Friday, October 29, 2004

Japan Emperor say: no one should be forced to face the flag and sing the national anthem!

Since Japan's defeat in World War II, tacit taboos have
prevented outward displays of patriotism and stifled
debate. Last year, however, the Tokyo metropolitan
government ordered teachers and students to sing the
anthem at graduation. In March, the school board
punished nearly 200 teachers for disobeying, and
teachers sued.

Japan's Emperor said Thursday that no one should be
forced to face the flag and sing the national anthem —
both potent symbols of Japan's brutal 20th century
invasion of Asia.

In unusually blunt remarks Thursday at the royal
family's annual autumn garden party, Emperor Akihito
expressed his opposition to the school board action.

"It is desirable that it not be compulsory," Akihito
replied, after Tokyo school board member Kunio Yonegawa
said he was trying to make all Japanese students raise
the flag and sing the anthem.

"I thank the emperor for his wonderful words," Yonegawa
said, with a quick bow, during the exchange, which was
aired by Japanese TV networks.

It's unclear what affect the emperor's remarks will
have. But they could help defuse anger in China, South
Korea (news - web sites) and other Asian countries where
many still harbor bitter memories of Japanese invasions.

Japan's patriotism debate has centered over whether
children should be taught to be proud of their history
and culture in schools. It has grown heated following
adoption in 1999 of the red-and-white "Hinomaru" and the
"Kimigayo" as the official flag and anthem, both
longtime national symbols.

Some conservative lawmakers say Japanese children lack
national pride and that schools should teach them to
love their country. Lawmakers and politicians have
called for changes to an education system that boasts
nearly 100 percent literacy but is widely criticized as
placing too much importance on competition, conformity
and rote learning. Some schools have begun grading
students' patriotism.

Although Japan's postwar constitution grants the royal
family no official powers, the emperor has a central
role in the debate.

Akihito's father, Hirohito, was revered as a living god
until Japan's surrender led him to renounce his
divinity. He reigned when Japan invaded Asia in his
name, and his responsibility for wartime atrocities
remains a topic of historical debate.

Yasuo Moriyama, a spokesman for the Imperial Household
Agency, said the emperor was only expressing a
long-standing view that it's not a good idea to mix
patriotism and education. "The emperor just said
something that is common sense," Moriyama said.

PSI anti WMD proliferation naval drills: Who is in charge?

A bigger role for Japanese Navy needed in PSI
Yomiuri shimbun writes.

The Japan-hosted multilateral maritime exercises
conducted Tuesday off Sagami Bay, Kanagawa Prefecture,
to interdict weapons of mass destruction have
highlighted a major legal problem the country has in
promoting the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).

The drill was the first held in East Asia under the PSI
launched by U.S. President George W. Bush in May last
year to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction. In addition to the Japan Coast Guard, the
Maritime Self-Defense Force participated in the exercise
for the first time.

But the MSDF could not play a central role in the
exercise because it is not authorized to stop and
inspect ships in peacetime. This meant that the drill
had to take a very unusual form.

The drill was conducted based on the scenario that a
Japanese-registered ship had received from a
U.S.-registered vessel on the high seas near Japan
materials that could be used to manufacture sarin nerve

The JCG played a major role in the drill, interdicting
and inspecting the suspect ship as well as searching and
confiscating the suspicious materials. Meanwhile, MSDF
destroyers and patrol planes merely patrolled the
exercise area and provided information to the navies of
other participating countries.

The MSDF joined the exercise based on a "research"
provision in the Defense Agency Law because it could not
find any other legal ground.

Held separately from the main interdiction operation,
the activities of the MSDF and three other navies were
limited to stopping and inspecting a suspect ship in
waters off Yokosuka Port, Kanagawa Prefecture, on
Wednesday. The MSDF exercise was held based on the
scenario that the government had ordered the MSDF to
conduct policing actions.

Laws tie MSDF's hands

Based on this lame excuse, the government conducted the
PSI maritime interdiction exercise for the JCG and a
separate, limited inspection exercise for the MSDF.

Though the MSDF conducted the inspection exercise, it
actually may not stop ships for inspection in peacetime.

Under current laws, the MSDF may inspect ships on the
high seas only when Japan is attacked by an enemy,
emergency situations take place in regions around Japan,
or the government orders it to take defensive or
policing actions.

But with such legal limitations, the MSDF will not be
able to make a proper contribution to preventing the
proliferation of WMD. At the third PSI meeting held last
autumn in Paris, member nations agreed to revise and
enhance related domestic laws.

