Friday, December 27, 2013

East wind and rain expected after Shinzo Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni war shrine

Abe behind a Yasukuni shrine priest Dec 26 2013

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe couldn’t stay away for so long from the Yasukuni Shrine because to him, nothing else better symbolises his nationalist attachment to war time sacrifices. Abe and his supporters regularly visit the shrine each August, I saw Shinzo Abe prior to his election in December 2012 haranguing the nationalists crowds on August 15th 2012, the day of Japan’s defeat. He did it again but this time with an official mourning suit of prime minister.

December 26, 2013 is exactly one year day for day after his LDP party victory following one of numerous parliamentary elections Japan went through. At that time, 1 year ago, Abe is seen as the “last reformist chance” by Japan business world. Abe’s powerful team tries to focus on the priorities for Japan: the economy, the survival of its industry, the reconstruction after the triple catastrophe of Tohoku and Fukushima and the hope to boost the archipelago dynamic character in front of what is perceived in Tokyo as aggressive behaviours of Japan’s neighbours such as China and South Korea.

One year after wearing his new clothes of prime minister, Shinzo Abe had to pay back to his supporters and among them to the Shinto shrines association of Japan which donated a lot for LDP political campaigns. These people’s efforts nourished a supportive vote in favour of the LDP hawks, including a lot in cash. The most supportive, especially those who call themselves the “patriots” were waiting for his visit to the Yasukuni. They finally got what they wanted even if it is to create turmoil in the Far East.

Yasukuni Shrine lies in the very heart of Tokyo, near the Budokan, close to the magnificent parks and alleys near the Imperial palace moats, celebrated. Not so far from the national cemetery Chidorigafuchi 千鳥ケ淵戦没者墓苑 where 352,000 unidentified war dead are housed. There lays “the tomb of the unknown soldier" completed in March 1959. It is a public institution, frequently visited by the Emperor and Prime Minister. Recently visited by US State secretary and Defence secretary Kerry and Hagel. But Chidorigafuchi does not fit Japanese hawks psyche.

Built in 1869 under the Emperor Meiji, the origin of Yasukuni Shrine is Shokonsha which was established at Kudan, Tokyo in the second year of the Meiji era (1869) renamed as Yasukuni Shrine in 1879. Yasukuni enshrines the spirits of those who “died on public duty of protecting their mother land” according to the Yasukuni Shrine homepage.

The problem is that if the shrine venerates the souls of 2.5 million Japan's war dead, it also honours several convicted Japanese war criminals. Since 1978, the souls of 14 Class A convicted war criminals from World War Two are also enshrined, including Prime Minister General Hideki Tojo executed for war crimes in 1948. Tojo orchestrated the Pearl Harbour bombing of December 7th 1941. The “Day of Infamy” as described then by US president Roosevelt provoked by Tojo and the "War Agitators.” 

Main point of disagreement is that a "private foundation that runs Yasukuni added the 14 most controversial souls surreptitiously” according to Japan watchers. (Jeff Kingston in Japan Times). During World War II, the shrine also served as the “command headquarters” of State Shinto.

Yasukuni Shrine, Kudan, Tokyo

The atmosphere was tense, television carried live video of his motorcade making its way to the shrine and from 11:30 Thursday morning, Abe was the first premier to enter the shrine, seven years after Junichiro Koizumi, in 2006. Helicopters of Japanese TVs were flying dangerously above Yasukuni, while a furious crowd of supporters, reporters and photographs rallied at the shrine. Everyone was prepared to fix the moment on the cameras for a mere 15 minutes. Abe’s visit was not decided in the spur of the moment but was a managed plan realised prior to the New Year celebrations, while Japanese aim at their rare perception of national holidays in honouring their parents and their traditions, one of them is worship of ancestors and commemorate the deceased eternally by enshrining them as object of worship at their home or their place of birth in their “Furusato” 故郷.

"I expressed my sincere condolences, paid my respects and prayed for the souls of all those who made ultimate sacrifices," Abe told reporters after visiting the shrine. Although the hawkish Abe had until today avoided visiting the religious site while Prime Minister, he had said that one of his regrets during his first one year rule as Japan’s leader from 2006 to 2007 was not personally paying his respects at Yasukuni.

