Sunday, October 30, 2011

Article Contribution to the Proud Japan Network

One of my friends on Facebook introduced me a conservative civic media, called the Proud Japan Network. This group was found quite recently to advocate a strong push for Japan’s national interests, and promote awareness of the beauty and virtue of traditional Japanese culture.

For this objective, this group publishes articles on the web, and broadcasts online videos. Some distinguished people endorse this group, such as Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Former Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu, Retired Air General Toshio Tamogami, a Uyghur independence activist Tur Muhammet, and Masaharu Isshiki the Patriotic Coast Guard in the Senkaku Island dispute.

I contributed one of my blog posts to the column of the Proud Japan Network. Unfortunately, only Japanese language pages are available at this stage. It is a pleasure that this blog has won another opportunity of recognition.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Review of the Lecture by Chinese Ambassador on Sino-Japanese Relations

The Japan Forum on International Relations invited Chinese ambassador to Japan Cheng Yonghua to give a lecture on Sino-Japanese relations on October 13. Ambassador Cheng delivered the White Paper on “The Peaceful Development of China” to all attendants at the symposium, which was released by the State Council of China on September 6 this year. Cheng told that the development of China contributes to public interest of the world, and China and Japan should strengthen the bilateral relationship starting from the economy regardless of differences in political regime and ideology. As the Sino-Japanese relationship is an issue of high public attention these days, numerous questions were asked at the symposium. I was deeply impressed with Ambassador Cheng’s attitude to answer every question, including some minor points. However, is Chinese policy so “peaceful”, “win-win”, and “without being hegemonic” as the White Paper says? Also, most of the questions at the Q & A session were too “friendly”, considering current bilateral relations between Japan and China. But for real Sino-Japanese mutual understandings, some severe questions could have been helpful. Therefore, I would like to ask the following four questions.

First, I would like to ask a question about China’s “”understanding of history” and “vision of East Asia”. An increasing number of people in China, raging from intellectuals to grassroots citizens, argue that China restore the position before the Opium War, in view of its growing national power. Prior to the Opium War, China treated its neighbors as tributary states to the emperor of the Middle Kingdom in the Ce Feng system. The war broke out between Britain and China, because the Qing dynasty did not accept equal free trade. Considering this point, I suspect that China claims aggressively hegemonic status in the world much more than Britain and America which respect the Westphalia system.

Such suspicion has grown, because Ambassador Cheng focused on “China, Japan, South Korea + ASEAN” when he talked about regional cooperation, bit did not mention Australia and New Zealand. Also, as in the case of Europe, American support is indispensible for regional cooperation in Asia. Any argument that is obsessed with regional integration by “China, Japan, South Korea + ASEAN” reminds me of creation of “the union of Mongoloid nations” and “exclusion of Caucasian nations”. If this is the case, no one can blame that people regard China’s initiative for regional cooperation as the return of old Ce feng regime. None of east Asian nations want such regional cooperation.

Second, I would like to ask which is more important for China, global public interest or great power rivalries. A specific test for this question is nuclear nonproliferation, and it is necessary to examine China’s policy to Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan in particular .With regard to Iran and North Korea, China participates in international negotiations to denuclearize both countries, but it is reluctant to impose sanctions on them. As to North Korea, it is broadly believed among Japanese people that China is much keener on maintaining the Kim regime rather than finding solutions to the nuclear problem. In addition, China helped Iran’s project to build a nuclear power plant, and along with Russia, it continually oppose the initiative to strengthen sanctions proposed by the United States, Britain, France, and Germany. It appears to me that China is more interested in preserving oil resource and geopolitical rivalries with the West than nuclear nonproliferation.

More problematic issue is Pakistan. As if matching India that has reached nuclear deals with foreign contractors, starting from the United States, other industrialized countries, and even Russia, China signed a nuclear deal with Pakistan. This does not just intensify nuclear rivalries between India and Pakistan. Pakistan is in critical trouble in view of nuclear proliferation to terrorists. In the past, there was the Khan network, and recently, bin Laden hid there, and a suspicion has emerged that ISI assisted the Haqqani network to attack the US embassy. Unlike India, Pakistan is in no position of boasting that it has never proliferated nuclear weapons. Since China signed a nuclear deal with such problematic Pakistan, we cannot but watch Beijing with suspicion that its priority lies in geopolitical rivalries with the United States and India rather than global public interest.

Japan is the only country that experienced nuclear bomb attacks. Can we dismiss this, and strengthen the Sino-Japanese relationship simply in pursuit of shortsighted commercial interests? An issue like global warming is also a vital agenda of international public interest as many questions on this problem were asked at the symposium, but the threat of it proceeds slowly. On the other hand, the threat of nuclear weapons proceeds rapidly, once a new possessor emerges. This is the reason why I am asking about China’s policy on nuclear nonproliferation to test the real meaning of “peaceful development” mentioned in the White Paper concretely.

