Archive for ‘Japan’s security issues’

November 6, 2012

Japan and China and the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute witnesses a quiet America

Japan and China and the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute witnesses a quiet America      

Pierre Leblanc and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The United States under President Obama is at pains to distance itself from the ongoing and never ending saga of Senkaku/Diaoyu. Japan and China continue to clash over this issue and Taiwan is also waiting in the wings because this nation also claims the same area. However, with respect to Taiwan, it is the clash between Japan and China which appears more problematic.

Japan and America already have differences over military bases in Okinawa. Also, for the indigenous people of Okinawa, then they perceive that their interests have been sidelined by both Japan and America. After all, a sizeable amount of American forces are based in Okinawa. Despite this, on the whole relations between Japan and America are positive because both governments have mutual shared interests throughout the region.

However, the issue over Senkaku/Diaoyu is clearly an unwanted problem in Washington. This reality means that the Obama administration is at pains to keep a neutral stance. Therefore, political elites in Washington are at pains to reduce the tension between Japan and China. This fact is based on history whereby many conflicts have emerged over minor issues which have been blown up by one side, or by both protagonists because of hidden motives related to issues at home.

Kenichiro Sasae, future ambassador to Washington later this month, told the Asahi Shimbun that “The U.S. government has made it clear that the islands are covered by the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty…Its stance cannot be neutral if it is to respond firmly in the event of use of force or provocation.”

This statement by Kenichiro Sasae may be technically correct but not in its entire usage. If Japan was seen to be the party responsible, then clearly America will make their decision on this and other important issues. America can’t give carte blanche to any under-handed policies emanating from Tokyo. This isn’t implying that Japan is to blame for the current state of affairs between Japan and China over the disputed territory. Yet clearly America can ill afford to get involved with a limited war with China over an issue which can’t be sold back home.

Kenichiro Sasae also claims that the purchase of Senkaku/Diaoyu by the Japanese government was the best solution. He states this because Governor Shintaro Ishihara had stated that the metropolitan government of Tokyo would try to purchase the disputed area. Yet, while it is factual that Shintaro Ishihara shares nationalist tendencies, it also seems inconceivable that this couldn’t have been blocked by the legal system of Japan. In this sense, political leaders in Beijing “smell a rat” and irrespective if this is false, it does appear rather strange that such a tame excuse is being provided.

Kenichiro Sasae further comments that “It is important to recognize afresh each other’s role as allies in the changing global and Asian landscape and make a new Japan-U.S. relationship a starting point to cope with challenges together.” This comment is reasonable and applies to all partners internationally which have shared interests. However, the hands of America are tied when it comes to many international issues because no single power can dictate their respective geopolitical objectives.

America and other nations began to meddle in Afghanistan to a much larger extent from 1980 and this entailed many failed policies which initially favored Islamist terrorism and indoctrination. Over 30 years later and Afghanistan remains a failed state whereby opium continues to be sold and where terrorist attacks occur daily. Likewise, Iraq is still in crisis because of terrorism which followed the meddling of America and other nations and now Syria is being destabilized. On top of this, Libya is now a failed state and the chaos from this country is impacting on northern Mali. Maybe Kenichiro Sasae needs to focus on this reality and the growing influence of the Russian Federation, China, BRICS and other nations and organizations.

In another article by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that In Japan you have nationalism within the thinking of the two local leaders in Tokyo and Osaka respectively. However, Shintaro Ishihara and Toru Hashimoto are out of step with the majority of Japanese nationals. Their political winning tickets are based on having strong personalities, being focused on business and expressing their thinking openly. Therefore, the current images of nationalists in China attacking things which are connected with Japan seem a million miles away to what is happening in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Kobe and other leading cities in Japan.”

“The dispute over Senkaku/Diaoyu is not in the interest of both nations but China’s overreaction is raising alarm bells. After all, many Japanese companies have invested in China and clearly it must be unsettling for Japanese nationals residing in this nation and doing business openly under the current conditions. Equally alarming, is that China appears to believe that it can bully Japan into submission by using “the nationalist switch” when deemed convenient.”

“Not all the blame can be put on China. After all, the status quo was not perfect but once Japan bought part of the area and nationalized Senkaku/Diaoyu by stealth; then clearly China was not going to ignore this. However, instead of going through the political channels and addressing things more appropriately, the nationalist angle created a very negative image.”

It is clear that Japan and China have made mistakes once more when it comes to this disputed area. After all, it matters not that Japan made the first error of judgment because the responses aren’t warranted by the tactics employed by political elites in Beijing. The dispute also highlights the decreasing power mechanisms of America and that the alliance between Japan and America isn’t so tight. At no point is Beijing overtly concerned about the role of America over this dispute because political leaders understand that America can ill afford another military conflict. This is based on the recent disasters of Afghanistan and Iraq following on from the distant legacies of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

In this sense, America may trigger an increasing right-wing movement in Japan based on contradictory forces. One, that American bases and policies are an affront to Japan’s independence and secondly that Washington can’t protect Japan when it comes to important territorial disputes with China, the Russian Federation, South Korea and Taiwan respectively. Ironically, it is these two contradictory forces which Tokyo should be worried about and the same applies to America. After all, at the moment it does appear that Japan is on its own when it comes to the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute. Therefore, the mutual agreements between Japan and America may be “a paper tiger” when it comes to the territorial interests of Japan?

November 6, 2012

US and Japan holding military exercises: People of Okinawa are being marginalized

US and Japan holding military exercises: People of Okinawa are being marginalized

Joachim de Villiers, Hiroshi Saito and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The United States and Japan are currently holding military exercises which will last until November 16. Yet the biennial military exercise called Keen Sword appears to show a lack of sensitivity towards the people of Okinawa. This applies to the existing tensions between Okinawa and mainland Japan which continues to brush aside the demands of local people.