Japan should review relevant laws to enable the
Self-Defense Forces to participate in ship inspections
and other interdiction activities in peacetime.

Pussyfooting over Pyongyang

The MSDF could not play a central role at the latest
drill not only because of legal problems, but also
because the Foreign Ministry was afraid that the MSDF's
participation in the PSI drill might offend neighboring

But this is a matter closely related to the security of
Japan. The ministry's fears were beside the point.

North Korea exported missiles and related parts to
Pakistan and Iran, and obtained nuclear-related
materials and technology from those countries in return.

China and South Korea decided not to send observers to
the latest PSI drill, apparently because they did not
want to do anything that might anger North Korea.

But both China and South Korea should beef up their
monitoring of North Korea if they are serious about
realizing the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Japan and Singapore are the only two Asian countries
among the 15 nations that have signed up to the PSI.
Japan should play a leading role in increasing the
number of PSI member nations.

Ship inspections are only one brick in the wall built to
prevent WMD proliferation, but it is still important to
strengthen them.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Iraq: a young Japanese traveller taken hostage

Japan sought international help Wednesday to secure the
release of a Japanese man taken hostage in Iraq and
pledged to do its utmost to gain his freedom after
refusing to bow to the kidnappers' threat to behead him
unless Japan withdraws its troops from Iraq.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi voiced his resolve to
save Shosei Koda, 24, telling reporters, "We must rescue
him by taking all possible measures." He made the remark
in reference to Japan's calls for cooperation from about
25 countries, including Iraq's neighbors, over the
rescue of the hostage.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell
"reiterated our pledge to do whatever we can to assist
Japan's efforts to resolve the situation," State
Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Wednesday.

Powell discussed the issue with Foreign Minister
Nobutaka Machimura on the phone last night, Boucher

"We also welcome Prime Minister Koizumi's unequivocal
statement that Japan would not withdraw Japanese forces
from Iraq and that Japan will not yield to terrorism,"
he said.

"Japan's Self-Defense Forces are carrying out a vital
humanitarian effort in Iraq," he said. "That effort
benefits the Iraqi people as they seek to reconstruct
their country."

Machimura told reporters late Wednesday that he called
on Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi to help
settle the hostage crisis in telephone talks.

Allawi was quoted by Machimura as saying Iraq is a
"friend" of Japan and will do its utmost to that end.

Machimura similarly pressed the case for Koda's safe
release during a series of telephone conversations with
his counterparts in Britain, Iraq and the United States,
Foreign Ministry officials said.

Machimura kept silent about whether the Japanese
government has made direct contact with the captors,
saying "It would be inappropriate to say anything
concrete for now."

A Japanese government source signaled some negotiations
involving Japan and the hostage-takers might be under
way as day breaks in Iraq.

Koizumi, meanwhile, rejected the captors' demand for the
withdrawal of SDF troops from Iraq, saying earlier in
the day "The SDF will not withdraw...We cannot allow
terrorism to prevail and cannot bow to terrorism." He
made the comments during a visit to typhoon-hit areas in
Toyooka, Hyogo Prefecture.

The hostage crisis broke when a video of Koda being held
captive by a group of Islamic militants and statements
were posted on a website around 2 a.m. Wednesday Japan
time. The captors threatened to behead Koda unless Japan
withdrew the SDF from Iraq within 48 hours.

Iraqi Ambassador to Japan Ghanim al-Jumaily said he is
committed to helping Japan to resolve the crisis,
telling reporters that Iraq is "trying to do as much as
possible to secure the release of the kidnapped."

But the Iraqi envoy said that prospects for immediate
contact with Koda's captors appeared dim. When asked
about the possibility, he said, "At this point, no."

The Iraqi ambassador made the remarks after meeting with
Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Yukio Takeuchi at the
Foreign Ministry.

The 25 countries to which Japan is turning for help
include Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, South Korea,
the United States and Britain, a senior Foreign Ministry
official said on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, Senior Vice Foreign Minister Shuzen Tanigawa
and an emergency police counterterrorism team left for
the Jordanian capital of Amman to lead Japan's ad hoc
task force dealing with the case.

Foreign Ministry Press Secretary Hatsuhisa Takashima,
who serves as the ministry's chief spokesman, indicated
the Japanese government believes the 48-hour deadline
expires at around 2 a.m. Friday Japan time or 8 p.m.
Thursday Iraq time.

