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[VIDEO] Trump Looks to Strengthen U.S. Trade Ties with Japan

Boston Herald Columnist, Adriana Cohen, former Bush senior campaign advisor, Mark Serrano, and Club for Growth president, David McIntosh on President Trump’s trade policies and his desire to put America first.

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Note: the above image is from Japanese social media. Original source unknown. But very typical of popular ‘kawaii’ image editing apps. See more of our Japan coverage here.

 

 

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Shinzo Abe to Propose Plan for Creating 700,000 U.S. Jobs

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe intends to propose during a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump on Feb. 10 a bilateral economic cooperation plan, including the creation of a $450 billion (¥51 trillion) market through railways and other infrastructure investments in the United States to generate 700,000 jobs, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

Trump has recently been stepping up criticism against the Japanese car market and the depreciation of the yen. Given the circumstances, Abe plans to emphasize during the upcoming talks that the bilateral cooperation will be of great advantage to the U.S. economy.

A draft for the Japan-U.S. economic cooperation plan sets forth bilateral cooperation in five fields as the “Japan-U.S. growth and employment initiative.” The five fields are: development of the world’s most advanced infrastructure in the United States; drawing on demand for infrastructure around the world; research and development of robots and artificial intelligence; collaboration in new areas such as cyber and space; and cooperation in employment and defense.

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The envisioned infrastructure development in the United States includes high-speed railway projects in the northeastern part of the country, and in Texas and California, to which Japan would provide technical cooperation and extend low-interest loans. Japan would also help replace as many as 3,000 train cars currently in use on railways and subways with new models over the next 10 years.

Japan would further cooperate in highly efficient gas-fired power generation and the latest compact nuclear power generation systems.

In the research and development field, the draft calls for cooperation between Japan, which has the edge in robot technology, and the United States, which leads the world in AI technology.

Japan and the United States will jointly develop robots to be used for inspecting aging infrastructure, decommissioning nuclear power plants, and carrying out medical diagnosis and surgery.

Read the rest of this entry »


Russian Military Buildup on Disputed Isles Clouds Resolution of Row with Tokyo

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 reports: Even though Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed their recent agreement on joint economic activities on four disputed islands off Hokkaido is a step toward resolving the territorial row, the islands’ strategic importance for Russia is likely to continue complicating the decades-old issue.

Even if the agreed economic cooperation chiefly in the Russian Far East makes headway, the strategic importance of the Russian-held islands, claimed by Japan, bodes ill for Tokyo in its efforts to regain them, especially given the advance of China in the Arctic region and Russia’s need to maintain its nuclear deterrence, according to some analysts.

Japan claims that Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai islet group are an integral part of its territory and were illegally seized by the Soviet Union after Japan’s surrender in World War II in August 1945. Russia maintains the Soviet Union took the islands legitimately as the spoils of war.

Russia has been modernizing its military on the islands, which delineate the southern edge of the Sea of Okhotsk where Russian nuclear submarines are deployed. Read the rest of this entry »


Michael Auslin: Trump’s Success or Failure Lies Partly with Asia

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In order to be successful in Asia, Trump will have to reassure allies, create common ground with potential partners, and not cede any ground to our main challengers. Doing so does not necessarily mean dramatically changing U.S. policy or suddenly forcing a crisis with China. It does, however, require having a clear policy and placing the maintenance of Asian stability at the top of U.S. policy goals.

The following is an expanded version of an essay that first appeared in the Nikkei Asian Review.

 writes: The shock from Donald Trump’s stunning upset victory will eventually wear off, but the world will continue to obsess over his planned policies as he begins to lay out his governing agenda. For the nations of the Asia-Pacific, perhaps the biggest news was Trump’s reiteration of his vow to quit the Trans-Pacific Partnership on his first day in office next January. Given the expectations that TPP would help create a new strategic architecture for America in Asia, fears once again abound that Trump will reduce America’s position in the broader Indo-Pacific region.

“Despite the longevity of these relationships, Trump will inherit an alliance system that is under strain. First, his campaign rhetoric singled out both Japan and South Korea, our two main Asian allies, for not paying enough to support the U.S. forces that are based in their countries.” 

Yet how well President-elect Trump deals with Asia will be a major factor in determining whether his presidency is a success or not. If he chooses to try and isolate America from half the world, then he may well find himself dealing with serious and unexpected crises that will shake the global economy and change the balance of power.

“He suggested that he might “walk away” from the alliances, if they do not increase their contributions. Moreover, Trump mused openly about letting both Japan and South Korea develop a nuclear weapons capability, thereby ending the decades-long U.S. policy of extended deterrence that prevented a nuclear arms race.”

Despite the attention paid by the Obama Administration to the Asia-Pacific, the regional geopolitical environment has deteriorated since 2009. China has become bolder, and has changed the balance of power in the South China Sea, at the same time that it is facing growing economic and political risk at home. North Korea continues to develop its nuclear and missile capabilities. America’s allies have become less convinced of the credibility of U.S. commitments, while other Asian nations have sought to avoid being drawn into a competition between America and China.

“Yet surprising some of his critics, just a week after winning the election, Trump met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in New York. The meeting came at Abe’s request, and after an equally important phone call with besieged South Korean president Park Geun-hye, seemed to indicate that Trump recognized the importance of close ties with America’s Asian allies. “

[Read the full story here, at AEI]

In order to be successful in Asia, Trump will have to reassure allies, create common ground with potential partners, and not cede any ground to our main challengers. Doing so does not necessarily mean dramatically changing U.S. policy or suddenly forcing a crisis with China. It does, however, require having a clear policy and placing the maintenance of Asian stability at the top of U.S. policy goals.

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Trump and US Allies

America’s postwar policy in Asia has had the overriding goal of preventing any one power from dominating the region. It has pursued this goal by maintaining an open, rules-based system that encourages trade and exchange, and creates norms of behavior that lead to greater cooperation. The primary means of ensuring the stability of that system has been the six decade-old U.S. alliance structure, often referred to as the “hub-and-spokes.” Centered on Japan (whose treaty was signed in 1960), along with South Korea (1953), Australia (1951), the Philippines (1951), and Thailand (1954), the alliance system is not merely about U.S. commitments to protect its treaty allies; rather, it has evolved over time into a way to facilitate a permanent, forward-based U.S. presence in Asia. This, in turn, has made the U.S. commitment to maintaining stability more credible than it would be otherwise. Read the rest of this entry »


China: Shinzo Abe Statue with Hitler Mustache Removed by Shenyang Mall After Japanese Consulate Complains

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The Abe wax figure was first unveiled last week along with likenesses of Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin. 

Alex Linder writes: Unfortunately, customers visiting one Shenyang shopping mall will no longer be greeted by a bowing Shinzo Abe with a Hitler mustache after the mall received complaints from the Japanese consulate in the city.

The Abe wax figure was first unveiled last week along with likenesses of Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin. Behind the kowtowing Japanese Prime Minister were Chinese characters reading: “Commemorating the September 18th Incident.”

