Okinawa to a sparsely populated region in the north. But the new Japanese administration, which took office in September 2009, ran on a platform calling for the removal of the facility from Okinawa. The U.S. side has adamantly insisted that the agreement be implemented as is and the two sides have reached an impasse which could result in the resignation of the prime minister. This is not a satisfactory situation, especially when it is not clear that the Marine Corps deployment in Okinawa is a vital piece of our deterrent posture on which it is worth Japan spending more than $10 billion to relocate.

The decision to attack Iraq in 2003 and the sloppy execution of the war called into question American judgment and leadership. Uncertain progress in Afghanistan has compounded this. Neither of these has significantly weakened Japanese support for the alliance, but these creeping doubts, coupled with an increasingly inward-looking Japanese public, have helped create an era in which American strategic assessments and solutions will be viewed with greater skepticism. Another serious incident involving U.S. military personnel would put further strain on the relationship. This is not to say that we cannot cooperate on a wide range of issues, but such cooperation will require higher level USG attention and a willingness on both sides to listen more attentively to the other's point of view. On the Japanese side, it will require the development of greater expertise among its political leaders and greater awareness among the general public of the changing environment. The increasing economic, military, and political importance of China demands that our two nations work together to assure a successful outcome in Asia.

Friday, April 30, 2010

The North Korea Endgame - However difficult, unification must be the ultimate objective

The North Korea Endgame. By Nicholas Eberstadt
However difficult, unification must be the ultimate objective.WSJ, Apr 30, 2010

Monday, April 26, 2010

Views from Japan: Megumi Oyanagi's Blog

Views from Japan: Megumi Oyanagi's Blog

Megumi Oyanagi's views and insights about Japan from recent news (economy, society, politics and government, companies and management, people, culture, etc.) can be read in her blog at the link above.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tokyo Rising

Tokyo Rising, by Ted Galen Carpenter
Cato, April 7, 2010

One very clear fact emerged from my recent meetings with officials and foreign-policy scholars in Australia and New Zealand: even though both countries have major economic stakes in their relationship with China, they are exceedingly nervous about the possibility of Chinese hegemony in East Asia. Since most of them also are reaching the (reluctant) conclusion that the United States will not be able to afford indefinitely the financial burden and military requirements of remaining the region's security stabilizer, a role the United States has played since the end of World War II, they are looking for other options to blunt China's emerging preeminence.

Increasingly, policy makers and opinion leaders in Australia and New Zealand seem receptive to the prospect of both India and Japan playing more active security roles in the region, thereby acting as strategic counterweights to China. That is a major shift in sentiment from just a decade or two ago. The notion of India as a relevant security player is a recent phenomenon, but there did not appear to be any opposition in Canberra or Wellington to the Indian navy flexing its muscles in the Strait of Malacca in the past few years. That favorable reaction was apparent even in vehemently anti-nuclear New Zealand, despite India's decision in the late 1990s to deploy a nuclear arsenal, which dealt a severe blow to the global nonproliferation cause.

Even more surprising is the reversal of attitudes regarding a more robust military role for Japan. When I was in Australia in the 1990s, scholars and officials were adamantly opposed to any move by Tokyo away from the tepid military posture it had adopted after World War II. The belief that Japan should play only a severely constrained security role—under Washington's strict supervision—was the conventional wisdom not only in Australia, but throughout East Asia.

And U.S. officials shared that view. Major General Henry Stackpole, onetime commander of U.S. Marine forces in Japan, stated bluntly that "no one wants a rearmed, resurgent Japan." He added that the United States was "the cap in the bottle" preventing that outcome. The initial draft of the Pentagon's policy planning guidance document, leaked to the New York Times, warned that a larger Japanese security role in East Asia would be destabilizing, and that Washington ought to discourage such a development.

U.S. policy makers appear to have warmed gradually to a more robust Japanese military stance. That was certainly true during the administration of George W. Bush, when officials clearly sought to make the alliance with Japan a far more equal partnership.

Yet some distrust of Japanese intentions lingers, both in the United States and portions of East Asia. The wariness about Japan as a more active military player is strongest in such countries as the Philippines and South Korea. The former endured a brutal occupation during World War II, and the latter still bears severe emotional scars from Tokyo's heavy-handed behavior as Korea's colonial master.

Even in those countries, though, the intensity of the opposition to Japan becoming a normal great power and playing a more serious security role is waning. And in the rest of the region, the response to that prospect ranges from receptive to enthusiastic. That emerging realism is encouraging. The alternative to Japan and India (and possibly other actors, such as Indonesia and Vietnam) becoming strategic counterweights to a rising China ought to be worrisome. Given America's gradually waning hegemony, a failure by other major countries to step up and be significant security players would lead to a troubling power vacuum in the region. A vacuum that China would be well-positioned to fill.