Currently the United States military is being forced to keep its head down in Okinawa after recent rape allegations and because of a brutal attack against a teenager. Of course, the issue of American bases throughout Okinawa runs much deeper. This doesn’t only apply to the actions of the United States but also towards the government of Japan. Yet with such recent heightened tensions over the deployment of MV-22 Osprey and the behavior of American troops, then once more it appears that the people of Okinawa are not viewed highly to political leaders based in Tokyo.

In Okinawa, many local people believe that the central government in Japan treats this area like a second-class region. This is based on the reality that a sizeable amount of the armed forces of America are stationed in Okinawa compared to mainland Japan. Historical realities also mean that the indigenous people of Okinawa seem to be a pawn which is openly manipulated by Tokyo and Washington. Therefore, if Okinawa is truly part of Japan, then why are the wishes of local people ignored so much?

The people of Okinawa on the whole are not demanding the expulsion of all American bases but they do want mainland Japan to share the burden. America is not insensitive to the demands of Okinawa but clearly the central government of Japan seems distant. After all, over 70% of all American forces are based in Okinawa despite repeated demands for sharing the responsibility with mainland Japan.

In the New York Times editorial (November 2, 2012) it is stated that “Many Okinawans believe, with justification, that their views are irrelevant to the Japanese government and the United States, whose geopolitical priorities trump local concerns about jet crashes, noise, environmental destruction and crime. That has not stopped protesters from tirelessly raising objections, most strongly in 1995, when three servicemen gang-raped a schoolgirl, and in September, when tens of thousands demonstrated against the deployment of the Osprey.”

Further down in the same editorial it states about America that political leaders“…should move swiftly to lighten its presence on Okinawa, by shifting troops to Guam, Hawaii and elsewhere in Japan. Okinawans will feel safer and less aggrieved only when they believe that Japan and the United States are taking their objections seriously.

The sad truth is that political leaders in Tokyo appear to view the area to be second-class because historically Okinawa (Ryukyu Kingdom) never belonged to Japan. Therefore, the government of Japan is still viewing Okinawa in a subservient manner. This policy is not only backfiring against political leaders in Tokyo but it is also impacting on America and the military forces based throughout Japan. Given this reality, then Washington should make the first move because little seems to change the hearts of political leaders in Tokyo.

Currently, relations between China and Japan have hit rock bottom because of the territorial dispute. Yet for people in Okinawa it is the lack of transparency within successive governments based in Tokyo which is the real issue.

Therefore, the current joint military exercises by America and Japan in the waters of Okinawa is also a symbol of major powers ignoring the wishes of local people. China may hog the headlines because of the current tense situation with Japan over territory. Yet in Okinawa it appears that their voices count for nothing because countless demonstrations and protests have not altered the major imbalance of American forces being based in Okinawa.

In the Asahi Shimbun (article written by Satoshi Okumura, Norio Yatsu and Tsukasa Kimura) it was stated that“Huge protests erupted in Okinawa Prefecture and other parts of Japan over the deployment of the Osprey to Okinawa Prefecture. Residents and local leaders cited the spotty safety record of the aircraft, and they repeated that the island prefecture continues to shoulder the overwhelming burden of hosting U.S. military bases under the Japan-U.S. security alliance.”

The government of Japan just like China uses nationalist rhetoric over the ongoing territorial dispute between both nations. Ironically, however, many people in Okinawa are also disillusioned with political leaders in mainland Japan because of the second-class nature of the treatment of people from Okinawa. It is time for political elites in distant Tokyo to wake-up to the demands of local people in Okinawa. Also, Washington must do more to defuse the situation.

September 6, 2012

Japan and North Korea need to go the extra mile in order to lay the path ahead

Japan and North Korea need to go the extra mile in order to lay the path ahead

Ri Kuk-Chol and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Japan and North Korea have had a frosty relationship for far too long and it is hoped that officials from both nations will have laid the foundation stone for genuinely turning the corner. Of course, expectations are not too high because of countless stumbling blocks on both sides. However, if officials from Japan and North Korea can overcome genuine concerns and at least start to “walk together,” even if not in complete unison, then this will be positive.

North Korea must understand that negative relations with Japan only serve the enemies of Pyongyang. Likewise, political leaders in Tokyo have recently witnessed the “nationalist switch” in China and South Korea respectively. Therefore, it is clear in Tokyo that the only “trusted friend” in the region is Taiwan. Yet if the “Chinese economic bandwagon” one day swallows this island economically, then even this solace may be taken away.

The Russian Federation is also a central nation in the geopolitical reality of Northeast Asia and throughout other parts of Asia. After all, political elites in Moscow fully understand the geopolitical importance of Central Asia and developing strong ties with China and India respectively. At the same time the geopolitical importance of Mongolia is fully understood in the Russian Federation. Therefore, Japan should overcome its petty nationalist tendencies towards this major power and seek a solution to the disputed areas, which continue to hinder a powerful friendship based on mutual trust.

Turning back to events covering the talks today between officials from Japan and North Korea, it is obvious that both nations need to “break their respective chains.” The new political leader in North Korea can show the world that he is open to sweeping geopolitical changes alongside supporting genuine economic reforms with the help of China. Given this reality, Kim Jong-un can genuinely try to reach the masses based on the similar motives of Deng Xiaoping in China when he came to power.

The Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan, Osamu Fujimura, stated prior to the meeting that “The abduction issue will be included as a matter of course.” Likewise, Koichiro Gemba, Foreign Minister of Japan, spoke in a similar vein when he stated that “We’d like to ask the North Korean side to positively work on pending issues between the two countries including the abduction issue.”