Although the incident occurred ahead of a decision on
whether to maintain hundreds of SDF troops in Iraq
beyond their Dec. 14 deadline, Japan quickly separated
the two matters and focused on efforts to free Koda, who
is from Fukuoka Prefecture.

"The government is concerned about Mr. Koda who is a
civilian with no relation either with the government or
the SDF, and who has been taken hostage," Koizumi told a
Diet session in the afternoon.

"The SDF is working for humanitarian aid and
reconstruction aid for the Iraqi people...I would like
to continue striving to have Japan's ideas understood
and Mr. Koda released as soon as possible," he said.

Foreign Minister Machimura urged the hostage-takers to
release Koda, saying that Japan is a "friend of Iraq,"
in interviews with foreign media organizations including
the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite news channel,
according to Japanese Foreign Ministry officials.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda declined to
comment on the impact of the hostage crisis, coupled
with a recent incident in which a dud rocket was fired
into the SDF camp in the southern Iraqi city of Samawah,
on the deployment of the SDF troops.

"I would wait until the hostage incident settles. It
occurred obviously in a very distant place
geographically," the top government spokesman said.

The government still has no information on where Koda
was captured but learned that he entered Iraq from
Jordan during the past week, Hosoda said.

Early Wednesday, the government set up a task force in
Tokyo as well, consisting of five ministers headed by
Hosoda, and reaffirmed Koizumi's instructions at their
first meeting.

Koda's parents sent a fax message to Koizumi and
Machimura later Wednesday, asking the government to
rescue their son at an early date, according to
officials of the city of Nogata, Koda's hometown in
Fukuoka Prefecture.

The ruling parties supported the government's policy,
while the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan also
decided to oppose a troop pullout, although the party is
basically opposed to the SDF's Iraq dispatch.

The government also issued a fresh warning to Japanese
citizens against visiting Iraq and urged those still in
Iraq to leave immediately.

Koda is said to have been traveling in many countries,
Hosoda said. Earlier in the day, he noted the government
has repeatedly issued a travel advisory warning against
going to Iraq.

Machimura also questioned the necessity for Koda's trip,
given the poor security situation.

"An evacuation advisory has been repeatedly issued and
he must have been fully aware of the danger. I really
find it hard to understand why he has traveled there,"
Machimura told reporters after the task force meeting at
the premier's office.

Defense Agency Director General Yoshinori Ono, National
Public Safety Commission Chairman Yoshitaka Murata and
Justice Minister Chieko Nono also attended the task
force meeting.

Vice Foreign Minister Takeuchi told U.S. Ambassador to
Japan Howard Baker on the phone that Japan has no plans
to withdraw its troops, and the U.S. envoy expressed
support for the Japanese policy, according to the

Monday, October 25, 2004

Foreign aid to Niigata after earthquake

As in Tokyo great earthquake in 1923, and several times
later, the United States on Monday offered Japan $50,000
in aid to deal with the powerful earthquakes Saturday in
Niigata Prefecture that killed at least 25 people and
injured over 2,100, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki
Hosoda said.

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Howard Baker made the offer in
reciprocation for Japanese aid during the devastating
1989 quake in San Francisco in a telephone call to
Hosoda, the top government spokesman told a press

"Recalling the Japanese people's generosity after the
1989 earthquake in San Francisco, the ambassador
authorized the disbursal of $50,000 in disaster
assistance as a symbol of the U.S. desire to do whatever
it can to assist the government and people of Japan
during this difficult time," the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo
said in a statement.

The embassy also said the United States "stands ready to
provide additional assistance to help ease the burden of
the victims of this tragedy."

It was the first time for the death toll from a quake to
reach double digits since the Great Hanshin Earthquake
that struck Kobe and its vicinity in 1995.

In a separate move, 13 South Korean journalists who are
currently visiting Japan offered a total 30,000 yen to
the Japanese government in disaster assistance, Japanese
Foreign Ministry officials said.

Environmental degradation: emerging factor for conflicts

Rising sea levels force millions of Bangladeshis into
India, fuelling ethnic and religious tensions that end
in bloody riots.

In Africa, crops wither in the parched landscape of a
once-lush nation, bringing strife to the countryside and
leading citydwellers to clash with the army as they loot
shops for food.

As Russian lawmakers ratified the Kyoto protocol on
climate change after years of dithering, grim scenarios
like these may have been on the minds of some.