If China does not succumb to internal weaknesses (which are not trivial), it will almost certainly be the most prominent power in East Asia in the coming decades, gradually displacing the United States. But there is a big difference between being the leading power and being a hegemon. The latter is a result that Americans cannot welcome.

The emergence of a multipolar power system in East Asia is the best outcome both for the United States and China's neighbors. It is gratifying that nations in the region seem to be reaching that conclusion. Australia and New Zealand may be a little ahead of the curve in that process, but the attitude in those countries about the desirability of Japan and India adopting more active security roles is not unique. Washington should embrace a similar view.

Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president for defense and foreign-policy studies at the Cato Institute, is the author of eight books on international affairs, including Smart Power: Toward a Prudent Foreign Policy for America (2008).

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Course unclear for Japan-U.S. alliance

Course unclear for Japan-U.S. alliance. By Takehiko Kajita
Japan Today, Jan 17, 2010

TOKYO — Despite last week’s accord between Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to further deepen the Japan-U.S. alliance, it is unclear what will actually be achieved in light of a disagreement over a U.S. military air base that has strained bilateral relations.

Both the top Japanese and U.S. diplomats spoke highly of the bilateral alliance, saying it has underpinned security in the Asia-Pacific region for the past 50 years.

They formally agreed to launch talks to further deepen the alliance, with foreign and defense ministers from the two nations holding a meeting in the first half of this year for a midterm review and seeking a final conclusion in November.

Noting that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the current bilateral security arrangements, Clinton said, ‘‘It is an opportunity to mark the progress we have achieved together for our people and for the people of the region and the world.’‘

Okada said he hopes the upcoming talks will result in a new document replacing the 1996 Japan-U.S. security declaration, which expanded the scope of the bilateral alliance from one configured for the Cold War era to one encompassing the entire Asia-Pacific region.

But questions arise on whether the project will proceed as hoped for, in light of the tension spawned by the bickering over where the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture should be relocated.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama of the Democratic Party of Japan has delayed the decision on the relocation issue until May, indicating that Tokyo could renege on the previously agreed plan to transfer Futenma’s helicopter functions to another site in Okinawa by 2014.

There is no guarantee, however, that the Tokyo government and the ruling coalition can reach a decision by then because the Social Democratic Party, a minor coalition partner, insists that the air base facility be moved off the southernmost island prefecture entirely.

Hatoyama appears determined to keep the three-way coalition intact, which also includes the People’s New Party, another small party, as the DPJ lacks a majority in the House of Councillors even though it is an overwhelmingly dominant force in the more powerful House of Representatives.

Another reason for doubts is Okinawa’s lingering resentment about what its residents see as an unfair burden in maintaining the Japan-U.S. alliance. Okinawa hosts about half the 47,000 U.S. military personnel in Japan.

While the city of Nago has offered to be home to the facility to Futenma, a mayoral election there on Jan 24 could turn the tide. In the election, an incumbent who accepts the relocation plan under a 2006 bilateral deal will face off with a contender who is opposed to it.

Should the central government decide to go ahead with the Nago plan by the election, it would face difficulties in carrying it out because environmental assessment procedures at the planned transfer site in a coastal area will likely be disturbed by local protests.

‘‘I’m afraid the net result of what the Hatoyama government is doing would be that the Futenma base will remain put permanently,’’ said a Japanese government official who requested anonymity.

Apart from the Futenma dispute, there is another source of doubt about the alliance talks—why it is necessary at this point and in which direction Japan wants to navigate them.

The Hatoyama government has pledged to deal with the United States on a more ‘‘equal’’ basis, while emphasizing closer relations with China.

After the talks with Clinton, Okada was vague about what will be among major elements to be considered to strengthen the alliance. He said security environments in East Asia, including China’s moves, should be scrutinized, but admitted it is difficult to predict how the talks will evolve.

Asked about his own vision for a future alliance with the United States, he said only, ‘‘It may be better for you to pose the question to the prime minister.’’

Monday, December 7, 2009

Views on PM Hatoyama and the Futenma issue

Views on PM Hatoyama and the Futenma issue. By hikki1224
Dec 07, 2009

Prime Minister Hatoyama publicly pledged to reach the conclusion over US military base issue at Futenma before year-end. However without any explanations, he postponed the conclusion to the next year. This is not responsible behavior as a leader of Japan. At the same time, he emphasizes, as part of his ‘friendship (yuai)’ foreign principle, the increasing importance with Asian countries while proposes to reframe the US-Japan relationship. It is natural to conclude that he gives priority to Asian countries over the US. Some people may even think that his friendship foreign policy may find it difficult to cope with US military presence in Japan.