“Confusingly, the worker added that the Hitler mustache was added intentionally to ‘make sure it didn’t entirely resemble Abe,’ and that the backdrop had nothing to do with the statues, as they had just been placed there temporarily.”

In English, this is known as the Mukden or Manchurian Incident, when a staged explosion in Shenyang (then called Mukden) provided Japan with the pretext for its invasion of Manchuria in 1931. This year was the 85th anniversary of that incident, causing some “patriotic” Chinese companies to ban their employees from buying the new iPhone 7.

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“The figures were all made by a craftsman from Dandong, Liaoning province, and displayed in order to ‘enrich the shopping experience of customers.'”

Those bans were largely ridiculed across China, as was this wax figure. Chinese netizens called the Abe-Hitler figure a “disgrace.” Read the rest of this entry »


China Paper says U.S., South Korea will ‘Pay the Price’ for Planned Missile System

BEIJING (Reuters) – The United States and South Korea are destined to “pay the price” for their decision to deploy an advanced missile defense system which will inevitably prompt a “counter attack”, China’s top newspaper said on Saturday.

“If the United States and South Korea harm the strategic security interests of countries in the region including China, then they are destined to pay the price for this and receive a proper counter attack.”

Tension on the Korean peninsula has been high this year, beginning with North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January, which was followed by a satellite launch, a string of tests of various missiles, and its fifth and largest nuclear test last month.

In July, South Korea agreed with the United States to deploy the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system to protect against any North Korean threats.

South Korea aims to deploy the system on a golf course, a defense ministry official said on Friday.

But the plan has angered China, which worries that THAAD’s powerful radar would compromise its security and do nothing to lower temperatures on the Korean peninsula.

Military parade in Pyongyang

In a commentary, the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily said China’s opposition to THAAD would never change as it was a serious threat to the regional strategic security balance.

“Like any other country, China can neither be vague nor indifferent on security matters that affect its core interests,” the newspaper said in the commentary, published under the pen name “Zhong Sheng”, meaning “Voice of China”, often used to give views on foreign policy. Read the rest of this entry »


Emperor Akihito of Japan Raises Possibility of Leaving Throne

Emperor Akihito, 82, spoke publicly for the first time about retiring, saying he feared it would become ‘more difficult’ to fulfill his duties.

Jonathan Noble reports: It has been something of an open secret in Japan that Emperor Akihito would like a privilege most people take for granted: At 82, he wants to retire. The question is whether the Japanese and their elected leaders will let him.

In an extraordinary televised address on Monday, the popular emperor spoke publicly about the issue for the first time. Though his words were characteristically vague — he discussed his age, his rigorous daily schedule and what he called his increasing physical limitations — the message was unmistakable.

“I am concerned that it will become more and more difficult for me to fulfill my duties as a symbolic emperor,” he said in a prerecorded address that lasted about 10 minutes and was broadcast on multiple Japanese television networks.

If Akihito steps down, the move could redefine Japan’s royal family, the world’s oldest hereditary monarchy. While the emperor now has only symbolic power, an abdication could also resurrect a contentious issue in Japan: the debate over allowing a woman to occupy the throne.

[Read the full story here, at The New York Times]

First reported in banner headlines by the Japanese news media in July, Akihito, who has been treated for cancer and heart problems, was said to want to retire and pass the title to his son Crown Prince Naruhito, 56. Prince Naruhito appears to share his father’s quiet temperament and wish to keep the monarchy apolitical.

But abdication is complicated because of Japanese law, which says an emperor serves until death. Parliament would have to change the law for Akihito to step down. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: 19 Dead, Dozens Injured in Stabbing Attack in Japan

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TOKYO, Japan (WCMH) — At least 19 people are dead and 20 others injured following a stabbing rampage at a facility for handicapped people outside of Tokyo, Japan.

Japanese media NHK reports the attack happened in the city of Sagamihara which is west of Tokyo.

Police say the knife-wielding man entered the facility and began attacking just after 2:30am Tokyo time. Read the rest of this entry »


Alienation Is Killing Americans and Japanese 

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Amos Zeeburg writes: The stories have become all too familiar in Japan, though people often do their best to ignore them. An elderly or middle-aged person, usually a man, is found dead, at home in his apartment, frequently right in his bed. It has been days, weeks, or even months since he has had contact with another human being. Often the discovery is made by a landlord frustrated at not receiving a rent payment or a neighbor who notices an unpleasant smell. The deceased has almost no connections with the world around him: no job, no relationships with neighbors, no spouse or children who care to be in contact. He has little desire to take care of his home, his relationships, his health. “The majority of lonely deaths are people who are kind of messy,” Taichi Yoshida, who runs a moving company that often cleans out apartments where people are discovered long after they die, told Time magazine. “It’s the person who, when they take something out, they don’t put it back; when something breaks, they don’t fix it; when a relationship falls apart, they don’t repair it.”

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The death rate for U.S. whites (USW), U.S. Hispanics (USH), and six comparison countries (France, Germany, UK, Canada, Australia, Sweden) since 1990.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

These lonely deaths are called kodokushi. Each one passes without much notice, but the phenomenon is frequent enough to be widely known. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare reported there were 3,700 “unaccompanied deaths” in Japan in 2013, but some researchers estimate that because of significant under-counting, the true figure is closer to 30,000. In any case, the frequency of kodokushi has been on the rise since they emerged in the 1980s.

[Read the full story here, at Nautilus]

The increase seems to be associated with deep social changes in the country, particularly the breakdown of the traditional multigenerational Japanese family. In 1960, about 80 percent of elderly Japanese lived with a child; since then that number has split in half. Read the rest of this entry »


OH YES THEY DID: China Cranks Up Incursions Around Disputed Senkaku Islands

Haijing 31239 is the first armed Chinese ship to approach the disputed islands

China has stepped up its incursions around the disputed Senkaku or Diaoyu islands in what Japanese officials claim is a new attempt at changing the status quo in the East China Sea.

Noting a marked shift in China’s behaviour around the islands since last December, a Japanese foreign ministry official said: “The situation in the East China Sea is getting worse.”

The incursions threaten an improving relationship between the two nations since Chinese president Xi Jinping and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe shook hands in November 2014.

Tension over the group of five uninhabited islands and three barren rocks mounted in September 2012, when the Japanese government — which has administered the islands since 1895 — bought them from a private owner.

Japanese officials fear Beijing is using the shift in international attention towards the South China Sea — where China has been constructing artificial islands — to mount a new push in the waters further north.

Tokyo has formally protested the Chinese actions, which it calls a “forceful, coercive attempt to change the status quo”, but has so far avoided any escalation with countermeasures of its own.

In late December, China sailed an armed vessel into territorial waters around the disputed islands for the first time.

Sailing with three other Chinese vessels, a former naval frigate converted for coastguard use but carrying four quick-firing 37mm cannon, entered the 24 nautical mile “contiguous zone” around the islands for the first time on December 22, and the 12 nautical mile territorial waters on December 26. Read the rest of this entry »


Japanese Journalist Held Hostage in Syria 

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The Japanese government is seeking information after reports a Japanese freelance journalist is being held hostage in Syria and has been threatened with execution, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Thursday.