He did but the Emperor never did. Akihito never visited the Yasukuni, and his father Emperor Hirohito stopped visiting the war shrine because of displeasure over its 1978 enshrinement of top war criminals: “In a July 31, 2001, entry of his diary, published by the Asahi newspaper, the chamberlain, Ryogo Urabe, wrote that "the direct cause" was that the emperor was "displeased about the inclusion of Class A war criminals" as wrote the New York Times April 2007.

Conflict decades after…
Yasukuni says it honours the nation’s 2.5 million wartime dead, including those convicted of committing atrocities during imperial Japan’s conquest across Asia in the past century. A history museum is located on the shrine’s grounds and if it tells a fair account of Japanese history, it goes totally revisionist at Meiji era, and ends totally wrong in its attempt to minimise Japan’s brutality before and during World War II to the point of labelling the Nanking Massacre, weeks of long slaughter in the former Chinese capital, as an “incident” among lots of other revisionist claims.

Shinzo Abe’s grandfather, Kishi Nobusuke, was a wartime minister of Industry, and was arrested as a suspected war criminal by Mac Arthur led Allies occupation forces, then released and carried on with a political career. In a memoir called “Toward a Beautiful Country” Abe described his maternal grandfather Nobusuke Kishi as a “sincere statesman who only thought about the future of his country.” While Prime Minister in the late 1950s, Kishi, like many other Japanese leaders after him, visited Yasukuni too.

This Abe visit is not just to mourn the bitter taste of the defeat, it comes at a crucial time, Abe just signed a few days ago the largest defence budget hike in nearly twenty years, though a mere 2.8% increase in spending, year on year. Some of the money will be used to support Japan’s defence of the islands of Senkaku Diaoyu rocks located in the East China Sea. Tokyo administers the islets but Beijing also claims them as part of Chinese territory. Added to that territorial dispute unrecognised by Tokyo, Chinese government announced the formation of an East China Sea Air Defence Identification Zone that covers these controversial islands, as well as other territory claimed by Korea.

Shinzo Abe talks to Japanese reporters after visit

This is "a gesture of peace" commented to the press at 11:45 Shinzo Abe who added that his visit is not made to hurt Chinese and Korean. But in Beijing and Seoul, segments of the society, nationalist mostly but not only, see the Yasukuni as a symbol of Tokyo's war time aggression and lack of apologies of Japan for the exactions committed during World War II and that it represents the country's past militarism. They consider that Abe’s visit "will add already tense relations with neighbouring China and South Korea" says commentators. The US embassy in Tokyo said in a statement it was "disappointed" and that Mr Abe's actions would "exacerbate tensions" with Japan's neighbours.

Foreign affairs ministry immediately communicated with lots of advertising messages, perceiving the turmoil overseas, and emailed to foreign journalists based in Japan, and so did the home of the Prime Minister at the Kantei, with these words : ” The purpose of his [Prime Minister Abe] visit today, on the anniversary of his administration's taking office, was to report before the souls of the war dead how his administration worked for one year and to renew the pledge that Japan must never wage a war again. " Also this was added by the “Gaimusho”: “ It is not the PM's intention at all to hurt the feelings of the Chinese and Korean people. His wish is to respect each other's character, protect freedom and democracy, and build friendship with China and Korea with respect, as did all the previous Prime Ministers who visited Yasukuni Shrine. "

China did not read the visit with the same rose glasses. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, ex ambassador in Japan, said Mr Abe’s action had pushed Japan in an “extremely dangerous” direction. On the very same day, December 26th, Chinese celebrated national unity with the 120th anniversary of Chairman Mao Zedong’s birthday in Shaoshan, Hunan province.

China could not expect better political misleading strategy and we can deplore years after years that politics and diplomacy once again failed in the North East part of Asia because politics and diplomacy are not employed to avert conflicts, but to make certain that they might be coming and there is nothing more fearful than hearing a politician carrying a message of eternal peace to the world from a sanctuary which harbours war criminals.

Images Yasukuni, Abe, facebook

Monday, December 23, 2013

Ama Female Divers, a Korea Japan shared heritage

They are Japanese and Koreans and gather pearls, abalone, turban shells and any kind of delicious seafood from the ocean floor, wearing only a mask! We discover them in Cheju Island, off the southern tip of Korea, which is home to the largest population of Ama (5,000), more than double the entire population of Japanese Ama (2,200). When I first encountered these Ama female divers at Cheju island and later on at Toba, Mie prefecture in Japan, I was absolutely bewildered to see Japanese Ama's resistance and tenacious mindset, some of them over 60 years old and still continuing diving. 