However, despite the seriousness of this issue it is clear that political leaders in Tokyo must move towards a more broad approach. Surely, other more important issues like the nuclear angle, geopolitical concerns, testing military hardware and building economic bridges must outweigh the continuing stumbling blocks. Once other developments move forward then naturally North Korea will be more forthcoming.

Japan must understand that millions of Koreans died defending Korean nationalism from Japanese imperialism and then against American aggression during the Korean War. After the brutal Korean War the United States then supported successive authoritarian governments in South Korea before the onset of democracy in this nation. It is too easy to point the finger at North Korea but the reality is that all nations have their own histories and outside forces led to a siege mentality in Pyongyang – but this siege mentality was not based on whims but on hard facts related to history.

Japan and North Korea need to forgo the historical and political obstacles in order to radically alter the situation. Osamu Fujimura stated that “We have been working based on the principle of settling the unfortunate past and on restoring normal relations.”

The new leader of North Korea showed sincerity by allowing a group of nationals from Japan to reclaim loved ones who died because of the tragic events of World War Two. Sadao Masaki, who is part of this group, commented that “Things have proceeded to a stage that is beyond what we had even hoped for. We are extremely grateful.”

In another article by Modern Tokyo Times about relations between Japan and North Korea, it was stated thatSome analysts are indicating that North Korea is reaching out because of current tensions between Japan and other regional nations based on territorial issues. For example harsh comments have been made by the leader of South Korea towards Japan in recent times. However, this is too cynical because the new leader of North Korea must be judged on what happens during his leadership.”

Analysts in Japan and North Korea are eagerly awaiting the outcome and clearly major powers throughout the region will be watching events closely. It is only hoped that political leaders in Japan and North Korea will move forward by showing sincerity and mutual respect.

February 4, 2012

Japan must reject American pressure against oil sanctions on Iran

Japan must reject American pressure against oil sanctions on Iran

Murad Makhmudov and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The United States is continuing to put pressure on Japan about sanctions against Iran’s oil industry and thankfully the Finance Minister of Japan, Jun Azumi, was sidelined after appearing to cave in several weeks ago. However, foreign policy specialists and many bureaucrats in Japan understand that this issue is extremely delicate and Japan doesn’t want to appear to be hostile towards Iran. After all, other nations have developed nuclear weapons like India and Pakistan and after making a lot of noise it appears that this issue is on a backburner in Washington.

Similar pressure is being put on South Korea but the issue in Japan is extremely severe because of the Fukushima nuclear crisis. Therefore, now is the wrong time for Japan to put even greater stress on a valuable source of energy. Surely America must understand that the “special relationship” between both nations must be based on greater equality and that this demand is too great given the internal energy crisis in Japan.

The vast majority of nuclear reactors are not in working order in Japan at the moment and nobody knows the real future of this sector within Japan. At the same time, alternative sources of energy will mean that Japan is taking sides in a dispute which doesn’t concern Japan at the moment. After all, Iran is not a threat to Japan and both nations have cordial relations.

From a Japanese perspective, if Washington truly cares, then why is Iran a bigger concern than the nuclear stockpile of China and continuing modernization of the armed forces of this nation? It is unimaginable that Iran would ever threaten Japan or create a major international war based on irrationality.

Also, from Iran’s point of view then it is inconceivable that nations like Pakistan and Israel have the right to defend themselves but Iran doesn’t. This isn’t implying that Israel and Pakistan don’t have the right to develop nuclear weapons when all the major powers have a nuclear arsenal. However, from Iran’s geopolitical point of view then the nuclear arsenal of Israel and Pakistan may be making policy makers in Tehran nervous.

While all the focus is on relations between Iran and Israel the real uncertain nation is Pakistan. The Taliban and other Sunni Islamic extremists have killed and massacred Shia Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan and for this reason Iran supported anti-Taliban and anti-Al Qaeda forces in the past. Ironically, Iran had this policy when America still had open relations with the Taliban prior to September 11 which was done by Sunni Islamic extremists who were mainly Saudi Arabian nationals.

Also, the central state of Iran is much more dynamic and in control of the nation rather than the reality in Pakistan. This fact can’t be debated currently and China is seriously concerned about this issue despite having very good relations with Pakistan. The possibility of a failed state in Pakistan is a nightmare because radical Sunni Islamists in this nation are extremely militant and this applies to being anti-Shia, anti-India, anti-democratic, anti-secular, and so forth. Therefore, nations should be more focused on the power of central forces in Pakistan and the internal Sunni Islamic jihad against the Pakistan army rather than Iran.

This isn’t underplaying the Iranian issue but surely this “game” concerns America, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Lebanon (Hezbollah and links with Iran), and other regional nations, irrespective of being pro or anti Iran. However, it isn’t an issue which should concern Japan from a military angle. Instead, Japan should be trying to influence greater restraint on all sides and be a “middle broker” in order to contain negative forces from either side.

Much is mentioned about the US and Iran relationship but this is also complex because America left “a window of opportunity” for Iran to break the arms embargo which had been put on Bosnia during the three sided civil war. Also, Iranian intelligence clearly gave tacit approval of the American led invasion of Iraq because Iran knew that this would end a regime which was anti-Iranian and in the long term the power shift would work in the favor of the Shia.

In a recent article by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that “If political leaders in Tokyo believe that Iran is a threat to the national security of Japan or that Iran is an international threat, then clearly Japan must state this categorically and not hide behind the political intrigues in Washington. However, Iran does not have any ill intent towards Japan and clearly with China, India, Israel, and Pakistan, having nuclear weapons in Asia, it is understandable for Iran to be concerned about this reality from their respective geopolitical point of view.”