Third, relations with the United States were hardly mentioned when the ambassador told about China’s global and East Asian policy. However, whether regional level or global level, it is impossible to tell Sino-Japanese relations without referring to America. The question I wanted to ask was how China sees the presidential election in the United States next year. Currently, the territorial dispute over Senkaku Islands is calmed down, and China refrains from provoking its neighbors in the sea around the homeland. Is this because China takes US presidential election into account? Actually, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton contributes an article to Foreign Policy November issue to insist on closer relations with Asia. US-Chinese relations will be increasingly influential in Japanese-Chinese relations.

Fourth, though Ambassador Cheng mentioned that Chinese media are diversified these days, can people assert that there are no governmental regulations to the freedom of speeches and expressions? The Nobel Prize Liu Xiaobo has drawn worldwide attentions. In Japan, an Uyghur liberation activist Tur Muhhammet lives in exile. In the China Town of Ikebukuro in Tokyo, there are some Falun Gong activists. At most, if Ambassador Cheng had said that governmental regulations to speeches and expressions were not so severe as reported by foreign media, then, we would be able to be able to believe what he said.

These are questions I wanted to ask at the symposium, but I am afraid that they are not “severe“ enough as I mentioned at the beginning, and “so sweet as a soft cream”. Above all, the focal point of my questions is which is more important for China, global public interest or great power rivalries. The second question on nuclear issues, particularly relations with Pakistan, is the critical test in my view. It is absolutely wrong to assume that Sino-Japanese relations can advance only through depending on superficial friendship and mere pursuit of economic interests. Business cycle is a universal and basic theory of economics. Therefore, high economic growth does not necessarily guarantee further development of regional cooperation in East Asia.

Finally, I would like to express my heartfelt respect to Ambassador Cheng Yonghua as he replied to every question deeply and politely. No wonder the time had run out, and some attendants and I were not endowed opportunities to ask questions. Though there are many hurdles to improve bilateral relations, I am impressed with sincere attitudes of Ambassador Cheng Yonghua, which strongly suggest that China wants to develop relations with Japan. Therefore, the last symposium was very helpful to deepen understandings on the Sino-Japanese relationship.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Stop South Korean Company from Helping Iran’s Nuclear Ambition!

A civic advocacy group called the United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) has released an urgent request to the Daelim conglomerate of South Korea to stop continuing business with Iran. Daelim undergoes oil and gas projects with the Shiite regime of Iran that sponsors terrorism and proliferates nuclear weapons.

US Government Accountability Office raised a critical concern that Daelim made profits through illegal commercial activities with Iran. Energy business with Iran is violation of the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA), whose explicit goal is “to stop businesses from helping Iran develop its natural gas and petroleum sectors given the control exercised over those sectors by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).The IRGC is the Iranian government's branch in direct control of Iran's weapons of mass destruction programs, including its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Daelim's commercialism is an act of nullifying Western sanctions against Iran's nuclear ambition. Iran constitutes the Axis of Evil along with North Korea. Therefore, Daelim ruins national security of South Korea itself.

In order to stop Iran’s dangerous project, sign the letter of protest from this link that will be sent to Daelim executives and US government officials. Thank you very much in advance for your kind cooperation.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Can Japan Deepen the Alliance with America while Pursuing Pacifist Diplomacy?

These days, prime ministers step down every year in Japan. Also, depressant atmosphere prevails due to poor economic performance and nationwide concerns with Japanese decline on global stage. In such unreliable political sceneries, Former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone had an interview with NHK’s anchorman Kensuke Ogoshi in News Watch 9 which was broadcasted on September 15, and he told the guideline for Japan’s future. At the interview, Nakasone insisted that Japan rebuild a nation strong against natural disasters in view of 3/11 earthquake, and appealed importance of soft power as a liberal democracy. In addition, Nakasone told it necessary for political leaders to brush up their personality and intellect by themselves, in order to perform the duty of the prime minister. I was impressed with the interview itself, but I felt some contradictions in his comment that Japan should deepen the alliance with the United States while pursuing pacifist diplomacy. This is because it has become apparent that Japan cannot cooperate with the United States and the global community in security issues as a pacifist nation based on Article 9 of the constitution, which was typically seen in the Gulf War of 1991.