Here they are famous for collecting namako (sea-cucumber) and pearls from oysters. The majority of Ama are women from Japan Ishikawa and Mie prefectures and Korean Cheju island. Ama female divers are to compete for entering the 2015 Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage. "Female divers of Cheju Island have continued with cultural exchanges with Ama divers in the Japan Toba region of Mie Prefecture and the Wajima region of Ishikawa Prefecture writes Akira Nakano of the Asahi shimbun. We can find them all around Japan including on the Pacific coast, near Tokyo in the Chiba prefecture. Spectacular traditional heritage? More than that: "visual acuity, lung capacity and hunter instinct are the defining elements of Ama divers." 

They also know how how to read ocean currents, and keep up with their lifestyle as a reminder that innovative technology is not always what makes a person or a business happier and ever lasting. "This effort [to be recognised by the Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage] is critical due to the rapidly ageing population of Ama, most Ama are over 60 years old, and their decline in numbers, a loss of over 80% relative to their peak in the 1950’s. Some local "Ama" associations consist of only a handful of divers and may disappear entirely in the next few years..." But younger generations have now taken the challenge to maintain and revive what is a more than a 2000 years old activity. They are the real "free divers."

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Aesthetics battle against Tokyo 2020 Olympics stadium  

Architect Fumihiko Maki against current project

When Olympics distort aesthetics and architecture, the battle promises to be fierce. It all started a few weeks ago when residents and architects rallied against the massive stadium construction planned for the 2020 Olympics, seen as too ugly, too big and too costly.

The new 70 metre high architectural stadium looks like a futuristic UFO or a bicycle helmet and its modernist shape has drawn criticism that it would dwarf all other nearby structures in the area, including the historic buildings, shrines and temples built since Meiji era which are assigned to a 15 metre height restriction.

Tokyo 2020 stadium project 

Architect Fumihiko Maki and other high-profile critics say no: “I don’t understand the requirements for the project, and what is the benefit for the people to have such stadium?” Maki asked during a lecture and discussion with domestic and international audience who gathered friday evening at the Meiji University, modern Nakano campus. “Why build such huge stadium on such a small place?” Maki added in front of the Meiji University crowd that the Beijing Olympics stadium had more space around for the spectators and residents to see the stadium well integrated and offered a proportional well balanced work.

From 3 billion yen, the Tokyo Olympics 2020 stadium designed by London-based Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid could go down to 1.8 billion yen after complaints made by Tokyo residents, citizens and architects. All amazed by cost. Why a 80.000 spectators stadium used for the 48 days of 2020 summer olympics and for the 2019 Rugby World Cup should be so huge and mobilise such an impressive spending paid by tax payers at such a hard economic time with no guarantee that the financing is healthy, critics told me last night?

Maki's New World Trade Center complex in New York

Maki is an award-winning architect responsible for one of the new towers for the World Trade Center complex in New York. He also renovated a building near the site of the new Yoyogi stadium. The 1964 Olympics stadium was built in 1958 for the Asian Games and served as the main venue for the 1964 Summer Olympics. “It’s quite difficult to attract big international sporting events at the current venue,” according to Japan Sport Council.

The Iraqi-born Hadid won the prestigious Pritzker in 2004, designed the Aquatics Centre for the 2012 London Olympics and is required for the Qatar World cup stadium project. If the project carries on, this bike helmet alike stadium would be visible from all over the west part of Tokyo, including from the splendid National Shinjuku Gyoen Park and would look as a giant bug abandoned in the middle of the city.

Meiji University lectures

Lots of symposia like the Meiji University one are held nowadays to discuss possible revisions, five architectural organisations, including the Japan Institute of Architects and the Japan Federation of Architects & Building Engineers Associations, submitted a petition expecting that the well known Tokyo centre would not end being defigured by architects who never intend to live in Tokyo preserved historic Jingu Gaien area. Worst is that just a very few Japanese media covered the news. This one did. (TS)

 Japanese press report on the polemic

In the end the Japan Sport Council (JSC), which is in charge of running the current and future stadium, announced it would scale back the floor space by one-quarter to 220,000 square metres. And the final project could look like this one. It does not make Tokyo Jingu and Yoyogi areas’ residents happy and they aim at continuing their aesthetic battle in the city where Babylonian architectural and public work projects are often seen, critics say, as a well known source of income for politicians. Oh that's it only...?