A growing number of analysts argue that global warming
linked to greenhouse gas emissions is not just a "green

They argue it might eventually top terrorism on the
global security agenda, provoking new conflicts and
inflaming old ones.

"The biggest security problem from global warming would
be forced migrations, the dislocation of people because
of flooding or drought," said Steve Sawyer, climate
policy adviser for environmental group Greenpeace.

"Or drastic ecosystem change could change the resource
base and uproot rural people. Forced migrations of
people almost always cause problems."

Former Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson said
earlier this year that global warming posed a greater
long-term threat to humanity than terrorism because it
could force hundreds of millions from their homes.

Russia's ratification of Kyoto cleared the way for the
long-delayed climate change pact to come into force

Kyoto obliges rich nations to cut overall emissions of
heat-trapping carbon dioxide to 5.2 percent below 1990
levels by 2008-12, by curbing use of coal, oil and
natural gas and shifting to cleaner energies like solar
or wind power.

The United Nations projects that temperatures may rise
by 1.4-5.8 Celsius by the year 2100. That could raise
sea levels, swamp low-lying states, and bring
desertification or floods.

Even if fully implemented to 2012, Kyoto would only curb
the projected rise in temperatures by 0.15 Celsius.
Anything more would require far deeper cuts likely to
cost trillions of dollars.

Climate change is taking its worst toll on the
developing world, although the bulk of greenhouse gas
emissions stem from rich nations.

Global warming may already be a source of violence in
heavily populated central Nigeria, where nomadic cattle
herders and peasant farmers have been locked in conflict
over scarce land for decades as the Sahara Desert creeps

"The frequency and impacts of natural disasters are on
the rise, driven in part by an unpredictably changing
climate. The poor are the most threatened by these
catastrophes and the least equipped to recover," says
the International Institute for Sustainable Development.

"Evidence is emerging that many conflicts around the
world are driven by natural resource scarcity or
inequitable access and benefit-sharing."

A United Nations and Organisation for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) report looked at the
ecological roots of conflict in the tension-ridden
Southern Caucasus region, which includes Chechnya.

"Environmental degradation and the use of natural
resources are identified as factors that could deepen
contention in areas of existing conflicts as in
Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh and
adjacent regions of Azerbaijan," it said.

Another recent study, the Southern African Millennium
Ecosystem Assessment (SAMA), stressed that many
conflicts in Africa were driven by land degradation.

Some analysts see global warming contributing to
conflict over dwindling water supplies. But one U.N.
study found that 3,600 water agreements had been
recorded over the past 4,500 years -- suggesting that
people can cooperate when it comes to this vital

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Japanese Prime Minister enjoys movie festival while Niigata earthquake kills villagers

Hosoda dismisses criticism over PM not returning soon
after quake

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda brushed aside
criticism Sunday that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi
had stayed for the opening ceremony and screening at an
international film festival in Tokyo on Saturday after
being informed of the powerful earthquakes in Niigata

"I see no problem with that because it (attending the
ceremony) was in the line of duty," Hosoda told a press

Koizumi stayed for about an hour at the ceremony, at
which he gave a speech, and the screening at the cinema
complex before returning to his official residence to
deal with the quake.

When the first quake, of magnitude 6.8, struck northern
Japan at 5:56 p.m., Koizumi was in the hallway of the
Grand Hyatt Tokyo hotel in the Roppongi Hills complex to
attend the ceremony but did not notice the tremor,
government officials said earlier.

Koizumi learned of the quake when he received a note
from his secretary at 6:07 p.m. after he finished giving
his speech.

At around 6:15 p.m., Koizumi headed by his private car,
equipped with television and telephone, for the cinema
where a movie directed by Yoji Yamada was to be shown.

Koizumi initially took his seat in the cinema, but
decided to return to his official residence after
receiving information that a Shinkansen bullet train had
been derailed by the quake and aftershocks were still
taking place.

Koizumi left the complex at 7:08 p.m. when starring
actors were giving speeches and arrived at his residence
at 7:27 p.m.

"We had the premier return to his residence, in
consideration of possible communication difficulties in
a cinema and also of the incident in 2001 when former
Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori was criticized for playing
golf after receiving reports about the Ehime Maru
training ship accident," said a source closed to the

Nine Japanese, including four students of the Uwajima
Fisheries High School, died in the sinking of the Ehime
Maru training ship off Hawaii in February 2001 after it
was rammed by a U.S. submarine. Twenty-six others aboard
the Ehime Maru were rescued, while no one on the sub was

French reporter conducted espionage for Russia in Russo-Japanese War

Russia obtained information on Japan's strategy for the
1904-1905 Russo-Japanese War, including the plan for a
major offensive in northeastern China in March 1905,
through a Tokyo-based French correspondent and other
sources, according to the recent study by a Russian

Dmitri Pavlov, a professor of history at the Moscow
State Institute of Radio Engineering, Electronics and
Automation, says Russia found out in August 1904 that
Japan would attack Mukden as early as January 1905.