“Given the nature of the matter, I would like to refrain from commenting on details.”

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said this week it had received information that an armed group holding journalist Yasuda Jumpei hostage had started a countdown for an unspecified ransom to be paid and had threatened to execute or sell him to another group if their demands were not met.

“The safety of our citizens is an important responsibility of the government, so we are making every effort and making full use of various information networks.”

— Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga

RSF said in a statement on its website that Yasuda was kidnapped in July by an armed group in an area controlled by the militant Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s Syria wing, shortly after entering Syria earlier that month.

It urged the Japanese government to do what was needed to save Yasuda. Suga said the Japanese government knew of the case but was not aware of any fresh developments.

“Given the nature of the matter, I would like to refrain from commenting on details,” he told a regular news conference. Read the rest of this entry »


Explosion Hits Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine

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Yasukuni is widely seen as a symbol of the country’s militarism before and during World War II. Among the 2.4 million war dead enshrined are 14 convicted class-A war criminals.

TOKYO— Mitsuru Obe reports: An explosion at the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo may have been politically motivated, police said.

“Many Japanese on the political left warn about a return of that militarism, and there was widespread anger at the Abe government’s passage in September of legislation expanding the overseas role of the country’s military.”

No one was injured in the blast, which came at 10 a.m. local time Monday, a national holiday in Japan, just before a ceremony in celebration of the autumn harvest.

“The bills, which cast off restrictions that had been in place since the end of World War II, prompted months of street protests and scuffles in parliament.”

It left the walls of a bathroom burned and a small hole in the ceiling, according to local media, which reported investigators found batteries and wire at the scene.

Yasukuni is widely seen—including by some people in Japan—as a symbol of the country’s militarism before and during World War II. Among the 2.4 million war dead enshrined are 14 convicted class-A war criminals. Read the rest of this entry »


The Price of Free Speech in Japan

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Koji Murata was dismissed Friday as president of a prestigious Japanese university for supporting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policies. Photo: Kyodo

Michael Auslin writes: It’s not just American university campuses that are being roiled by clashes over the limits of free speech. At one of Japan’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning, no less than the president himself has just been dismissed by his academic colleagues for publicly supporting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The dispute taps into a deeper national debate over Japan’s future.

“Japan’s academics are known to be a largely liberal lot, but the concerns over free speech in the Murata case reflect Japan’s larger problems. At root, it’s about how the country will face both its past and its future.”

A favorite claim of liberal academics and activists is that Japan remains one of the most conservative societies. In recent years, their invective has been directed toward Mr. Abe, who is charged with repressing and intimidating liberal views. Media outlets argue that they have been pressured, and academics warn that government forces are trying to stifle debate about the country’s wartime past.

Yet punishing free speech in Japan is no prerogative of the right. Last week, the president of the prestigious liberal-arts college Doshisha failed to be re-elected due to his support earlier this year of Mr. Abe’s controversial security legislation to relax post-World War II restrictions on the use of the military.

Koji Murata is a well-known and respected academic and public intellectual in Japan. A fixture on news shows, the nattily dressed Mr. Murata is also an expert on foreign policy and security. In July, he was one of several experts testifying in front of Japan’s Parliament in favor of Mr. Abe’s security bills, which would modestly expand Japan’s ability to conduct military operations abroad. Read the rest of this entry »


50 Ways 10 Ways 5 Ways Japan Could Use Its Restricted Military Under New Law

After Japan’s defeat in World War II, its new constitution banned it from going to war or deploying military forces except for self-defense. Now Japan’s parliament is expected to pass legislation as early as Thursday night to allow troops to support allies fighting in a war, even if the conflict is beyond Japan’s borders. Here are five ways Japan’s Self-Defense Forces would change….(read more)

Source: WSJ


Key Paragraphs from the #AbeWarStatement

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Hey Japan, Have You Apologized Enough Yet?

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A scene at a Tokyo courthouse last month showed why Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has had to work all year on a statement marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. As WSJ’s Henry Hoenig reports:

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Dozens of people stood in the heat, hoping to win a lottery for a seat to hear two of Japan’s most renowned historians debate, as part of a libel suit, whether the term “sex slaves” accurately described the women in Japan’s World War II military brothels.

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On your knees, descendant of Imperialist dogs!

[Read more at Japan Realtime Report]

That the subject still draws a crowd after seven decades shows how divided the country still is—and helps to explain why Japan’s statements about the war have swung back and forth over the years, to the annoyance of its neighbors. Read the rest of this entry »


China Restricts Exports of Drones, Supercomputers

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China has been strengthening its control over its technology industry, as it seeks to avoid infiltration by foreign spies and build up globally competitive tech companies.

Eva Dou reports: China is curbing its exports of advanced drones and supercomputers, in the country’s latest move to tighten control over technologies linked to national security.

Starting in mid-August, Chinese makers of super-powerful drones and some advanced computers will have to obtain an export license, according to a statement from China’s Ministry of Commerce and the General Administration of Customs on Friday.

Computers will require an export license if they exceed 8 “teraflops” – which means they can process more than 8 trillion calculations a second, roughly equivalent to the processing power of 33 Xbox 360s.

China has been strengthening its control over its technology industry, as it seeks to avoid infiltration by foreign spies and build up globally competitive tech companies.

Read the full story here, at China Real Time Report – WSJ]

China’s drones have also caused political incidents in recent months, after unmanned aircraft sold by Shenzhen-based SZ DJI Technology Co. were flown onto the roof of the office of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the grounds of the White House in Washington. Tensions flared between Pakistan and India last month after Pakistan’s military shot down an Indian “spy drone” in the disputed region of Kashmir that appeared from pictures to be made by DJI. Read the rest of this entry »


With a Few Words, Japan Escalates Its Standoff With China in the South China Sea

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Japan isn’t the only one pushing back against China’s expansion in the region.

Jennifer Peters reports: Japan has put its foot down — at least in writing — over China’s attempts to assert greater control of the South China Sea.

In an outline of a defense white paper due to be released at the end of July, Japan calls China’s efforts to lay claim to the much-disputed Spratly Islands “high handed.” The diplomatically sharp words come in the wake of China’s reclamation efforts of the islands, which have included laying the foundations of a military base on Fiery Cross Reef at the western edge of a part of the South China Sea fittingly named Dangerous Ground.

“The Chinese take kind of a Leninist approach to these things,” Currie said. “They probe with the bayonet until they hit steel, and then they’ll stop. When they start to see that people are serious about pushing back, then they will back off a bit.”

Over the past year and a half, China has built up seven reefs in the region, adding 800 hectares — about three square miles — to islands and putting an airstrip and the beginnings of the base on Fiery Cross Reef. China has claimed that its structures in the South China Sea are for civilian purposes — or at most for a defensive military role — and would benefit other countries. But Japan’s fight with China over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea has seemingly left them wary of Beijing’s intentions.

