Archive for ‘Politics’

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?

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

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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.

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/politics/AJ201210310074

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

September 6, 2012

Tokyo to decline by more than half by 2100: truth or scaremongering?

Tokyo to decline by more than half by 2100: truth or scaremongering?

Kanako Itamae, Pierre Leblanc and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Once more depressing figures released indicate the demise of Tokyo and Japan by 2100 whereby the population will be beyond recognition of what it is today. This is the stark warning according to another dramatic survey which can only see a static and moribund Japan which refuses to implement real social policies.

One interesting aspect of the survey which is negated is the reality of “a secular society” being over reliant on modernity, materialism, abortion and other aspects of the “new world.” It is clear that Japan does face major problems related to the birth rate and this latest survey relates to this. At the same time issues related to communication issues, hikikomori (social withdrawal), suicide and other areas of a social meltdown needs to be focused on.

Of course, issues related to long working hours, high cost of child rearing, new modern approaches to life and other complex factors; are all tearing apart at the declining birth rate in this country. Sadly, the Japanese government appears reluctant to help people who desire to have more than one or two children but who feel burdened to do so because of the financial hardship that this entails.

According to this bleak survey which was taken by seven academics and a number of bureaucrats, the population of Tokyo will decline to 7.13 million in 2100 from the current mark of over 13 million people. This is indeed dramatic because Tokyo and other major cities like Osaka and Nagoya are the backbone of this nation. Unlike many rural areas which are already suffering from declining populations.

Also, this will not be the end of the hollowing out because in 2100 it is predicted that the over 65 age group will account for roughly 45 per cent of the total population of Tokyo. This would indicate an even more severe crisis long after 2100 which would see the continuing demise of Tokyo and Japan itself.

According to alarming figures released by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, the overall decline of the population of Japan will be massive by 2100. Currently the population in 2012 is just over 127 million. However, according to the above institute this figure will decline rapidly to 49.59 million by 2100 based on current trends.

Despite this, it is difficult to believe that future governments will not do anything in order to alter the current birth rate crisis. Also, tinkering with immigration would help greatly in the short-term while refocusing on ways to help families afford to have more children. At the same time internal social movements may respond to the current declining population because the strains on the economy will be enormous if something isn’t done to alter the current situation.

In the past Japan was written off in many areas but despite this it is clear that this nation is helping the international community in many ways. This notably applies to helping the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, economic aid to developing nations and assisting the European Union during the current economic crisis.

If any nation can find a way to solve the many complex issues it faces, then Japan is a nation which can reinvent itself quickly. Therefore, while the current analysis applies to the reality of today, it doesn’t mean that the same reality will apply in the future.

http://moderntokyotimes.com

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.

 

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

July 13, 2012

Tokyo and anime Bill 156: After more than 1 year and no real impact

Tokyo and anime Bill 156: After more than 1 year and no real impact

James Jono, Hiroshi Saito and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

 

The Governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, was adamant that Bill 156 would stem the tide of extreme sexual depictions of children in Japanese anime and manga. Other individuals countered that Bill 156 would infringe on artists and other forms of freedom by enforcing censorship throughout Tokyo. Therefore, both sides were extremely divided by the new measure which was introduced last year on July 1, 2011.

More than one year later in 2012 and it is clear that Bill 156 is either currently ineffective or that individuals with enforcement powers don’t believe that Bill 156 is being violated. Either way, the bullish comments about clamping down on extreme images of minors which can be found in some areas of Japanese anime and manga, appears not to have been materialized.

The Daily Yomiuri, one of the most powerful newspapers in Japan, commented in their article titled “No manga banned by Tokyo as too racy” comments that One year since Tokyo’s youth protection ordinances were revised to prevent the sale of anime and manga containing extreme sexual content to minors, not one publication has been deemed unfit for consumption.”

“Ryokichi Yama, head of the editing ethics committee at the Japan Magazine Publishers Association, which has more than 90 domestic publishers among its members, said the Tokyo government has not applied the new standard to any publications because it is cautious.”