Mukden -- now the northeastern Chinese city of Shengyang
-- was under Russian control at the time.

According to documents obtained by Pavlov from the
Imperial Russia government archives, a former senior
Russian diplomat to Korea known as Alexander Pavlov was
in charge of espionage in Japan.

Commissioned by the czar, Pavlov began his espionage
career in Shanghai in April 1904, shortly after the
start of the Russo-Japanese War.

When Russians were forced to leave Japan after the start
of the war, Alexander Pavlov found collaborators from
among foreign correspondents and bankers based in Japan.

A correspondent of the French newspaper Le Figaro by the
name of Balais was reportedly Pavlov's most important
asset. France was an ally of Russia at the time.

Balais, who spoke fluent Japanese, arrived in Japan in
June 1904 and worked as a spy for nine months.

Balais obtained information from the Japanese military
and Foreign Ministry. He also visited ports and
hospitals under his journalistic cover.

Until he left Japan for fear of being exposed as a spy,
Balais sent around 30 reports to Pavlov in Shanghai by
regular sea mail, Dmitri Pavlov said.

Acting on Balais' information, Alexander Pavlov sent an
official telegram to Moscow in August 1904 alerting the
government that Japan would attack Mukden by January
1905. Balais' reports contained information on the types
of munitions and vessels Japan had, the number of troop
deserters, and personal relationships of Japanese
military commanders, Russian documents show.

The Russo-Japanese War ended in August 1905 with the
signing of the Portsmouth Treaty, which was negotiated
through U.S. mediation. The treaty gave Japan control of
the Kwantung Peninsula along with Port Arthur and the
southern part of Sakhalin Island up to the 50th

According to Japanese experts, Dmitri Pavlov's study,
which will be published in Russia in a book, is the
first substantial work on Russia's spy network in the
Russo-Japanese War.

Depleted uranium munitions not disclosed by South Korea

South Korea produced anti-tank munitions in the 1980s
using depleted uranium imported for non-military use and
failed to make required disclosures, a South Korean
lawmaker and an environmental group said on Thursday.

A government official said depleted-uranium munitions
were produced for five years and the government had told
the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1987
when the programme was ended.

Depleted uranium is a by-product of nuclear fuel
production. It can be used to strengthen ammunition and
enable it to penetrate armour.

The disclosure comes at a sensitive time for South
Korea, which said in September some of its scientists
had enriched a small amount of uranium in 2000 and
separated plutonium in 1982.

The government said those tests were conducted by
scientists purely out of curiosity, although the IAEA
said the failure to disclose them was a matter of
serious concern.

South Korea is involved in international efforts to get
communist North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons
ambitions but the North has said it would not resume
talks until an investigation of the South's tests was

South Korea made anti-tank munitions with material
derived from the conversion of depleted uranium in the
mid-1980s, Jo Seoung-soo, a lawmaker from the opposition
Democratic Labour Party, and the Green Korea United
group told a news conference

Doing so without disclosure broke an agreement with the
U.N. nuclear watchdog, they said.

"The use of the material in anti-tank munition requires
conversion of depleted uranium and not reporting it is
in violation of the safeguards," said Seok Kwang-hoon,
spokesman for the Green Korea United environmental

Jo and Seok said the munitions-making at government
laboratories between 1983 and 1987 was not aimed at
producing nuclear weapons.

"But this is a violation of the IAEA safeguard
agreement, and the government's failure to disclose it
hurts South Korea's credibility," Jo told reporters.

The government official said the IAEA was notified in
1987 when the programme was scrapped.

"No reporting before that had been required," he said.

Another government official said the development of the
munitions had "very little to do with the IAEA".

The use of depleted uranium in munitions did not involve
conversion of uranium, but a simple reshaping of the
material and that process carried no reporting
requirement, the second official said.

"This has absolutely nothing to do with nuclear
weapons," he said.

The IAEA will report in November on its findings on
South Korea's admission to enriching uranium and
separating plutonium after inspections in South Korea.