A Japanese patrol plane, pictured in 2011, flying over the disputed islands in the East China Sea.

A Japanese patrol plane flying over the disputed islands in the East China Sea. Japan Pool, via Jiji Press

“The US plays a unique role, because it’s not an Asian nation, as a relatively distant and disinterested outsider there. The interest we have is not territorial, it’s not to benefit ourselves in any way other than maintaining this open trade order that we benefit from economically, but not in any of the traditional ways that usually cause war.”

Japan’s decision to act on this wariness so stridently, however, is a recent phenomenon. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been pushing for legislation that would allow Japan to participate in collective self-defense for the first time since World War II.

[Related: China Goes on the Offensive in the South China Sea]

“[This is] a shift that’s been coming,” Kelley Currie, a senior fellow with the Project 2049 Institute, told VICE News. “The language is definitely stronger, and the whole effort around reinterpretation to the self-defense constitution has been a response to the multi-year trend of the Chinese being more aggressive and pushing their military advantage in the region.”

Japan's Self-Defense Force honor guards prepare for a welcoming ceremony of new Defence Minister Gen Nakatani in Tokyo on December 25, 2014. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised December 24 at the start of his new term to revive Japan's economy so he can pursue "powerful diplomacy", but China's state media warned him to be wary about changing the pacifist constitution.  AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI        (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)

China’s state media warned Abe to be wary about changing the pacifist constitution. AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI 

“China is actually very worried about Japan and how far Japan might go.”

— Michael Auslin, resident scholar and director of Japan Studies for the American Enterprise Institute

Japan isn’t the only one pushing back against China’s expansion in the region. The Philippines is taking China to court over territorial claims to the South China Sea, with top Filipino officials appearing at The Hague to argue their case before a United Nations arbitral tribunal. China has called it a “political provocation.”

[Read the full text here, at VICE News]

“The Chinese take kind of a Leninist approach to these things,” Currie said. “They probe with the bayonet until they hit steel, and then they’ll stop. When they start to see that people are serious about pushing back, then they will back off a bit.”

Other than the United States, Japan is the only nation that can truly challenge China in the region militarily. Read the rest of this entry »


Japan’s Peaceful Self-Defense

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Shinzo Abe moved closer Thursday to securing passage of legislation that will allow Japan to participate in collective self-defense. After seven decades of sheltering under the U.S. security umbrella, the Prime Minister’s move would give Tokyo the ability to fight alongside an ally when either one is threatened, while protecting stability and democracy in East Asia.

The Cabinet adopted a new interpretation of Japan’s postwar Constitution last July allowing this cooperation. In April the U.S. and Japan announced new defense guidelines to put it into practice. On Thursday the lower house of the Diet approved the plan, and now the legislation moves to the upper house.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

Progress hasn’t come easily. Most Japanese oppose the plan, and according to an Asahi poll, Mr. Abe’s approval rating has fallen sharply to 39%. There have been tussles on the Diet floor and raucous protests outside it. Mr. Abe will need the support of coalition partners with pacifist tendencies to prevail in the upper house, though he could still overcome a defeat there with a two-thirds majority in the lower one. Read the rest of this entry »


Breaking with the Past, Japan Moves to Allow Military Combat for First Time in 70 Years

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Mr. Abe has presented the package as an unavoidable response to new threats facing Japan, in particular the growing military power of China. He seized on the murder of two Japanese hostages by the Islamic State militant group in January as an example of why Japan needs to loosen restrictions on its military.

TOKYO — Jonathan Soble reports: Defying broad public opposition and large demonstrations, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won a crucial vote in Parliament on Thursday for legislation that would give Japan’s military limited powers to fight in foreign conflicts for the first time since World War II.

“The vote was the culmination of months of contentious debate in a society that has long embraced pacifism to atone for wartime aggression.”

Mr. Abe’s party and its allies in the lower house of Parliament approved the package of 11 security-related bills after opposition lawmakers walked out in protest and as demonstrators chanted noisily outside, despite a gathering typhoon. The upper chamber, which Mr. Abe’s coalition also controls, is all but certain to endorse the legislation as well.

“These laws are absolutely necessary because the security situation surrounding Japan is growing more severe.”

— Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

The vote was the culmination of months of contentious debate in a society that has long embraced pacifism to atone for wartime aggression. It was a significant victory for Mr. Abe, a conservative politician who has devoted his career to moving Japan beyond guilt over its militarist past and toward his vision of a “normal country” with a larger role in global affairs.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Parliament on Thursday. He has championed legislation that would giving the Japanese military limited powers to fight overseas. Credit Franck Robichon/European Pressphoto Agency

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Parliament on Thursday. He has championed legislation that would giving the Japanese military limited powers to fight overseas. Credit Franck Robichon/European Pressphoto Agency

“Critics, including a majority of Japanese constitutional specialists, say it violates the country’s postwar charter, which renounces war. But the legislation is supported by the United States, Japan’s wartime foe turned ally and protector, which has welcomed a larger role for Tokyo in regional security as a counterweight to a more assertive China.”

Mr. Abe has pressed this agenda, though, against the wishes of much of the Japanese public, and his moves have generated unease across Asia, especially in countries it once occupied and where its troops committed atrocities. Final passage of the bills would represent a break from the strictly defensive stance maintained by the Japanese military in the decades since the war.

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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying

“We solemnly urge the Japanese side to draw hard lessons from history, stick to the path of peaceful development, respect the major security concerns of its Asian neighbors, and refrain from jeopardizing China’s sovereignty and security interests or crippling regional peace and stability.”

— Hua Chunying, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, condemning the package

Critics, including a majority of Japanese constitutional specialists, say it violates the country’s postwar charter, which renounces war. But the legislation is supported by the United States, Japan’s wartime foe turned ally and protector, which has welcomed a larger role for Tokyo in regional security as a counterweight to a more assertive China.

Mr. Abe has spent considerable political capital pushing the bills through. Voters oppose them by a ratio of roughly two to one, according to numerous surveys, and the government’s support ratings, which were once high, fell to around 40 percent in several polls taken this month.

[Read the full text here, at The New York Times]

Mr. Abe has presented the package as an unavoidable response to new threats facing Japan, in particular the growing military power of China. He seized on the murder of two Japanese hostages by the Islamic State militant group in January as an example of why Japan needs to loosen restrictions on its military, suggesting that the military might have rescued them if it had been free to act. Read the rest of this entry »


Japan: Thousands Rally in Tokyo Against Abe’s Security Bills

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Thousands of Japanese rallied Sunday in protest at plans by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to bolster the role and scope of the pacifist nation’s military

The protest which surrounded the Diet building was held as the nationalist premier tries to force through parliament a set of controversial bills making the changes.

国会で審議が進められている安全保障関連法案に反対する抗議集会が行われ、主催者発表­で約2万5000人の人が国会周辺を取り囲みました。

The bills are a pet project of Abe, who says Japan can no longer shy away from its responsibility to help safeguard regional stability, and must step out from under the security umbrella provided by the United States.