Nakasone argued that we never forget that Japan gave a great deal of trouble to Asian neighbors during World War Ⅱ. I agree with him that Japan not return to militarism during the Pacific War, but do people around the world want Japan that is continually repentant of the past? The Abe administration and the Aso administration explored to strengthen military cooperation with NATO, and European nations welcomed them because both Japan and Europe are close allies to the United States and industrialized democracies. In addition, Asian democracies facing threats of Chinese military expansion think well of growing military role of Japan. In the post Cold War era, while the global community faces threats like the War on Terror, resurgence of China and Russia, and nuclear proliferation, does only Japan have to repent the past continually as done in the postwar period?

Come to think of it, in the 1980s when Nakasone was in charge of the administration, the influence of Middle East affairs on the US-Japanese alliance grew bigger and bigger. The United States had no choice but withdraw the Nixon Doctrine, which led Japan to abandon free rider policy in national security. This is a precursor of “globalization of the US-Japanese alliance as I mentioned on this blog before. Participation in RIMPAC symbolizes such globalization and multilateralization. Though Japan had already participated in joint naval exercise of Pacific nations since preceding Suziki administration, its involvement has expanded since the Nakasone administration. Not only liberal democracies in the region, but also Britain join this exercise far away from the Asia-Pacific area. Such large scale participations were precedents to sending the Self Defense Forces to Iraq under the Koizumi administration. National defense policy in the 1980s has had such great impacts on Japan later in this century. In addition to this achievement, Nakasone endorses constitutional amendment. Despite this, he insisted that it was Japan’s fundamental position to pursue pacifist diplomacy. Therefore, Nakasone’s comment in the interview sounded like a self denial of his own achievement and creed.

It is a considerable constraint for Japan to abide by exclusively defensive defense principles as a pacifist state. In Iraq, the Self defense Forces joined the mission of reconstruction under the British command, but they were not allowed to fight along with other coalition forces. Had the Self Defense Forces been able to carry guns and shoot just one terrorist to death, it could have nurtured common sentiment of unity with British and Dutch forces as fellow soldiers. More importantly, it would have been welcomed by Iraqi people. If that had been the case, Japan could have won much more trust in the global community. Regarding the response against North Korean ballistic missile which is one the most dreadful threat to the Japanese homeland today, experts have not agreed on which stage to intercept it because of constraints under the principle of exclusively defensive defense, and things have become theological controversies.

Article 9 of the constitution had a historical implication to dismantle war time militarism. However, the pacifist clause has no longer political role, because global political sceneries of the postwar era and present days are completely different. Above all, should we define national defense policy in the constitution? Any policy of the state is defined through interactions between the incumbent administration and the legislative organization. For example, in the economy, any constitution cannot define whether to take free market policy or welfare state policy. A constitution defines the system of the government and human rights protection under the rule of law, but not policy directions of specific issues. Therefore, I think it necessary to reconsider Japan as a pacifist nation.

Finally, I would like to argue a hypothesis to discuss pacifist foreign policy. These days, the media and people often say that the quality of politicians has become poorer. I suspect this is because Japanese politicians do not think of war as a means of policy for many years. I can hardly believe that those who are not intellectual enough to think of the war can be real politicians. Eminent philosophers of all ages and cultures ―― from Aristotle, Plato, Sun Tzu, Confucius, to Clausewitz ―― discussed the war as the ultimate political agenda for the state. This is typically illustrated in the fact that monarchs around the world went to the battlefield by themselves, and commanded the war on the horseback until early 19th century military technologies were not highly specialized. War is such a critical policy agenda for the state. I shall never embrace an idea that we entrust the destiny of the state to politicians who are completely ignorant of war.

War is accompanied by tremendous destructive power, and deep insight and high ethical standards are required to use such power. In order to discuss this point, I would like to mention Japanese samurais in the Edo period. As they belonged to the ruling class, they were endowed the privilege of belting on swords. Swords were such lethal weapons that samurais hardly drew them against merchants and peasants, unless they had no other choices save their honor. This is also the case with samurais each other. They had awes with their own power. I believe that we can hardly expect such “humility and a sense of responsibility” to politicians who lay aside thinking of war as a means of policy.

Consequently, I doubt whether Japan should be a pacifist nation that continually repent the past. Instead, it is necessary to think of war as a policy measure, and show future-oriented attitudes. This will deepen the US-Japanese alliance and strengthen trust to Japan in the global community.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

US Foreign Policy and 2012 Election

As the presidential election is coming closer, it is necessary to explore foreign policy debates. Around the 10th anniversary of 9/11, some critical issues have emerged such as Palestinian bid for UN membership, Admiral Mullen’s congressional testimony on Pakistani ISI’s connections with the Haqqani Network (“Pakistan supports Haqqani network, Adm. Mullen tells Congress”; CNN News; September 23, 2011), and Iran’s decision to deploy nuclear centrifuge machine (“Iran's Nuclear Experiments Raise Alarm at U.N. Agency”; Wall Street Journal; September 3, 2011). Can America still afford to pay little attention to foreign policy? The other day, Iran even announced to send its fleet off the Atlantic coast of the United States (“Iran planning to send ships near U.S. waters”; September 28; CNN News).