“It must be stated that September 11, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, have one common theme and this applies to radical Sunni Muslims being involved in the deaths of American civilians and American soldiers. The Shia community in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia have not protected or funded global terrorist networks which were responsible for September 11, London, Bali, and countless terrorist attacks in Iraq and Pakistan. Therefore, the government in Tehran is much more responsible than the ruling elites in Saudi Arabia which have many ratlines and hidden agendas.”

Liu Weimin a ministry spokesperson for the government of China commented that “To place one country’s domestic law above international law and press others to obey is not reasonable.” Other nations share this point of view and if America believes that Iran is a threat to the security of America, then Washington should deal with this without putting pressure on Japan. After all, the pressing concerns for Japan are many and this notably applies to the energy shortfall after the devastating March 11 tsunami and the ongoing Fukushima crisis.

It must also be stated the tangle web of America and Saudi Arabia is not aimed at democracy and human rights, after all just look at the crisis in Bahrain whereby the Shia face daily oppression and outside meddling from Saudi Arabia. The Shia community is also often attacked in Yemen and Japan can’t afford to take sides in “a dirty political game” which is taking place.

Of course Japan must maintain the strong relationship between Washington and Tokyo when it applies to Northeast Asia and other important issues. However, the nuclear crisis in Iran isn’t a national security issue for Japan and the neutral nature of Japan’s foreign policy must be respected.

If political leaders in Tokyo believe that the government of Tehran is a threat to the security concerns of Japan and the international community, then Japan must fall in line. Yet clearly senior politicians in Japan don’t share this view and the main concern for the people of Japan is maintaining the economy and having a steady flow of energy. Therefore, the timing is wrong and Japan shouldn’t get involved in the American-Saudi Arabian alliance against Iran.

January 14, 2012

Japan bows down to America and reduces Iran oil imports: China remains neutral

Japan bows down to America and reduces Iran oil imports: China remains neutral

Murad Makhmudov and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The United States put pressure on China and Japan to introduce sanctions on Iran’s oil industry and sadly Japan showed its weakness once more. However, China showed its independence by remaining neutral. After all, the government of America is an ally of Pakistan despite the complex relationship. Also, it is clear that India and Pakistan continue to spend vast sums on their respective military capabilities, including the nuclear angle. This in itself shows the lack of either sincerity or commitment on behalf of America and other nations like France which lambast Iran over the nuclear issue.

If political leaders in Tokyo believe that Iran is a threat to the national security of Japan or that Iran is an international threat, then clearly Japan must state this categorically and not hide behind the political intrigues in Washington. However, Iran does not have any ill intent towards Japan and clearly with China, India, Israel, and Pakistan, having nuclear weapons in Asia, it is understandable for Iran to be concerned about this reality from their respective geopolitical point of view.

Therefore, Japan should only follow suit on the grounds of national interests and the interest of the international community. However, the national interest of Japan isn’t threatened by Iran and the international community is divided on this issue because of so many internal pressing issues throughout every continent. This fact would imply that Japan bowed down to the “messenger,” US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, because why is Japan deciding on this now?

It must be stated that September 11, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, have one common theme and this applies to radical Sunni Muslims being involved in the deaths of American civilians and American soldiers. The Shia community in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia have not protected or funded global terrorist networks which were responsible for September 11, London, Bali, and countless terrorist attacks in Iraq and Pakistan. Therefore, the government in Tehran is much more responsible than the ruling elites in Saudi Arabia which have many ratlines and hidden agendas.

The Finance Minister of Japan, Jun Azumi, commented that “In the past five years, we have reduced… the amount of oil imported (from Iran).” He further continued by stating that “We wish to take planned and concrete steps to further reduce this share, which now stands at 10%.”

However, after the devastating March 11 tsunami hit Japan in 2011 this unleashed the tragedy of the nuclear crisis in Fukushima. Therefore, Japan is already facing many energy shortfalls and this political burden will further put pressure on political leaders in Tokyo.

Timothy Geithner commented that ”We are working very closely with Europe and Japan and allies around the world to substantially increase the amount of pressure we bring on Iran…We very much appreciate the support Japan has provided standing with us and the international community in support of this very important strategic objective.”

China took a neutral stance because political leaders made it clear that they hoped for a resolution to be found between Iran and the nuclear watchdog (International Atomic Energy Agency). Also, political leaders in Beijing stressed that oil related issues should not be solved by relating this to the nuclear issue. Liu Weimin a ministry spokesperson for the government of China commented that “To place one country’s domestic law above international law and press others to obey is not reasonable.”

Japan also stressed that they will seek more oil exports from other nations in the Gulf. However, at a time when Shia Muslims are being persecuted in Bahrain and continue to be second-class citizens in Saudi Arabia – then this would appear to be taking an anti-Iran stance for no reason. Therefore, political leaders in Tokyo should think more deeply before becoming entangled in the web of America and Saudi Arabia.

If Japan sincerely believes that Iran is a threat to the national security of Japan and that this nation threatens the international community, then by all means Japan must stand firm with America. However, it would appear that Japan doesn’t believe this and that the only binding factor is the pressure put on Tokyo by political leaders in Washington. The timing for Japan, with internal energy problems, could not be worse and domestic issues should have meant more than the political meddling of America and Saudi Arabia.

December 3, 2011

Okinawa and the delicate relationship with mainland Japan and America

Okinawa and the delicate relationship with mainland Japan and America

Joachim de Villiers and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

In history the Okinawan people were independent and traded openly throughout the region and they preserved their own distinctive culture, language, religion, and other aspects of culture. However, like many smaller ethnic groups the history of Okinawa is one of being “swallowed up” and aspects of Japanization taking place. The end product is that native speakers of Okinawan continue to decrease and powerful political elites in Tokyo and Washington desire to maintain powerful military bases in Okinawa.