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The draft legislation would broaden the remit of Japan’s well-equipped and well-trained armed forces.

It would allow them to go into battle to protect allies-so-called “collective defense“-something which is banned by a strict reading of Japan’s pacifist constitution. Read the rest of this entry »


Shinzō Abe Protest in L.A.: People Who Weren’t Wronged Demand Apology from Person Not Responsible for Wrongdoing


Unlikely Headline of the Day: ‘Abe Visits Lincoln Memorial’

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Japan Today


ゴジラ!Godzilla Resurrected as Kabukicho Tourism Ambassador

Godzilla

The Yomiuri Shimbun reports: Godzilla is playing a leading role again — this time as a tourist attraction in the Kabukicho district of Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, where the monster is working to resurrect the area’s reputation as a film hub.

“The 12-meter-high Godzilla head is a centerpiece of the building. The sculpture is installed 52 meters above ground level — matching the height of the original monster that appeared in the first film in 1954.”

The 30-story Shinjuku Toho building opened Friday in Kabukicho on the site of the former Shinjuku Koma Stadium theater. Thanks to the installation of a colossal sculpture of Godzilla’s head, the monster himself appears to be hovering over a terrace on the eighth floor. The new building houses a fancy movie theater and a hotel with rooms from which Godzilla can be observed close-up.

Kabukicho shopkeepers, restaurant owners and other business operators expect the new building to help reinvigorate the district as a center for cinema lovers. “We’ll do our best to make Kabukicho a safe, secure place,” said Mototsugu Katagiri, the 66-year-old head of the district’s commerce association, at a dedication ceremony Thursday.

The Yomiuri ShimbunAn aerial photograph of the Shinjuku Toho building constructed on the site of the former Shinjuku Koma Stadium theater

The Yomiuri Shimbun – An aerial photograph of the Shinjuku Toho building constructed on the site of the former Shinjuku Koma Stadium theater

Kabukicho was formerly home to more than a dozen movie theaters, but that number has dwindled as fewer people have been going to the cinema. Shinjuku Milano Theater was shuttered at the end of last year, leaving the district without a single movie house.

The Shinjuku Toho building was constructed on the site of the former Shinjuku Koma Stadium theater, which closed in 2008. The new facility features a hotel and a movie complex.

With 12 screens and 2,347 seats, Toho Cinemas Shinjuku occupies the third to sixth floors. The theater features deluxe seats equipped with marble tray tables and power recliners. Read the rest of this entry »


Japan is Paying to Have Japanese-Language Nonfiction Books Translated into English

JBOOKS

Government opens another front in public relations battle with China, South Korea

TOKYO— Peter Landers writes: Japan’s government is paying to have Japanese-language nonfiction books translated into English, with the first works to be produced under the program arriving in American libraries this month.

“Japan is among the top nations in the world in terms of books published, but unfortunately, they’re just published in Japanese. If they were known around the world, there are a lot of books that people would find really interesting.”

The move is one of several nontraditional public-relations steps by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration, which is trying to enhance Japan’s profile among U.S. opinion leaders and the general public as it engages in a public relations battle with China and South Korea.

“Some efforts have been overtly political. South Korea has created a website in seven languages to make its case that two islets claimed by both Tokyo and Seoul rightly belong to South Korea, and last year sponsored an exhibit in France on forced prostitution by the Japanese military during World War II.”

Japan’s foreign ministry has boosted its public diplomacy budget. Measures include spending $5 million to fund a professorship in Japanese politics and foreign policy at Columbia University. Another program, begun last year, sends Japanese people from various walks of life to places like Lawrence, Kan., and Lexington, Ky., to talk about life in Japan.

The books translated into English with Japanese government funds will carry the imprint “Japan Library” and be published by the government itself—a different approach from that of some other nations that subsidize private translations. Read the rest of this entry »


Want Your City State to Become a Capitalist Success Story? Ban Spitting

Photo dated 19 December 1984 shows senior Chinese

It may be hard to measure just how much Singapore’s famed spitting crackdown helped – but it certainly didn’t hurt.

The governing philosophy of Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew contained multitudes: a belief in the enriching power of the free market; a development agenda implemented by a strong central government at the expense of personal freedoms. Alongside these well-known themes, however, there was also this: absolutely never, under any circumstances, would there be public spitting in the Lion City.

“Many of the biggest admirers of Singapore’s rise have since followed in its footsteps and stepped up anti-spitting measures. In 2003, in the wake of the regional SARS outbreak, Hong Kong announced a “no-tolerance” policy, tripling the penalty for spitting to $300.”

In Singapore, anyone caught expectorating can be hit with a hefty fine of up to $1,000 and $5,000 for repeat offenders. That law is part of a raft of legislation that Lee put in place — on gum chewing, bird feeding, and flushing public toilets — that 51z84gsE3EL._SL250_reached deep into citizens’ daily lives and that remain a part of Singapore’s legal code today.

[Order Lee Kuan Yew’s book “From Third World to First: The Singapore Story – 1965-2000” from Amazon.com]

Lee’s strictures on spitting were designed to curb a habit fairly thoroughly ingrained in traditional Chinese culture. Here, for example, Deng Xiaoping meets with Margaret Thatcher with a spittoon in the foreground. The Chinese reformer was a lifelong spitter.

In the West, Singapore’s laws on personal behavior are seen as quirky eccentricities at best (that happen to be great listicle fodder: “If You Think the Soda Ban Is Bad, Check Out all the Things That Are Illegal In Singapore”) and the mark of an invasive nanny state at worst. These laws, however, are rarely considered as a component of Singapore’s much admired economic growth – but maybe they should be.

“The Shenzhen ban comes at a time when the politics of spitting as a dividing line between the ‘civilized’ and ‘uncivilized’ world have grown increasingly fraught, given the growing clout of mainland China, a country of rampant spitters.”

Spitting has long been against the law in Singapore, a vestige from the days when, as the New York Times put it in 2003, “British colonialists tried in vain to quell what the port’s Chinese immigrants once considered as natural as breathing.” The city-state didn’t begin enforcing laws on the behavior until 1984. But when Singapore did decide to crack down, it meant it: The government fined 128 people for spitting that first year and another 139 in 1985. Read the rest of this entry »


Japanese Government Working to Verify Islamic State Beheading Video

upi_ABE-PALESTINE

TOKYO, Jan. 24 (UPI) — Japanese leaders are meeting to determine the authenticity of a video that purportedly shows Islamic State hostage Kenji Goto holding a photo of fellow hostage Haruna Yukawa after being beheaded.

“I am Kenji Goto Jogo. You have seen the photo of my cellmate Haruna slaughtered in the land of the Islamic Caliphate. You were warned. You were given a deadline and so my captives acted upon their words.”

