Posts tagged ‘Tokyo news and geopolitics’

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