Of course, this is an over simplification because major investment from Japan also took place and the standard of living increased for all nationals irrespective of ethnicity since the reversion of Okinawa to Japan. However, negative policies of the past, which applies to dictates over language and so forth, remains in the “psyche” of Okinawan people.

Therefore, despite Japan being democratic it is like the United Kingdom whereby the Welsh people believe that their language was dismissed and the same applies to their culture by the dominant English in history. Events may have moved on but if the United Kingdom suddenly put the vast majority of military forces from a different nation into mainly Wales, then the people of Wales would feel the same. Therefore, policies need to be handled with care and sensitivity when national issues and cultural issues are at stake and leaders in Tokyo need to bare this in mind.

Okinawa and Japan is united in modern history and this will never change and clearly the vast majority of Okinawans understand the need to have military bases on Okinawa. However, it is clear that the vast majority of American military bases are concentrated on Okinawa and not throughout mainland Japan. This policy seems unfair to many individuals and this policy by the government of Japan isn’t helping because the burden should be more equal.

Also, the Cold War era and recent power politics between major nations like America and China is increasing the burden on the people of Okinawa. Indeed, the government of Japan is also caught up by the real geopolitical game being played by America and China when it comes to maritime power. Therefore, any weakness in Tokyo is condemned by Washington because political leaders in America believe that they have been patient enough. This applies to the stalled relocation of a United States military base.

The views of America will obviously be very different because this nation could rightly claim that it is their sons and daughters who are on the frontline of defending Japan from any military aggression. If you look back in history with regards to militant Maoism during the Cultural Revolution, hostilities between Japan and North Korea, and an expansionist Soviet Union, then clearly America does have a point.

This perhaps is the real tragedy because in modern times the people of Okinawa and the central government in Tokyo, alongside the military of America, have got more in common and share similar values. Times have moved on apart from the military angle and even this is vague because many Okinawans understand the importance of American forces. Therefore, relations on the whole are positive but the percentage of American troops based on Okinawa compared with the rest of Japan is a major stumbling block.

It is worth mentioning that after the March 11 tsunami hit Japan the military of America did a magnificent job. This applies to search and rescue and “being a friend” during a very difficult time for Japan and this also applies to helping with reconstruction, when it was most needed. Also, Americans fully participate in the local economy of Okinawa and bring many jobs and clearly local relations have developed in many fields.

Therefore, when a senior defense official from Japan comments about “rape” this turned the clock back once more because it appears that political leaders in Tokyo are not taking the opinions of the Okinawans into consideration. The vast majority of Japanese nationals and Okinawans understand that America doesn’t have any ill will towards the government of Japan or Okinawa. However, the central government in Tokyo isn’t helping when so much emphasis is being put on Okinawa without any real dialogue being based on equality.

The recent comment by Satoshi Tanaka, director-general of the Okinawa Defense Bureau, was a disgrace and the Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima responded by stating that “My mouth would become tainted (if I made a comment).”

It is reported that Tanaka asked, “Would you say, ‘I will rape you,’ before you rape someone?” This comment was given about the contentious relocation of American military forces in Okinawa. Therefore, once more Tokyo, and not America, have increased passions on Okinawa which accounts for roughly 70% of all American forces based in Japan.

Ironically, it may be in the interest of President Obama to reach out to the Okinawan people directly because the central government in Tokyo isn’t doing a good job. However, this is most unlikely because this would infringe on the sovereignty of Japan. Therefore, the battle will continue and the armed forces of America and the people of Okinawa deserve proper policies being enacted by the government of Japan.

If the residents of Okinawa witnessed an equal burden with mainland Japan then this would help greatly. Or if major concessions were given to Okinawa with regards to economic free zones, greater cultural awareness, and so forth, then a solution may be found which benefits everyone.

November 28, 2011

President Obama: New Asia Policy is like the Old Policy – Japan beware

President Obama: New Asia Policy is like the Old Policy – Japan beware

Joachim de Villiers and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The government of Japan should take a step back and think wisely before following the “containment” policies of President Obama of America towards China. After all, China and Japan rank first and second respectively when it comes to owning US Treasury bonds and China is Japan’s biggest trading partner. Therefore, political leaders in Tokyo must adopt a foreign policy based on the interests of Japan instead of supporting Washington which appears to be returning to a Cold War mentality.

Northeast Asia is delicate at the best of times but economic trade continues to grow and massive cultural exchanges are happening. Therefore, the region is crying out for progressive forces and not out-dated thinking based on political posturing.

Also, if Obama and America is so concerned about containing nations which are spreading a deadly ideology then why isn’t the president focused on Saudi Arabia and Pakistan?  The same applies to past leaders irrespective if Democrat or Republican because September 11 was mainly done by Saudi nationals. Also, Sunni Islamic jihadists in Saudi Arabia did more to endanger the armed forces of America in Iraq than Iran ever did but the usual silence came out of Washington.

Therefore, the stationing of American Marines on Australian soil appears rather shallow and out of tune with recent events in Afghanistan and Iraq. Not only this, the spiraling debt of America and military cutbacks announced by Obama should mean a more pragmatic approach. However, to the bemusement of political leaders in China it appears that Obama wants to open up a new front against political leaders in Beijing.

Japan should stay out of the loop regarding this issue because given America’s past history and conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, and Vietnam, it would be unwise to follow America’s logic under Obama. Yes, Japan and America have shared interests in protecting Japan because of constitutional constraints which hinder the independence of political leaders in Tokyo. However, Japan doesn’t need to become embroiled in any containment of China because this could lead to future military complications if tensions erupted between political leaders in Washington and Beijing.