Shintaro Ishihara believes differently because according to him individuals who are in the trade related to sexual images, stories, graphics, and so on, are acting more responsible. Therefore, Shintaro Ishihara states that“Writers and publishers have started using common sense when it comes to publishing books.”

This statement appears rather mild given the comments made by Shintaro Ishihara prior to the enactment of Bill 156. More than likely, both sides have responded in a mutually beneficial way which will maintain the vibrancy of Japanese anime and manga. After all, racy anime and manga can easily be bought in Tokyo and given the mass complexities of regulating a vibrant industry then maybe the “economic impact” is also infringing on a clampdown? If so, this begs the question of enacting Bill 156 in the first place.

It must be stated that many artists, individuals who adore the sexual nature of Japanese anime and manga, organizations which support the freedom of speech and a host of other areas voiced their opposition to Bill 156. The reasons are varied but the main central theme is “civil liberties” because artistic freedom is essential in all societies which are modern. Also, it is argued that the extreme nature of parts of Japanese anime and manga are based on “fantasy,” “connecting to a-make-belief-world” and natural escapism. Therefore, the viewers clearly understand that the images they are watching are nothing more than manga, anime and harmless erotica. This implies that it isn’t depicting reality and given this fact it is complex to clampdown against unreality.

The ordinance passed by Shintaro Ishihara was aimed at sexual scenes related which depict rape, child marriage, sexual abuse of minors, incest, and other areas of concern. Supporters of Bill 156 believe that safety measures are needed in order to protect children and society from sexual predators. However, do individual who watch sexual anime and manga scenes go on and abuse children? This once more relates to Japanese anime and mange being based on fantasy characters and not real life images of children. The gap is enormous and clearly children are abused sexually all over the world but to point the finger at Japanese anime and manga would be extreme.

Also, the ordinance only applies to Tokyo and this in itself highlights that if Bill 156 was regulated tightly then local business in this area would just relocated to Saitama, Kanagawa and Chiba. It takes roughly 11 minutes by express train or semi-express train to reach Saitama prefecture from Ikebukuro in Tokyo. Likewise, you can reach Kanagawa very quickly from Shinjuku by using the Odakyu Line and so forth. Therefore, even if Bill 156 was effectual it would not be solving anything – if anything, it would be spreading the problem to other areas.

In a past article by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that “Also, what if you buy animation which depicts rape, incest, and the abuse of minors, from an online company based in another part of Japan?  Will this also become illegal?  If so, then what measures can prevent packages from containing the newly banned material and if individuals download their new purchase online then are they breaking the law? “

International organizations point the finger at Japan but more than likely Japanese crime rates and abuse against children will compare favorably with any nation in the world. Also, in Saudi Arabia it is legal under Islamic Sharia law for old men of 60 years old and even older, to marry young girls of 8 years of age and 10 years of age. This also happens in other nations which abide by Islamic sharia law. Therefore, which is worse?

In Japan it is clear that young children are protected by Japanese law from being forced into marriages which they don’t understand. This is in stark contrast to nations like Saudi Arabia and Yemen where state sanctioned Islam allows children to get married to old men. Therefore, are nations claiming that child marriage in Saudi Arabia is leading to an epidemic of child abuse in this country?

Japanese anime and manga is based on fantasy, escapism, and other aspects, and clearly you have a very creative angle to the characters involved, even if people don’t agree to the context. If you had a firm link between child abuse and rape in the real world then artists would come under great pressure in Japan. Yet, unlike the reality of Saudi Arabia and child marriage, it is clear that Japanese anime and manga is based on “unreality.”

Therefore, the best solution is for a compromise between both parties and not to force this situation underground because this would be more dangerous. Also, if Tokyo began to take legal action against artists involved in making anime and manga, then this could open up “a can of worms” related to other subjects.

http://www.costume-designer.info/page/4

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T120702004395.htm

http://moderntokyotimes.com

July 13, 2012

Kagoshima Governor supporting the nuclear restart wins the election: Nuclear hype in the media

Kagoshima Governor supporting the nuclear restart wins the election: Nuclear hype in the media

Walter Sebastian, Hiroshi Saito and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

 

The mass media keeps on telling the world that the majority of Japanese individuals are against nuclear power. However, the recent victory for Governor Yuichiro Ito points to the reality that the nuclear issue isn’t the main concern for the majority of Japanese people. Therefore, despite the hype it is clear that the “nuclear option” is viable just like it was for the past few decades. Also, with the increased imports of energy hitting the Japanese economy hard it is clear that more and more individuals will put the economic well being of Japan first.