— Islamic State hostage Kenji Goto

The video shows a still image of Goto, a Japanese freelance journalist, holding the photo and a man’s voice claiming to be Goto blaming Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for the death. The man said the IS no longer wants a $200 million ransom, but instead the release of Sajedah Rishawi, an alleged suicide bomber who is believed to have participated in a 2005 attack in Jordan.

hostage-goto

“I am Kenji Goto Jogo,” Goto said. “You have seen the photo of my cellmate Haruna slaughtered in the land of the Islamic Caliphate. You were warned. You were given a deadline and so my captives acted upon their words.” Read the rest of this entry »


Did Japan Botch ISIS Hostage Deal?

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The country’s ISIS hostage crisis is a tragedy—one that its government helped to create. Is the Abe administration more concerned with saving face than saving lives?

TOKYO — Jake Adelstein writes: ISIS says it will kill two Japanese hostages if the Japanese government fails to pay a $200 million ransom  by 12:50 a.m. ET Friday. But The Daily Beast has learned that the current crisis might have been averted last year if the Japanese government had not interfered in negotiations to save the first hostage captured by the terrorist group. Indeed, even now Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration seems more interested in saving face than saving lives.ISIS, which has already executed thousands of Iraqis and Syrians, as well as international aid workers and reporters, captured Haruna Yukawa, the founder of a private security company, in northern Syria in August 2014. The next month, the group asked Japanese journalist Kosuke Tsuneoka to mediate the trial it was planning to stage against Yukawa, 42, whom it suspected of being a spy.japanese-hostages

Tsuneoka, who was held hostage in 2010 in Afghanistan and is one of the few Japanese journalists with a pipeline to ISIS, told The Daily Beast last year that the group invited him and Japanese Muslim scholar Hassan Ko Nakata to follow the trial as an Arabic translator.

“There has been some speculation in Japan that the government’s inaction leading up to the release of the hostage video was an attempt to deepen the country’s involvement in the fight against ISIS and justify its remilitarization. Since last year, Abe and his Cabinet have been pushing for a reinterpretation of Japan’s pacifist constitution under the guise of ‘collective self-defense’ that would allow Japan to go to war with its allies…”

But Tsuneoka said he and Nakata were not allowed to travel to Syria to try to negotiate Yukawa’s release after the police raided their homes on October 6, a day before their planned departure, and seized their passports. Tsuneoka was detained for questioning for 24 hours but was not arrested.

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“…They also have announced intentions to abolish Article 9, the Japanese constitutional clause that forsakes warfare. These moves have met with widespread opposition among the Japanese but have been downplayed in Japan’s increasingly compliant media.”

Police sources said the raid stemmed from an ongoing police investigation into Tsuneoka’s involvement with a student who may have been attempting to join ISIS. Tsuneoka and the student are under suspicion of violating the rarely enforced Article 93 of Japan’s criminal code, which prohibits “preparing or plotting to wage war privately upon a foreign state”; if arrested, tried, and convicted, the two could face up to five years in prison. Tsuneoka has denied the allegations, though he acknowledges buying an airplane ticket for the student, who had no credit card.

“Now a backlash against the government’s handling of the crisis is growing, with thousands of people tweeting, with some sarcasm, that the prime minister should give himself up to ISIS in exchange for Goto.”

The day after the raid, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that Japan would take measures to “curb extremists.” Japanese nationals would be barred from traveling to Syria, Iraq, or other countries in pursuit of terrorist acts and from offering financial resources to terrorists and extremist groups, in line with domestic law. Read the rest of this entry »


Islamic State Militant Extremist Thugs Threaten to Execute Japanese Hostages

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LONDON — A video posted online on Tuesday, purportedly by the Islamic State extremist group, depicted a black-clad militant with a knife threatening to kill two Japanese hostages within 72 hours unless the government in Tokyo paid a ransom of $200 million.

“To the Japanese public, just as how your government has made the foolish decision to pay 200 million to fight the Islamic State, you now have 72 hours to pressure your government in making a wise decision by paying the 200 million to save the lives of your citizens.”

— Masked Islamic State Militant

The video, which could not immediately be verified independently, showed two men, identified as Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa, kneeling on a rocky hillside, with the masked militant standing between them.

“Using human lives as a shield to make threats is an unforgivable terrorist act, and I am extremely indignant. I strongly demand that they be released unharmed immediately.”

— Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan

The militant linked the ransom demand to a Japanese offer of assistance to enemies of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, which controls a large amount of territory stretching from Syria into Iraq. The group says it is seeking to establish an Islamic caliphate and has previously shown videos of the beheading of two Americans, James Foley and Steven J. Sotloff, and two Britons, David Cawthorne Haines and Alan Henning.

From the Japan Times:

In an online video released Tuesday, the Islamic State group threatened to kill two Japanese citizens unless Tokyo pays a ransom of $200 million within 72 hours.

The hostage crisis developed as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was on the final leg of a six-day tour to the Middle East to pledge $200 million in non-military aid to countries in the region.

Abe vowed to save the men…(read more)

“To the Japanese public, just as how your government has made the foolish decision to pay 200 million to fight the Islamic State, you now have 72 hours to pressure your government in making a wise decision by paying the 200 million to save the lives of your citizens,” the masked man said in the video, speaking with what sounded like a British accent. “Otherwise this knife will become your nightmare.”

The masked man, whose voice, manner and attire resembled those of a person who appeared in earlier videos showing beheadings, did not specify a currency, but a subtitle in Arabic identified it as dollars.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a conference in Jerusalem, Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015. Abe is on his six-day visit to the Middle East. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a conference in Jerusalem, Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015. Abe is on his six-day visit to the Middle East. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan made the promise of nonmilitary assistance to foes of the Islamic State on Saturday during a visit to Cairo on a Middle East tour.

The hostages in the video wore orange jumpsuits, the attire of many of the group’s captives in previous videos. The threat thrust Japan into the sort of high-profile hostage dilemma that has vexed the United States and Britain, which both say they refuse to pay ransoms. Read the rest of this entry »


Japan AIDS Prevention Squeeze-A-Thon Charity Event: ‘I Never Thought My Boobs Could Contribute to Society’

BOOB-AID

 Japanese porn stars to have boobs squeezed for AIDS research

A Group of Japanese porn actresses are preparing to have their breasts squeezed by fans for 24 hours this weekend for a charity event loosely translated as “Boob Aid”

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“But I would be very happy if you would please be delicate.”

The nine adult movie stars told local media on Monday they could barely contain their excitement about the “Stop! AIDS” campaign event — which will be televised live — but asked, perhaps somewhat optimistically: please be gentle.

.Screen-Shot-boobaid

“I’m really looking forward to lots of people fondling my boobs,” Rina Serina told Tokyo Sports.

The event, the 12th since its launch in 2003, will be broadcast on adult cable television, with punters donating to the anti-AIDS campaign in exchange for a feel.

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It comes after sexist heckling of a Tokyo assemblywoman hit the headlines, highlighting old-fashioned views towards women that still permeate Japanese societyDonate-AIDS.

Fellow porn actress Iku Sakuragi had no qualms about being groped by hundreds of pairs of hands.

“It’s for charity.”