Also, it is in the interest of Japan to foster closer ties with China but based on equality because economic investment and past cultural interactions in history were always favorable until the late nineteenth century. Therefore, instead of becoming embroiled in “Obama’s Cold War logic” political leaders in Tokyo should become “a bridge” between both America and China. After all, it is in the interest of Japan to have favorable relations with America and Japan because all nations are major economic powers irrespective of current debt related issues.

Japan also needs to focus on strengthening economic and military ties with the Russian Federation instead of political posturing over the Northern Territories. This applies to increased economic trade, joint military exercises linking Hokkaido and Vladivostok and developing energy policies which will help Japan to break free from relying on oil and gas from the Middle East.

In return, the Russian Federation could arrange to give some disputed islets to Japan while remaining in firm control of Sakhalin. However, Tokyo must abide by certain military pre-conditions if this happened with regards to the stationing of either American or Japanese troops.

In some areas America and Japan must work together and this applies to currency related issues, patent law, abiding by maritime law, supporting democracy, boosting the defensive shield of Japan, and supporting democratic nations throughout the region. Yet Japan should not become involved in political posturing from either Beijing or America.

In other words, Japan should maintain its special relationship with America but outside of the geopolitical concerns of Tokyo, it is incumbent that the non-aligned approach is taken. After all, either regional economic and political blocs will be strengthened or the continent will become divided between Washington and Beijing.

Regional nations don’t need to become embroiled in the “ego” of either America or China and instead international law needs to be maintained. If any nation threatens another, then sides or condemnation is only natural but currently no major power in Asia wants to become embroiled in a major war.

China does need to understand that certain policies have upset nations and that diplomacy is essential at all times. However, to be fair to political leaders in Beijing it is factual that some of the so-called threats have been over-hyped and China also needs to protect sensitive geopolitical areas.

Japan should heed the wise concerns of Singapore because the Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam commented that ASEAN countries do not desire to get “caught between the competing interests” of any major power. Indonesia and Malaysia also expressed dismay over the stationing of US Marines in Australia.

Therefore, Japan needs to adopt a pragmatic approach to America and China and listen to the words of the Foreign Minister of Singapore. It is time for political leaders in Beijing and Washington, irrespective of which nation is more confrontational, to realize that the world is moving on.

The world doesn’t need a new “Cold War” and sadly Obama’s political posturing during the worst economic crisis in recent history in both America and the European Union is rather baffling. Therefore, Obama’s “New Asia Policy” sounds like the “Old Policy” of the Cold War.

Japan must say no to Obama’s “New Asia Policy” and focus on developing closer ties with China and maintaining a strong relationship with America. It is pointless to create an applecart against any single nation when it isn’t warranted because once an applecart is created then “a ticking bomb” may erupt based on a divided region. This will serve no nation and given the American sales pitch of “globalization,” then what happened to Obama?

November 23, 2011

Japan to help fund a Southern Corridor linking Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam & Myanmar

Japan to help fund a Southern Corridor linking Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam & Myanmar

Joachim de Villiers and Lee Jay Walker 

Modern Tokyo Times



Prime Minister Noda and other leading politicians are intent on expanding the influence of Japan internationally and the latest pledge of two trillion yen looks very promising. This applies to developing the transportation infrastructure of south-east Asia and creating a new network which will open up the region to Japanese companies and other nations.

The “southern corridor” is intended to link Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) with Phnom Penh (Cambodia) and Bangkok (Thailand), and ultimately with the Dawei Seaport (Myanmar). Therefore, Japan pledged to give ASEAN two trillion yen in order to create a new economic hub and help with exporting and importing respective goods with India.

Also, given piracy in the Malacca Straits and other factors, then this development would open up parts of India for trade and bypass many negative factors which currently exist. Not only this, nations like Cambodia and Myanmar would benefit greatly and the construction boom would set in motion many other developments.

Not all the two trillion yen will be given to this sole project but clearly this was an important aspect of the pledge to ASEAN. Therefore, the construction of highways, roads, and ports, would help the entire region and reduce costs. Also, it is a reminder to China that Japan is waking up from a deep sleep because the “quietist policy” appeared to hinder Japan’s long term prospects.

Of course, the economic factor is the main concern and Japan values economic trade with China and hopefully in the future both nations will increase economic and political initiatives. However, often in the past it seemed that Japan lacked real resolve and this can be seen by China developing relations with many African nations because a vacuum existed.

After all, modernity happened in Japan first and given the natural resources of many African nations and the need for major economic development, it was essential for Japan to lead the way. Yet this never happened and clearly many African nations have sided with China in the international arena based on politics coming out of Beijing.

Noda, the new leader of Japan, is certainly intent on focusing on the international arena and this can be seen by recent events.  This applies to making positive overtures to South Korea; a possible visit to North Korea providing the abduction issue can be solved; agreement of nuclear reactors being built in Vietnam and other economic initiatives; first ever bilateral naval exercise between Japan and India; deployment of peacekeeping troops to South Sudan; promising to focus on territorial issues with the Russian Federation based on mutual understanding; and other initiatives.

Naoyuki Fukuda, who is a staff writer at The Asahi Shimbun, commented that “The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which is taking a leading role in infrastructure export policy, is aggressively seeking ways for Japanese manufacturers to set up bases in India, a vast market with high annual growth.”

“If a parts supply chain could be established between Japan and India through the southern corridor, Japanese parts manufacturers would reap huge benefits,” said a high-ranking ministry official.”

“A major point for the corridor’s construction will be the development of the economic special zone at Dawei in Myanmar, which currently has no overland routes to Thailand.”