The Prime Minister should not be indifferent to history. He needs to fully acknowledge the fact that the trust and obligation with the stakeholder countries were not built over night. He is not empowered to scrap all those efforts.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ozawa's power, Hatoyama's ulterior motives lie behind Futenma delay

Ozawa's power, Hatoyama's ulterior motives lie behind Futenma delay. By Mariko Yasumoto
Japan Today, Dec 06, 2009

TOKYO — Behind Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s indecisiveness on the future of a U.S. military base in Okinawa Prefecture seems to be the firm determination of his former boss, Ichiro Ozawa, to keep a grip on parliament and even a bigger ulterior motive of the two politicians.

Hatoyama, head of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, has put on hold a decision on where to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station, as the leader of a junior partner in the coalition has threatened to leave it if the DPJ goes ahead and moves the base within the prefecture under the existing Japan-U.S. deal.

The threat by Social Democratic Party leader Mizuho Fukushima came as Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa were seeking to solve the relocation issue by the end of this year.

Hatoyama is putting more weight on maintaining power in parliament over the already soured relationship with Washington, which has pressed Japan to resolve it quickly and move the Futenma base in line with the accord.

The DPJ, which won a landslide victory in the August election for the House of Representatives, had to form a coalition with two small partners despite differences over security and foreign policies, as it needs their cooperation in the House of Councillors.

Speculation is now growing that a decision on the U.S. base issue will not be made until after next year’s upper house election, in which the DPJ is widely expected to secure a majority and it can decisively break off what appears to be an awkward coalition.

Political observers say that behind the delay is DPJ Secretary General Ozawa who is widely believed to have wielded his influence behind the scenes over the Hatoyama government since its launch in mid-September.

According to sources close to Ozawa, he has pressured the prime minister’s office and Defense Minister Kitazawa to deal with the relocation issue in a way that would not result in the collapse of the coalition.

At the upper house, the DPJ currently holds less than a majority and needs to join hands with the two parties—the SDP and the People’s New Party—to ensure smooth passage of legislation.

Eiken Itagaki, an independent political analyst who is well-versed in DPJ politics, said that Ozawa warned that the government needs to avoid what the previous Liberal Democratic Party-led government had gone through in a divided parliament.

But there is also a view among some pundits that Hatoyama simply used the coalition partner’s threat as a reason for delaying a decision, as he himself hopes to move not just the Futenma air station but also the entire U.S. military facility outside Okinawa or even outside the country and wanted to take time to find a better solution.

Since the DPJ was in the opposition camp, Hatoyama has repeatedly made comments to that effect.

‘‘I truly wonder if it is appropriate that a military of another country will continue to station in this country forever,’’ he said a few weeks after taking office in mid-September.

Kazuhiro Asano, professor in politics at Sapporo University, said should the DPJ kick the SDP out of the coalition after the election, ‘‘I don’t think Prime Minister Hatoyama will decide to move the Futenma facility to Henoko.’‘

Under the 2006 deal, Tokyo and Washington agreed to transfer the Futenma air station, which currently sits in the center of a residential area in the city of Ginowan, to the coastal area of the Henoko district in Nago, another Okinawa city, by 2014.

Hatoyama has indicated that he wants to wait and see the results of the Nago city mayoral election scheduled for January to determine the will of local voters before making any decision on the relocation.

‘‘He is looking for evidence and reasons that would help him decide to move the base outside the prefecture,’’ Asano of Sapporo University said.

Ozawa, a former DPJ chief, is also against hosting another country’s military in Japan and once advocated for the stationing of a United Nations-sponsored military for the defense of the country.

Itagaki said both Ozawa and Hatoyama are truly seeking a foreign policy stance that depends less on the United States and more on close relationships with such other countries as China and Russia, as promised in the party’s campaign pledges.

Ozawa has once expressed the view that the role of the U.S. military in Japan should be trimmed down, saying the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet based in Yokosuka would be ‘‘enough for the U.S. presence in the Far East.’‘

At the bottom of it, the foreign policy that Ozawa and Hatoyama are pursuing over a long term is not so different from that of Fukushima, chief of the pacifist, leftist SDP, the analyst said, suggesting that the DPJ may end up keeping the party in the coalition even after the upper house election.

Recently floated ideas include transferring the Futenma facility to the U.S. territory of Guam, a Japanese coastal airport or a remote island, according to several government sources.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Japan concerned at weakening of U.S. nuclear umbrella

Japan concerned at weakening of U.S. nuclear umbrella
Japan Today, Monday 14th September, 07:01 AM JST

TOKYO — Japan has expressed its reluctance to accept a proposal that urges the United States to limit the role of nuclear weapons to deterring only nuclear attacks and that seeks a no first-strike commitment in a draft report compiled by an international panel on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, panel sources said Sunday.

Japan’s representative to the International Commission on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament expressed reservations about the proposal due to concerns over a weakening of the U.S. nuclear umbrella, the sources said.