“I never thought my boobs could contribute to society,” added the ponytailed Serina, apparently unaware of any contradiction.

“Squeeze them, donate money — let’s be happy.”

Lawmakers from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling party sparked a public outcry in June when they subjected Tokyo assemblywoman Ayaka Shiomura to sexist taunts, shouting “Why don’t you get married?” at her during a debate on motherhood. Read the rest of this entry »


Tokyo: Japanese Man Sets Self on Fire In Protest Over Military Rule Change

man-on-fire-tokyo

BBC News reports: A man set himself on fire in central Tokyo in protest at a proposed law which could allow Japan to deploy its military overseas.

“He was sitting cross-legged and was just talking, so I thought it would end without incident. Then all of a sudden his body was enveloped in fire.”

The man was taken to hospital after being hosed down but his condition was not immediately known, officials said.

Japan’s government could make the change to its pacifist constitution as early as next Tuesday.

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Mr Abe has said Japan must change to adapt to a new security environment

The US-drafted constitution bans war and “the threat or use of force” to settle international disputes.

Witnesses said the middle-aged man, wearing a suit and tie, climbed onto a pedestrian bridge at Tokyo’s Shinjuku station.

“He was sitting cross-legged and was just talking, so I thought it would end without incident,” one eyewitness told Reuters. “Then all of a sudden his body was enveloped in fire.”

Reports said the man used a megaphone to shout for over an hour about the change to Japan’s constitution. Read the rest of this entry »


Here’s why China is Intentionally Provoking its Asian Neighbors and the U.S.


Japan Split Over Revision to Pacifist Constitution

In this Thursday, May 1, 2014, guests and audience stand as they listen to the Japanese national anthem at a meeting of a pro-constitution amendment group in Tokyo. Japan is marking the 67th anniversary of its postwar constitution on May 3, 2014 with growing debate over whether to revise the war-renouncing document. Prime Minister Shinzo Abeís ruling conservative party has long advocated revision but been unable to sway public opinion. Now he proposes that the government reinterpret the constitution so it can loosen the reins on its military without having to win approval for constitutional change. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

TOKYO (AP) — Japan marked the 67th anniversary of its postwar constitution Saturday with growing debate over whether to revise the war-renouncing charter in line with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for an expanded role for the military.

The ruling conservative party has long advocated revision but been unable to sway public opinion. Now Abe is proposing that the government reinterpret the constitution to give the military more prominence without having to win public approval for the revisions.

His push, backed by the U.S. which wants Japan to bear a greater burden of its own defense, has upset the liberals who see it as undermining the constitution and democratic processes.

Hundreds of people gathered at a Tokyo rally commemorating Constitution Day, a national holiday.

Japan’s pacifist charter is at stake, organizer Ken Takada said: “We citizens must stand up, take action and raise our voice to stop Abe, or this country could return to a Japan that wages war with Asia as it has done before.”

Written under U.S. direction after World War II, the 1947 constitution says the Japanese people “forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation” and that “land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.”

That ban has been relaxed over the years, with U.S. encouragement as the Cold War unfolded and America sought allies in Asia, allowing Japan to have a military to defend itself, dubbed a Self-Defense Force. Read the rest of this entry »


Pacific Pivot: U.S.- Japan Relations and Obama’s Visit to Japan

For The Diplomat, Yo-Jung Chen writes: U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Japan, which begins today, has been the subject of both excitement and anxiety.

thediplomatFor the optimists, the first state visit to Japan by a U.S. president since Bill Clinton in 1996, will serve to reaffirm the strength of the U.S.-Japan alliance as well as of Japan’s cherished privilege of being America’s best friend in Asia, especially in the context of an increasingly volatile geopolitical situation in this region.

For the less optimistic observers, the mere fact that the strength of the alliance needs to be reaffirmed is in itself a worrying indication, given the unmistakable signs of glitches and cracks that have begun to appear. The unprecedented difficulty Japan had getting Obama to agree to a stopover in Tokyo during this tour of Asia is cited as a telltale sign of the unease that is beginning to permeate bilateral ties.

Shifting Alliances in Asia

Obama comes to Asia with a vital mission of reassuring both allies and adversaries of Uncle Sam’s commitment to maintaining order in this part of the world. That will not be easy, since recent crises in Libya, Syria and Ukraine have only demonstrated how weary America has become of flexing its muscles – even when challenged. And in Asia especially, U.S. resolve is constantly being tested and challenged by China and North Korea.

Be it in Northeast or Southeast Asia, Obama will be met with growing doubt over America’s commitment. This has led several countries to start reshuffling the cards of existing alliances. America itself, while asking its allies to beef up their defense against China, is at the same time seeking Beijing’s cooperation in managing major international issues. South Korea, a traditional U.S. ally, is drawing closer to China in a move that, viewed from Washington, could threaten the solidarity of the U.S.-Korea-Japan alliance, especially when this Sino-South Korean rapprochement is being partly fuelled by their shared anger at revisionist Japan. North Korea, too, has thrown out its traditional alliance with China and has shown signs of warming to Japan in what may jeopardize the outcome of the Chinese-led Six Party Talks over the North Korean nuclear issue. Meanwhile, the Ukraine crisis has raised the possibility of a strategic rapprochement between Russia and China in the developing context of a new Cold War. Taking an ambiguous stand on the Ukraine crisis, China will thus be able to play the “Russian card” to bargain for more U.S. concessions in the management of Asian affairs, for example in its simmering territorial feud with Japan. Read the rest of this entry »


Japan Sets Sights on Strengthening South China Sea Surveillance

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Members of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces during a drill

TOKYO — Jonathan Soble writes:  For years, the sole armed force protecting Japan’s westernmost inhabited territory – the sleepy island of Yonaguni, population 1,500 – has been two police officers.

That will soon change: a new military radar base is to be completed on the island in two years’ time, guarded by 100 members of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, a development that has divided islanders while underscoring Tokyo’s increasingly tough-minded security policy.

On Saturday, Itsuki Onodera, defence minister, will travel to the island, which lies 2,000 miles southwest of Tokyo and a stone’s throw from Taiwan, to break ground on the base. When it is completed in 2016, its radar will give Japan a clearer view of Chinese ship and aircraft movements in the South China Sea, including around islands whose ownership is disputed by Tokyo and Beijing.

“We are determined to protect Yonaguni, which is part of the precious territory of Japan,” Mr Onodera told reporters this week, saying the SDF deployment belonged to a broader effort to “strengthen surveillance of the southwestern region”.

That effort has been under way for several years, as Japanese military planners shift their focus away from their cold war adversary Russia – just off Japan’s far north – to China, which has been rapidly modernising its military and challenging Japanese control of the disputed islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Daioyu in China.