The “southern corridor” sounds like a great plan because it will open up the region to major trade and development and India looms large in the minds of many companies. However, you still have many obstacles and this applies to political factors and other areas but the idea does seem feasible. The Asahi Shimbun

October 18, 2011

Mishima, Murakami, the Dalai Lama and CIA: genius, banality and the closet

Mishima, Murakami, the Dalai Lama and CIA: genius, banality and the closet

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times 

Yukio Mishima

Haruki Murakami is clearly popular and sales of his new book, 1Q84, will hit the roof because of huge demand. It is therefore abundantly clear that Murakami is a writer who appeals to millions of people throughout the world. However, one of the most iconic food chains in America is equally popular for different reasons but in a sense you do have a connection.

The connection is banality but an enjoyment all the same and both the American iconic food chain and Murakami are in huge demand but sometimes it is difficult to understand why they stand out against other options.

In truth, this world is complex and often contradictory beyond reasoning. After all, the Dalai Lama is a man of peace but was sponsored by the Central Intelligence Agency of America (CIA). This certainly doesn’t fit the imagination but the $1.7 million dollars a year in the 1960s and early 1970s certainly helped to boost his profile.

However, in the world of reality and unreality, then the Dalai Lama being sponsored by the CIA does make sense.  After all, the United States spends vast sums of money on redeveloping Afghanistan and propping up the Karzai regime and many soldiers have died for “freedom” and fighting for their country.  However, all apostates from Islam to Christianity face the death penalty in Afghanistan and clearly the Dalai Lama would have difficulty in building a Buddhist temple.

This may appear to be getting away from the point but actually it is meant to be getting nearer.  Therefore, while the appeal of Murakami continues to grow and nobody can doubt this based on sales, it still doesn’t hide the banality of Murakami compared with Yukio Mishima.

It is not only the placid nature of Murakami’s writing when compared with Mishima but also the richness, passion and mystery of Mishima which pales the other author into oblivion.  Yes, it is factual that intellect means little if people ignore and if the individual can’t connect but Murakami certainly can connect despite his lack of creativity.

It must be remembered that Leon Trotsky was an intellect unlike Joseph Stalin but we all know that an ice pick awaited Trotsky while Stalin manipulated power control mechanisms.  Therefore, just like many great artists who lived in poverty and died in debt or with little money to their name (their art today costs untold sums of money), intellect and genius didn’t spare Trotsky and countless artists who struggled to survive.

Therefore, reality and unreality is very difficult to define with so much chaos. However, the passion of Mishima is rare even if this passion turned against “the self” and ultimately led to his brutal death which he desired.

In Mishima’s novel, Runaway Horses, he writes on page 236 that “Isao’s young lips had yet touched no other lips, and he brushed them delicately against the petals of this withered lily with all the exquisite sensitivity that they possessed.”

“Here is the source of my purity, the warrant for my purity,” he told himself. “I am certain that it is here. When the time comes for me to turn my sword against myself, lilies will surely rise from the morning dew and open their petals to the rising sun. Their scent will purify the stench of my blood. So be it! How can I have any more doubts?”

This passion is what made Mishima special and the fact that he had high intellect is secondary because without this creative spark then his novels would still be of high quality, just like Murakami, but they wouldn’t stand out or hit a raw nerve.

Also, while Mishima is tainted by “progressive liberals” for being too nationalistic it is ironic that many of the same “progressive liberals” will revere the Dalai Lama.  However, Mishima had no CIA closet or links with an organization which sometimes went to extremes via covert and bloody operations.

Michael Backman in The Age commented that “The government set up in exile in India and, at least until the 1970s, received $US 1.7 million a year from the CIA.”

“The money was to pay for guerilla operations against the Chinese, notwithstanding the Dalai Lama’s public stance in support of non-violence, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.”

“The Dalai Lama himself was on the CIA’s payroll from the late 1950s until 1974, reportedly receiving $US 15,000 a month ($US 180,000 a year).”

“The funds were paid to him personally, but he used all or most of them for Tibetan government-in-exile activities, principally to fund offices in New York and Geneva, and to lobby internationally.”

Therefore, whatever the failings of Mishima and his nationalist leanings which are reviled by “progressive liberals,” at least you see and feel the “real” Mishima unlike the closet of the Dalai Lama.

In literary terms Murakami is “progressive” and unlike Mishima he doesn’t veer to the right-wing mindset. However, the image of Murakami suits the style that he writes and unlike the “CIA closet” of the Dalai Lama, you don’t have any bombshells within his books and this is what is so disappointing.

Yes, books by Murakami appeal to vast numbers of people and clearly he thinks deeply about his writing. However, I fail to see a spark or “a bigger picture” but maybe Murakami is correct on this point because it could be that all “bigger pictures” are illusions.

It may well be that 1Q84 by Murakami is very special but given past novels, I hesitate to believe that he can break free and reach a new height.  Therefore, while it is difficult to put Mishima’s book down it is equally difficult to believe that a fresh book by Murakami will be unique based on past novels.

In an earlier article I wrote about Mishima I state that “The book Sun and Steel relates to Mishima throwing away his earlier novel, Confessions of a Mask.”  Now Mishima was building up to be a man of strength and the Nietzsche “ubermensch” was born within the ego and spirit of Mishima.” 

Further down in the same article I comment that “The boy from Tokyo was enigmatic and had a raw passion and sadly the passion of Mishima is missing today and maybe this is where his genius belongs.”

“In Mishima, you can imagine the energy of the past and where the individual is visionary; therefore, the failings in his life, like the failings of all people; must be brushed aside because to ignore Mishima’s writing is to ignore a potent force within the literary energy of Japan.”

“Mishima, unlike the majority of writers, transcended the nation he belonged to because his writing hits a raw nerve within the “inner soul” and he will continue to be read by millions of people all over the world.”