The commission, established at the initiative of Australia and Japan, aims to reinvigorate international efforts on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. It is co-chaired by former Japanese and Australian foreign ministers—Yoriko Kawaguchi and Gareth Evans.

The draft document envisages U.S. President Barack Obama working out a new nuclear doctrine before the review conference of parties to the nuclear nonproliferation treaty which is scheduled to be held next May.

It says that the ‘‘sole purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter use of nuclear weapons against the United States and its allies.’’

Japan has agreed to the principle of reducing the role of nuclear weapons but has expressed reservations not just about the specific proposal but also the suggested timetable and sequence or weapons reduction, the sources said.

Japan is arguing for Washington to maintain its broad nuclear deterrence apparently due to concerns about possible biological and chemical attacks from North Korea, they added.
An adviser to the Japanese commission member said, ‘‘From a Japanese defense perspective, there are two concerns under current security circumstances in East Asia for the time being,’’ according to the sources.

‘‘First, limiting the role of nuclear deterrence in preventing nuclear attack may give the wrong signal to North Korea or other ‘rogue states’ which may have a different strategic (escalation) calculation. To deter such threats, the credibility of nuclear deterrence would remain important.
‘‘Second, a no-first-use declaration by the United States without a reduction in threat would undermine the security of Japan, or at least it would raise the sense of uncertainty and anxiety over security.

‘‘In light of the reality that China has been rapidly catching up in air and sea power addition to the rapid modernization of its nuclear capability, no-first-use should be come after or along with the commitment of a tangible nuclear threat reduction in the region,’’ the report quoted the adviser as saying.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

How Japan Restored Its Financial System - The focus was on better risk controls, not higher capital reserves

How Japan Restored Its Financial System. By KATSUNORI NAGAYASU
The focus was on better risk controls, not higher capital reserves.
WSJ, Aug 06, 2009

Regulatory authorities around the world are currently discussing ways to prevent another financial crisis. One idea is to mandate higher levels of capital reserves. Japan’s banking reform shows that a comprehensive solution would work better.

After our bubble economy collapsed in the 1990s, it took policy makers many years to address the real issue: the health of our financial system. When they did, they injected public funds into large Japanese banks across the board, enhanced deposit insurance safety nets, and accelerated the disposal of nonperforming assets based on strict risk assessments. The market selected which banks could survive under a system of multiple regulatory requirements, not just a capital requirement. Many banks were absorbed into larger entities.

Japan also avoided moral hazard by studiously avoiding the classification of any bank as “too big to fail.” Regulators instead put more emphasis on improving banks’ risk controls and did not require them to have excess capital. The financial system soon regained its health and the economy enjoyed seven consecutive years of uninterrupted growth, starting in 2001.

Today’s regulatory dialogue in the United States and Europe has implicitly assumed that large financial institutions are “too big to fail.” This assumption may encourage banks to take excessive risks, resulting in potentially more bank bailouts. It has also skewed the regulatory debate toward a focus on requiring banks to hold higher levels of “going concern capital,” such as common equity.

This is a dangerous path to follow. If regulators mandate higher capital requirements for banks, there is no guarantee that banks will be able to raise that capital in equity markets. They may have to shrink their balance sheets to meet the requirements, potentially curtailing their capacity to lend and support economic growth. A narrowly defined approach to capital regulation would also reduce banks’ options for raising other types of capital when they need it. This could result in systemic risk when another financial crisis hits.

A better regulatory framework must combine capital regulations with other tools, including a resolution mechanism for financial institutions that fail, a retail deposit insurance system, and a prompt corrective action system that allows regulators to force a bank to take action before it fails. As long as the regulators can effectively control systemic risk by taking such a multifaceted approach, banks should also be allowed to absorb losses, raising capital other than common equity. It should be acceptable to allow banks to fail, and there should be no need for excessive capital requirements.

A new regulatory framework must also distinguish between banks whose main business is deposit taking and lending—the vast majority of banks world-wide—and banks that trade for their own account. The recent financial crisis demonstrated that balance sheet structure matters. Trusted banks with a large retail deposit base continued to provide funds to customers even in the depths of the crisis, whereas many banks that relied heavily on market funding or largely trading for their own account effectively failed. Investment banks with higher risk businesses by nature should be charged a higher level of capital requirement—otherwise, sound banking will not be rewarded.

Higher capital requirements attempt to rectify market or systemic failure by denying the market mechanism, where banks that take too much risk fail, and those that don’t, survive. Excessive regulation will stifle healthy competition in banking.

Policy makers instead should learn from Japan’s experience by improving the range of regulatory rules available and setting reasonable capital rules for banks based on their actual business models. That’s the best way to ensure banks perform their essential role at the lowest long-term cost to taxpayers, customers and shareholders.

Mr. Nagayasu is president of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ and chairman of the Japanese Bankers Association.