Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Sacked Diplomat Who Came in from the Cold

The strange sacking of Japan veteran ambassador from Moscow

Ambassador Kono Masaharu, "he forced the respect of the international diplomats community"

Masaharu Kono is a top class diplomat and if he is fired all of a sudden by the prime minister Kan's administration it is an other failure of Japan's diplomacy led by amateurs and the "fait du Prince" being here Prime Minister Kan who has been unable to establish a clear communication with his veteran diplomats and diplomatic experts. But it is also because the Russian school (and the China school) has been destroyed within the Gaimusho unilaterally glooming about Washington for defining what the policy would be, as watchers and experts stated*.

Top class diplomat, Kono accumulated success in his career to establish good relations with Europe, US, and succeeded as the number 1 policy maker for Africa. Kono made it possible for Japan to safely organize several difficult partnerships with the black continent and made TICAD aid conference on Africa a diplomatic accomplishment under popular prime minister Junichiro Koizumi. Not an easy task with demanding African nations. Still this Japanese government has decided to fire its ambassador to Russia for a strange motive that won't convince much specialists of the Far-East and Russia.

Officially? For failure to timely inform Tokyo about the visit of Russian President Dimitry Medvedev to one of the four disputed Kuril Islands in November...! Critics claim this is an other blunder of the Kan administration in establishing a proper diplomatic course, necessary funding, clear communication vis a vis the nations and the media, domestic or foreign, and serious objectives. All of this happening while in a period of high risk as seen on the Korean peninsula, China Japan sour relationship, and US and Japan fuzzy alliance with the Okinawa US bases problematic issue etc. Naturally attention is focussed on the PM Kan and his minister of Foreign Affairs Maehara's motives.

Russia President Dimitry Medvedev during his visit to the Southern Kuril Islands

According to briefing given to the Japanese media, the Japanese government is trying to rebuild its Russia policy under pressure from Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, according to Kyodo sources. It is during a meeting on Wednesday, that Kan's government concluded that Japan's diplomatic mission in Russia, headed by Ambassador Masaharu Kono, "misled the Japanese Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister Naoto Kan by reporting that the Russian president did not plan to visit southern Kurils." "This failure prevented Japanese authorities from promptly assessing the situation and taking appropriate steps, the Yomiuri newspaper wrote, quoting official sources."

Now, who gives orders to ambassadors if not the top hands of the Gaimusho and the government? Since the policy is established by high officials of ministries under the guidance of the executive power. This dismissal bears traces of a sulphuric mishandling of major diplomatic course. Why? If the government is unable to read in his own manifesto or guidelines, it makes even more difficult to the ministries to clarify the policy to implement. So, one has to be the scapegoat, in this case ambassador Kono is beheaded. But other things appear in the background.

Japanese media write that "Medvedev's visit to Kunashiri Island infuriated Japanese politicians, and the right wing medias while the Kremlin said the Russian president "could travel freely around his own country", and does not have to share his travel plans with anybody."

For the record, Japan and Russia both claim to the islands since they were annexed by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II. The dispute over the 4 "northern islands" has prevented the two countries from signing a peace treaty to formally end World War II hostilities.

Russian officials have been courting Japanese investors into joining the Sakhaline projects

Such a decision is also related to the destruction of a coherent Japan Russia policy. Both countries entered a diplomatic impasse while successful contracts have allowed Japan to guarantee safe supplies of oil and gas. Someone lost something here...?

A reason sufficient enough to cause very serious concerns among Japan's partners as seen with the startup this year of East Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) shipments from Siberia which has positioned Russia to add to its established role of LNG provider and become an increasingly important supplier of crude oil to Japan, which has traditionally depended on the Middle East for most of its imports. Making the US repressive influence in the Arabic and central Asia region less coherent for Japan. Japan is the world's third largest consumer of oil, following the United States and China. The average daily consumption of oil in Japan in 2009 was 4,400 barrels per day, or about 219 million tons for the entire year. Japan imports roughly 90 percent of this amount.

There are certainly other issues, we'll have more later on this sudden recall which is to infuriate further more Japan's civil servants, the energy industry and the bankers. On this read

Ambassador Kono, often praised by JICA chief Mrs Ogata is said by media to be likely replaced by current Japanese Ambassador to the Czech Republic Chikahito Harada. Both know each other. Mr. Harada served under ambassador Kono.

*Read on this the excellent post on the NBR forum by ex Ambassador Togo and professor Clark

Sources: Kyodo, Nikkei, Yomiuri, Ria novosti., Reporter's notes.


  1. Anonymous11:51 AM

    Who controls Japan, the Keidanren, the Prime Minister office MOFA, Ministry of Finance? Here is a point:

    A former Foreign Ministry official confirmed in an interview Wednesday that Japan and the United States had a secret pact under which Tokyo paid an additional $65 million to finance costs related to the 1972 reversion of Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty.

    The official wrote a confidential diplomatic note dated Oct. 22, 1971, that was declassified Wednesday and proved the existence of the secret pact. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official became the first to have been involved in the pact to make specific confirmation of its existence.

    The former official of the Foreign Ministry's First North America Division said the pact was signed at the initiative of the Finance Ministry, rather than the Foreign Ministry. "I'm sure documents (related to the secret pact) are kept at the Finance Ministry."

    U.S. documents have shown the two countries secretly agreed Japan would pay the money to cover goods and services for the improvement and transfer of U.S. military facilities, in addition to $320 million in reversion costs to be shouldered under an official bilateral agreement struck in June 1971.

  2. Anonymous12:52 PM

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev expressed regret that his visit to the disputed Kuril Islands in Russia's Far East in November led to the recall of the Japanese ambassador.
    "I sincerely regret that I, in essence, contributed to the suspension of his political career. We did not aim at that," This is what Medvedev said Friday in an end-of-year interview broadcast live on Russia's three main TV channels. He also reiterated that Russia will not give up the islands said Moscow is ready to cooperate with Tokyo. "We are ready to implement joint economic projects and take into account these or those historic issues connected with the Kurils. We are ready to work with Japan, but this does not mean we should give up the Kurils as our land."

  3. Anonymous1:38 AM

    Cabinet disapproval rate rises to 67% in latest Kyodo poll


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