Of course individuals are different and the energy of Mishima and the self-destructive nature of his thinking is rare, to say the least.  Therefore, while Murakami connects with millions of people all over the world, which is amazing by itself, it mainly applies to a mindset based on commonality and un-uniqueness.

Mishima, however, can be felt in the fervor of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the communist take-over in China, the disillusioned in all societies who see a crumbling indigenous culture being swept away by globalization and a growing monoculture.

The first aspect, the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the communist take-over in China, was based on self-made illusions and both events unleashed suffering, brutality, and mass persecution, especially in the early stages.

However, the second aspect, fearing the destructive nature of globalization, a growing monoculture, societies disconnecting with past history and culture, is more understandable, irrespective if people disagree.

It is easy to visualize, even if incorrectly, cosmopolitans and “progressive liberals” championing a writer from a different culture. After all, what could be more hip and internationalist?

Yet with Mishima, you feel “the shadow” and “the marginalized” and his books can appeal to people on many different grounds.  Not only this, Mishima’s writing style is on a different wavelength when compared to Murakami.

Turning back to the Dalai Lama and taking money from the CIA and relating this to this article, then unlike the reality and unreality of life, the action by the Dalai Lama was all too real.  The unreality about the Dalai Lama is the myth behind the hidden agenda.

Mishima equals complexity, intrigue, creativity, and chaos. However, Murakami represents normality, safety, and predictability but he is a writer who appeals because he delves deeply into the reality of the characters he writes about. The Dalai Lama represents “unreality” because the picture is clearly not the real image which is being provided. Despite this, it could be argued that his realistic approach serves the Tibetans well because CIA funding enabled the Tibetan cause to become known but it shatters the “peace myth” about the Dalai Lama.

It could be that the over-hype about Murakami is correct and that I am mistaken and maybe I am just an ignorant individual? However, the passion and spark of Mishima was potent, irrespective if people welcomed or liked his thinking.  Therefore, the unreality of the Dalai Lama’s image which based his CIA funding on reality is the best way to sum up the popularity of Murakami – that is, I fail to see what makes him stand out unlike the genius of Mishima.  Dalai Lama and CIA    Dalai Lama and CIA cloak   Video of Dalai Lama and CIA – Yukio Mishima Cyber Museum   – Tribute to Yukio Mishima    – Yukio Mishima 

Haruki Murakami  Haruki Murakam i   

October 12, 2011

Japan and India to hold bilateral naval exercise in 2012: Noda and geopolitics

Japan and India to hold bilateral naval exercise in 2012: Noda and geopolitics

Olivier LeCourt and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda continues to press ahead with important geopolitical agendas. This applies to recent agreements with the Philippines, making positive overtures to South Korea, making it known that he would visit North Korea providing the abduction issue could be solved, sending peacekeeping troops to South Sudan, and now the first ever bilateral naval exercise will take place between Japan and India. 

At the same time Japan is offering an olive branch to Europe providing the European Union will focus on serious reforms and implement sound economic policies.  If this occurs, then Japan will buy more Eurobonds and help nations like Greece alongside other economic powers.

Turning back to the announcement that Japan and India will hold their first ever bilateral naval exercise in 2012, then this will be welcomed by America and Australia which is a regional power in its own right.  After all, Australia sent military forces to East Timor, Iraq, and other nations, and it is essential that all democratic powers move closer together in order to maintain regional stability. 

It is easy to view the bilateral naval exercise between Japan and India and see this move to be aimed, at least partly, at China but this would be overstepping the mark. After all, Japan also desires closer ties with China but leaders in Tokyo must also boost relations with democratic powers. Therefore, instead of adopting “a quietist policy” and “constrained policy” it is in the interest of Japan and democratic powers to see a more robust foreign policy.

India may view this move to be more political and leaders in New Delhi are worried about aspects of China’s foreign policy.  This applies notably to China’s support of Pakistan, border issues between China and India and China’s port link ups in Gwadar port (Pakistan), Chittagong port (Bangladesh), Hambanota (Sri Lanka), and the Irrawaddy Corridor (Myanmar) which will open up the Bay of Bengal.  Therefore, China’s geopolitical expansion is growing and this applies to the Bay of Bengal, Strait of Hormuz, Indian Ocean, and other areas and this is leading to maritime concerns.

However, while Japan does have some vested interests because important maritime issues concern all nations which operate or rely on trade and energy resources to pass through important sea-lanes; it is clear that Japan is more focused on border disputes within northeast Asia.

Japan, however, is intent on showing China that its military expansion and increasing geopolitical expansion and claims over border disputes with many nations, isn’t going to constrain Japan. On the contrary, it will merely boost Japan’s awareness that countermeasures will be implemented and deeper relations will be forged with other nations throughout various parts of Asia.

Noda and various ministries aren’t interested in negative policies towards China because trade between Japan and China is enormous.  Also, for much of history the best scholars from both nations visited each other and cultural interaction was enormous.  Without a shred of doubt the impact of many aspects of Chinese culture influenced Japan for many centuries and clearly Japanese scholars and ideas influenced China. 

In historical terms China and Japan don’t share a history like France and England which was based on war and regional hostility in many periods of history.  Therefore, prior to the end of the late nineteenth century China and Japan wasn’t a threat to each other.

If is therefore hoped that relations between Japan and China will blossom in the future and clearly they have come a long way since China began to open-up.  However, Japan, like any nation state, must be prepared to protect its own geopolitical concerns. Therefore, the joint naval exercise between Japan and India which will take place next year shouldn’t be viewed negatively by China or any other nation.

Instead, it should be seen for what it is and this applies to a major power developing cordial military relations with another democratic power, in order to boost security and other important ties.