Read the rest of this entry »


Japan Officially Enters Cold War with China and Korea

Japan's Largest Warship

Japan’s Largest Warship

Michael Auslin writes:  Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe (pronounced “Ah-bay”) has just visited Yasukuni Shrine, Ground Zero for political controversy with China and Seoul. In doing so, he has all but acknowledged that a cold war exists between Japan and its northeast-Asian neighbors China and South Korea. It’s a shot across the bow of both countries, boldly, perhaps recklessly, announcing that Japan will no longer seek better relations on their terms. Nor does he have the support of the United States. Abe is putting Japan on a path of increasing diplomatic self-reliance, but doing so with the belief that it is the right response to continued tensions with Beijing and Seoul. That it will inflame those tensions, he is well aware.

North Korean Military

North Korean Military

Yasukuni Shrine is somewhat analogous to Arlington National Cemetery, being the religious site where the spirits of Japan’s war dead since 1867 are commemorated. Founded in 1869 across from the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, there are nearly 2.5 million individuals enshrined there. Among them are 14 Class A war criminals from World War II, including wartime premier Hideki Tojo. These individuals were enshrined in 1978, nearly two decades after the first Class B and C war criminals were included in the shrine. Emperor Hirohito, who reigned during the war, refused to visit the shrine after 1978 and the inclusion of Tojo and others.

Chinese Military Honor Guard

Chinese Military Honor Guard

There was little international controversy about the shrine until 1985, when then–prime minister Yasuhiro Nakasone paid an official visit to offer prayers for the dead. The outcry forced him to abandon plans for future visits, but annual visits by popular prime minister Junichiro Koizumi between 2001 and 2006 again fanned the flames of diplomatic protest. Both Beijing and South Korea have heatedly and vehemently condemned visits to the shrine by any serving Japanese cabinet official, and especially the prime minister. While no doubt feeling true outrage over what they see as attempts to whitewash the memory of the atrocities committed by the Class A war criminals, Chinese and Korean officials have also used the shrine visits as a means of pressuring Japan and keeping it diplomatically isolated in Asia. Contemporary politics have as much to do with the furor over Yasukuni as does the historical record.

Read the rest of this entry »


Japan’s PM Visits Yasukuni Shrine, Infuriating Chinese, Koreans

South Korean protesters burn a effigy of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, banners and Japanese flag as police officers spray fire extinguishers during a rally denouncing about Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Dec. 27, 2013. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paid his respects at a shrine honoring Japan's war dead in an unexpected visit Thursday that drew sharp rebukes from China and South Korea, who warned that the move celebrates his country's militaristic past and could further sour relations. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

South Korean protesters burn a effigy of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, banners and Japanese flag as police officers spray fire extinguishers during a rally denouncing about Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Japan’s PM visits Yasukuni shrine, infuriating Chinese and Koreans
  • Israel to announce new settlements along with Palestinian prisoner release
  • Pakistan protesters block Nato supply route after new drone strikes

Japan’s PM visits Yasukuni shrine, infuriating Chinese and Koreans

China's foreign minister Wang Yi bares his teeth in a scathing TV interview criticizing Abe's visit to Yasukuni Shrine (Xinhua)

China’s foreign minister Wang Yi bares his teeth in a scathing TV interview criticizing Abe’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine (Xinhua)

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a surprise visit to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on Thursday, saying the purpose of the visit was to pray for peace. Yasukuni Shrine is the national shrine for millions of war dead in Japan regardless of what role they played. It is still a scared place to all Japanese. The shrine was initially created by Emperor Meiji to commemorate any individuals who had died in service of the Empire of Japan during the Meiji Restoration. However, the numbers of those enshrined there have been expanded since opening in 1867.

China and South Korea are infuriated by the visit, because 14 convicted or accused Class A war criminals are enshrined there, in addition to the war dead from World War II.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said:

“China will not tolerate this. Abe’s visit severely went against the principle and spirit of the four political documents between the two countries, as well as the commitment made by former Japanese administrations and leaders on historical issues, and erected a major new political obstacle to the already strained China-Japan relations.

However, according to Abe:

“Some people criticize a visit to Yasukuni as something to pay homage to war criminals, an idea based on misunderstanding.

I paid a visit to show (to the war dead) my determination to create an age where no one will ever suffer from tragedies of wars.”

Thursday was also the 120th anniversary of Mao Zedong‘s birthday, which China celebrated with patriotic songs and TV docu-dramas. Purposely left out of this “glorious” history was any mention of Mao’s horrific mistakes: the Great Famine of 1958-61 that killed tens of millions and the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution that shattered the lives of millions. Much to the dismay of many Chinese, the party still blocks public debate of these tragedies in case it might undermine the party’s grip on power. Japan Times (Comment) and CNTV (Beijing) and CS Monitor

Read the rest of this entry »


Elusive Equality: Rhetoric Not Enough for Japan’s Working Women

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may be keen to tout Japan’s untapped labor force, but will he go beyond the rhetoric?

Heenali Patel writes:  “I used to be a helicopter pilot, I loved it. But since having a child I quit. I don’t think I will work again for a long time.”

I am at a local center, where residents may to socialize and host events. A group of women sits before me. We have been discussing their interests and aspirations for an hour. I look around at them, and see engaging and sociable individuals. They all share two things in common: each went to university and each quit their jobs after having a child. Although it is all well and good to choose family over career, the predictability of the career paths of these women is unsettling. Here, they treat it as part of a standard expectation. A working lifestyle in Japan is not compatible with motherhood, or so these women have been led to believe.

Read the rest of this entry »


Japan will Shoot Down Foreign Drones

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Ankit Panda writes:  Japan’s Defense Ministry has received approval from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for its plans to intercept and shoot down any foreign drones that ignore initial warnings to leave Japanese airspace. Abe’s approval of the plan asserts Japan’s readiness to respond unilaterally to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The move is the latest in a series of pronouncements and provocations by both China and Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu territorial dispute. Japan controversially purchased some of the islands in 2012, which thrust the long-unsettled dispute to the forefront of China-Japan relations, which have been strained ever since.

On Sept. 9, a day after manned Chinese bombers flew near Okinawa, a Chinese military drone was observed nearby. The Japanese Defense Ministry dispatched fighters to shadow the manned bomber aircraft, which refrained from entering Japanese airspace. It used a similar procedure for the drone, which is believed to have been a Chinese BZK-005. In late September, The Diplomatnoted that Japan’s Defense Ministry had been studying a plan to shoot down foreign drones over its airspace in response to this incident. Read the rest of this entry »


Japan Plans to Arm Itself to the Teeth as Neighborhood Gets Scarier

Prime Minister Abe Attends Naval Fleet ReviewJapan will increase military spending by 3 percent in the coming year, the defense minister said today; it’s the biggest increase in 22 years. “There are various tensions ongoing in Asia, and in some cases, there are countries that even use threats,” the AP reports the defense minister as saying.

The top dangers facing Japan these days are an increasingly belligerent North Korea and an aggressive China. Japan’s military plans to enhance surveillance and maintain a marine defense force that can be deployed to defend or retake far-flung islands. Japan already has the fifth-largest defense budget in the world, as Time reports, and its navy “bristles with modern submarines and surface warships, with highly trained crews.”

Read the rest of this entry »