After the tragic events of March 11, 2011, related to the brutal earthquake and tsunami which unleashed the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, the media spin is often anti nuclear. In fact, major agencies all over the world appear to “pick statistics out of thin air” when stating that the vast majority of Japanese citizens reject nuclear power. Yet clearly the election in Kagoshima, just like other elections, doesn’t back up this “alleged theory.”

In various elections held in Japan it is clear that individual politicians who support the resumption of nuclear power have won. Also, even when politicians won who may be against nuclear power, they were elected not on this reason but related to other factors. Therefore, despite the media hype and other negative postures towards nuclear power it is abundantly obvious that this issue isn’t the main focus for the vast majority of the Japanese electorate.

It also must be stated that over 19,000 people died because of the tsunami which destroyed so many places in the Tohoku region and surrounding area along the coast. On the other hand, the death total with regards to nuclear power remains to be zero. This isn’t to underestimate the seriousness of radiation in areas close to the stricken nuclear facility. The same applies to the local fisheries community and towns within the 30km zone which have been hit hard. However, it isn’t the Armageddon which was pictured by many articles during the early period of the crisis.

Not only this, if you visit Fukushima prefecture you will notice that the commercial capital in Koriyama is thriving. Similarly, while “some media agencies appear to have an agenda” this isn’t helping the local economy in Fukushima prefecture. After all, tourist numbers have been down despite gradually increasing in recent months.

Therefore, for individuals who are concerned about the livelihoods of people in Fukushima many have visited the tourist attractions to over compensate for people who have been manipulated by “false reporting” and over-hyped statements. Indeed, if individuals visit beautiful places like the Urabandai region in Fukushima, then clearly the stunning aspect of nature is a clear reminder that the vast majority of Fukushima prefecture is open to the business and tourist community.

Turning back to the Kagoshima gubernatorial election then Governor Yuichiro Ito was elected for the third time to continue to run this part of Japan at the local level. Yuichiro Ito supports the restarting of two nuclear power stations providing the new safety mechanisms have been firmly put in place. His challenger, Yoshitaka Mukohara, desired to block the return to nuclear energy in this prefecture and then scrapping the nuclear reactors in the future.

However, the vast majority of people selected Yuichiro Ito in Kagoshima despite all the media hype about nuclear power. Individuals elected him based on many factors which were unrelated to nuclear power and this is the point. Even if an individual wins who is anti-nuclear, it doesn’t imply that this was the reason why they were elected. Likewise, if individuals are selected because they support the resumption of nuclear power, it also doesn’t imply that the vast majority of people voted for this individual based on supporting nuclear energy.

The real issue for the majority of Japanese people is economics and not the nuclear issue. Therefore, Yuichiro Ito was elected on the grounds that he is restoring financial health to Kagoshima.

Some politicians, celebrities, the mass media, and so forth, are hyping the anti-nuclear issue because of their own agenda. Yet just like in Tokyo when anti-nuclear demonstrations are highlighted in the media – it is clear that on the very same day more people will be shopping for fashion items in stores throughout major fashion areas. After all, while the “nuclear issue” is important for anti-nuclear individuals despite the tsunami killing more than 19,000 people and nobody dying from the nuclear crisis, it is clear the majority of people are voting with their feat.

 

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

April 27, 2012

EU financial crisis: Japan gives the IMF $60 billion and America gives not a dime

EU financial crisis: Japan gives the IMF $60 billion and America gives not a dime

Pierre Leblanc and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The government of Japan is extremely worried about the financial crisis which continues to beset the European Union (EU). This factor meant that Japan promises to support the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to the tune of an additional $60 billion dollars. The United States under President Obama is to provide not one cent to the new initiative which is meant to restore stability and freshness during a time of genuine uncertainty.