I would like to mention some commentaries about foreign policy focuses in the forthcoming election. George Friedman, Chief Executive Officer of a Texas-based think tank STRATFOR, points out inherent contradictions and weaknesses associated with the birth of the Obama administration. Those who voted for Barack Hussein Obama expected him to end the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, stop unilateralism, narrow socio-economic inequality, stop job exports, and close Guantánamo prison. However, Obama insisted that the United States focus on Afghanistan and stop fighting in Iraq. Quite ironically, Obama’s multilateralism has not filled the gap between America and Europe. As opposed to Obama’s expectation, Europeans are not necessarily willing to help the United States in managing global challenges, even though his administration shows willingness to listen to Europe. Typically, Germany even refused to “lead from behind” in Libya, and did neither join air attack nor send ground troops there.

More importantly, we should bear in mind that Barack Obama won the last election mainly because voters were upset with sudden financial crisis. His core supporters are welfare state oriented, and prefer high tax policies. On the other hand, centrists do not necessarily object to tax increase, but they are extremely sensitive to big spending accompanied by state interventionist welfare plans. George Friedman says that since Obama is preoccupied with balancing his core supporters and swing voters, his policy focus is on domestic politics, which makes US foreign policy receptive to external affair during the election. The problem is, external shocks that I mention at the beginning are too great for the United States to act receptively. (Obama's Dilemma: U.S. Foreign Policy and Electoral Realities”; Geopolitical Weekly; September 20, 2011)

However, such little attention to is a boon to Obama, as Jimmy Carter failed in his second term election, because of Iranian students seizure of US embassy and Soviet invasion to Afghanistan, according to Tony Blankley, Visiting Senior Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Despite this, Blankley is critically concerned that Obama foreign policy weakens America’s position in the world. Particularly, Blankley is alarmed with Russia and China. Obama was not prepared to the return of Vladimir Putin during the Medvedev presidency, and treated Putin as if he was a secondary leader. Therefore incoming Putin is not comfortable with Obama. This ruins an opportunity for the United States to pursue a Kissingerian diplomacy to balance Russia and China. In addition, the Obama administration withdrew the missile defense system from Poland and Czech, though Kremlin is turning toward more nationalist. His appeasement to China raises concerns even among liberals and neoliberals (“President's Foreign Policy Failures Increase”; Real Clear Politics; September 28, 2011). Obama is in no position to belittle foreign policy in this election, considering global balance of power and American safety.

Though election debates are extremely inward-looking, some foreign policy issues draw a nationwide attention among voters. The Israel-Palestine conflict is one of them. The influence of Iranian sponsored Hamas in the Palestine Authority raises concerns among the American public. A Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, strongly demanded that the Obama administration not endorse Palestine bid for UN membership (“Perry blasts Obama’s policies on Israel, Palestinians”; Washington Post; September 21, 2011). We should not dismiss that conservative civic advocacy groups like Move America Forward regard Israel as an indispensible ally in the War on Terror, because it is the only Western styled democracy in the Middle East. Things are beyond the Jewish lobby.

Regarding Admiral Mullen’s testimony, Sadanand Dhume, columnist of the Wall Street Journal, comments that this suggests America’s frustration with Pakistan’s ambiguous attitude in the War on Terror. Shortly before the testimony at the Senate Armed Service Committee, former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani was killed by a suicide bomber in Kabul. Dhume argues that Pakistan needs to show its commitment to fight against the Haqqani Network, so that the United States will not resort to strong actions like military attacks in Pakistani territory (“Admiral Mullen Slams Pakistan”; The Enterprise Blog; September 22, 2011). This issue can make the Af-Pak problem increasingly sensitive in the forthcoming election, in view of President Obama’s decision to scale down the troop level in Afghanistan.

In such atmosphere, China stays calm. The Chinese government held a state-sponsored concert of a Japanese pop-singer group called SMAP in Beijing this September, in order to ease bilateral tensions with Japan on the Senkaku Islands dispute ("Wen 'sincerely welcomes' SMAP's Beijing concert Fri."; Kyodo News; September 15, 2011) . I wonder whether such a smiling diplomacy is just aimed at Japan. China may be taking cautious approaches not to provoke America during the election. In any case, foreign policy debates cannot be dismissed in this election. The bipartisan super committee will announce their final conclusion on defense budget, this November. Since key policy agendas are intertwined, domestic economy cannot stand alone.