Indeed, Japan showed its international responsibility because this nation became the largest contributor outside the non-eurozone. Yes, it wasn’t the United States, China, or India – this applies to the so-called economic superpower and the two nations which hog the limelight for being the future economic superpowers. Instead, it was Japan once more which showed its economic potency despite receiving negative press in this field for decades.

In recent times it is clear that the debt of the United States is spiraling under President Obama irrespective if he blames the leader before him. Yet prior to recent times many past American leaders like Bill Clinton lauded it over Japan. After all, the American model was meant to be dynamic, transparent, and truly global. However, just like the EU and “the new way” both appear to be out of touch and in need of “a new remedy.”

Unemployment in the United States remains around the 9% per cent mark and in nations like Greece and Spain, it is out of control. Irrespective if all the above nations bounce back and the unemployment figures come right down, it is clear that they could never match Japan. After all, two negative economic decades on the whole in Japan but despite this the unemployment figure always remained very low in comparison.

Therefore, the Japanese economic model is clearly concerned about creating jobs, maintaining social order, investing in neglected areas, and maintaining social cohesion. On the contrary, Western capitalist nations run up huge unemployment figures in such a short space of time. Also, the gap between the rich and poor and social deprivation is much higher in nations like the United States and United Kingdom.

Of course, Japan is beset by internal problems related to the declining birth-rate and other important factors. Yet despite the political quagmire in Japan the bureaucratic system maintains stability even when the “boat is rocking.”

Let us also remember that Japan just promised $60 billion dollars despite the tragic and terrible events of March 11, 2011, when the devastating tsunami created havoc. This means that Japan is still facing the consequences of this tragedy, a very high yen, and an energy crisis because of the nuclear factor in Fukushima. However, despite everything, it is Japan which is dipping into its reserves in order to help the EU during its “hour of need.”

In a previous article by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that “Ironically, despite Japan “throwing away two wasted decades” and the terrible events of March 11 when the earthquake unleashed a potent and deadly tsunami; the government of Japan stepped in and bought more of Europe’s debt in order to boost the European Union. However, given the huge economic crisis generated by the tsunami and ongoing radiation crisis, it is difficult to imagine America coping with such a strong currency given all the problems which are happening in Japan. Not only this, Japan increased its support of America during this trying time by buying more American government bonds and providing the European Union in 2012 can come up with a serious economic policy, then Japan promises to help.”

“Given this, it appears that Japan keeps on ticking while America keeps on selling more of its debt and given the lack of government policy directed towards the weakening dollar, it does appear that the government of America is not responsive to the international community. Therefore, the currencies of Japan and Switzerland are paying a high price because the value of the Japanese yen isn’t based on market fundamentals.”

Eammon Fingleton a writer at Forbes commented that “This is not the first time that Japan has stepped up to the plate as lender of last resort to the world financial system. At the height of the global panic in 2009, the Tokyo Ministry of Finance more or less single-handedly rescued this system when it injected $100 billion into the IMF.”

He further comments that “Let’s note that a balance sheet has two sides. The Japanese government’s liabilities may be large. But it is important to take a look at its assets before resorting to extravagant denunciations of its financial policy. What is clear is that the Tokyo Finance Ministry is increasingly borrowing from the Japanese public not to finance out-of-control government spending at home but rather abroad. Besides stepping up to the plate to keep the IMF in business, Tokyo has long been the lender of last resort to both the U.S. and British governments. Meanwhile it borrows 10-year money at an interest rate of just 1.0 percent, the second lowest rate of any borrower in the world after the government of Switzerland.” 

Japan remains to be an enigma but clearly this nation is much more vibrant than it is led to be believed by many within the international press who focus on economics. Therefore, once more it is Japan which is “stepping up to the plate” while America provides not one single extra cent despite the economic convulsions hitting the EU.

 

http://www.forbes.com/sites/eamonnfingleton/2012/04/23/will-the-real-japan-please-stand-up-2/

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

March 5, 2012

Ari TV is the Voice of Sendai: Responding to the tragedy of the tsunami by being tenacious

Ari TV is the Voice of Sendai: Responding to the tragedy of the tsunami by being tenacious

Pierre Leblanc and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Ari TV (http://www.ari-tv.jp/top.html) is a clear reminder about the tenacity of the Tohoku region which was badly hit by the devastating tsunami of March 11, 2011. Therefore, with the first anniversary getting nearer to March 11, 2012, it is important to highlight this media group for all the positive things that they have done.

Since the devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake which unleashed the brutal tsunami, this media group dug deep in order to undercover the “real stories.” This applies to highlighting the determination of the Tohoku region and how the people of Sendai have responded.

Also, because Ari TV is based in Sendai then clearly this media group can connect with local people. More important, unlike many mass media outlets who often enter and highlight an important story which is happening in Sendai, Ari TV is their around the clock. This fact enables Ari TV to express the “real feelings” of the local community and clearly strong bonds have been developed whereby this media group is informed at all times about local events, individuals who are fantastic role models, companies who are focused on regeneration, and organizations trying to help.

Ari TV (http://en.re-tohoku.jp/) also understood the international concerns after the devastating tsunami. Therefore, the introduction of the Tohoku Revival Calendar which is highlighted above was a nice touch because you can read continuous updates in English and Japanese. This aspect also highlights rebirth because clearly Ari TV is developing new international links.

It is equally vital that Ari TV is supported commercially because you have so much work to do in Sendai and throughout the Tohoku region. After all, sadly, you still have thousands of missing people in early 2012 and this aspect highlights the complete devastation of March 11, 2011. This also means that the nightmare goes on for many because you have no “closure” and “special grave” to visit and connect.

Therefore, it is essential that the local government, the central government, local businesses, businesses throughout Japan, and others, support Ari TV and all the positive work they do around the clock. After all, Ari TV can reach “local people” because this media group is fully interwoven with Sendai and the Tohoku region. Also, Sendai is the main city in Tohoku with regards to population and a healthy Sendai is vital for the regional economy.

In the photo above which was published on March 2, 2012, Ari TV is highlighting the regeneration of a shopping mall. However, unlike the glitzy areas of modern day Japan the brutal reality of the tsunami is visible in this image. Yet despite the clear limitations currently available to this shopping mall and having to move into housed shopping containers; locals don’t view the same image because to them this is a sign of rebirth and the start of a long process to normality.

Takano from Ari TV comments that “The big revival shopping area “South Sanriku SanSan Mall” opened in South Sanriku town, Miyagi, on February 25th. These shops are temporarily housed in shipping containers. The name comes from the people’s desire to make a mall filled with smiles and energy (which is) bright like the shining sun.”

In an early article by Modern Tokyo Times the “Suzuki Farm Harvest” was highlighted and this applies to the tenaciousness of Mr. Suzuki (photo above). He fully understood that salt water had damaged the fields and it appeared impossible to regenerate in such a short period of time, if at all. However, Mr. Suzuki was adamant that he would overcome all the obstacles in front of him and this set of a chain reaction whereby local people gave him the support he needed.

This moving story is one of many by Ari TV and this is why this media group needs support. After all, Ari TV is part of the community that they represent and because they are based “on the ground,” then they can highlight unique events.

Please support Ari TV by watching their many programs in Japanese providing you are a Japanese speaker. Also, if you main language is English or it is your second language then please view the Tohoku Revival CalendarIrrespective of language, Ari TV can build bridges throughout the local community and wider Tohoku region and also internationally. Therefore, Ari TV is “the voice of Sendai.”

http://en.re-tohoku.jp/ Tohoku Revival Calendar – English Version

http://www.ari-tv.jp/top.html Ari TV

http://ja-jp.facebook.com/aritv.sendai – Please contact for more information.

http://twitter.com/#!/re_tohoku_en – Please contact for more information

http://suzuki-yuukinouen.blog.ocn.ne.jp/

http://www.re-tohoku.jp Tohoku Revival Calendar – Japanese version

http://www.hayabusa2012.jp/index.html

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.

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

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.

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com