An other stadium in the city

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Japan's perception of regional military threats drive to military buildup 

Report with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Forces

175 Billion Euro, 232 Billion US $, 24.700 Billion Yen for the 2014-2019 five years government plan of Japan military spending. The changing mood of Japan, under Shinzo Abe's administration, favours militarisation and their contractors and finds itself an enemy. Japan targets China. Heavies (Japanese military industry) and Abe's hawks rejoice. Added is that new military materials to be bought from the US and Europe. Institutional interests are guaranteed, politicians and military, defense contractors, trade, industry, politics. Are the Senkaku Diaoyu providing a decisive justification for this growth even at the expense of the population, the regional economy while the international community calls for arms reduction and place to fruitful enterprises? Defense new budget appropriation will be poorly judged by ordinary Japanese who see a lot of money syphoned by military contractors in the aftermath of 311 and the Lehman shock.

Beijing quickly condemned the Japanese plan saying that "Asian countries and the international community, including China, should remain alert" in dealing with Japan, said a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Affairs who denounced the "hollow calls for peace." The plan comes just weeks after Beijing sent an alarm to the Asian region by unilaterally expanding its Air Defence Identification Zone in the East China Sea (ADIZ).

This is the second time since coming to power in December 2012 that Shinzo Abe announces increased military spending. Defense plan was described at Foreign press center Japan Tuesday December 17th. Lots of people attended and this is the opportunity to see how really concerned Japan is vis a vis the Chinese since the recent ADIZ announcement that started to ignite tension in the East China seas.

Japan military acquisitions plan:

Between 2014 and 2019, Japan plans to acquire 20 more ASDF fighters (including F-35A, total 280), 20 more MSDF combat aircrafts (total 170), three unmanned drones from the US, 17 Osprey aircraft and 6 naval destroyers (54), including two with Aegis anti-ballistic missile systems (total 8), and amphibious vehicles. 22 submarines, unchanged, and boost GSDF personnel  by 5000 (total 159000). Washington has negotiated since a long time for Japan to acquire F-35 fighters, one of the most expensive and controversial jet in recent history. But there are offers that Japan cannot refuse to their US ally, a French weapons salesman told me a while ago.

Press comments here:

"Japan yesterday approved a plan to boost defense spending with purchases of military hardware and further investment in anti-missile systems to better protect its territory at a time when China is flexing its military muscle. The move was "unquestionably directed against Beijing,” an editorial from China’s official Xinhua news agency said yesterday." (JT) EoQ

"Japan's security strategy makes the case for a carefully nurtured "love of country" to replace what conservatives, including Abe, have called the "historical masochism" of the postwar years. Beijing and Seoul have also voiced concern over Abe's plans to revise the constitution to allow Japanese troops to play a more active role overseas, including exercising the right to collective self-defence, and coming to the aid of an ally under attack. "Many people worry inside Japan and outside that maybe Abe hasn't really learned the lesson from the wartime history of Japan and that there's a danger that a greater role played by Japan actually means the rise of militarism in the long term," said Koichi Nakano, professor of international politics at Sophia University in Tokyo." (Guardian) EoQ

"Japan adopts new security strategy to counter assertive China" (Mainichi shimbun) Security concerns about China's activities in the region have stayed at the forefront under Abe, who is trying to redefine Japan's defense posture and revise the U.S.-drafted pacifist Constitution. The government is expected to make a decision possibly next year on whether to lift its self-imposed ban on exercising the right to collective self-defense, or defending an ally under armed attack. The strategy cites as regional challenges China's assertive activities in the East and South China Seas, and warns that Beijing has been making claims that are "incompatible with international law" and could lead to a confrontation." EoQ

In responding to the ADIZ, the U.S. needs to consider carefully its position on China as a rising power…. Analysts have examined China’s motives, seeking to determine whether the ADIZ is defensive, meant to protect China’s sovereignty and security; offensive, meant to prepare for a land grab;  a reaction meant to indicate displeasure with Japan’s recent threat to shoot down unmanned aircraft in Japanese airspace; or meant to test U.S. resolve now that it has come to be viewed as having allowed other nations to cross one red line after another. (The Diplomat) EoQ

What will be China's answer? Will the Chinese send troops on the disputed territories?

To summarise Abe's defense new line, a US inspired policy, I like the comment made by AERA commentator Shunji TAOKA san who said last night on Japanese television: "It is an illusion (crazy dream) to set a containment net of China." Taoka san well known writer of Asahi Shimbun who specialises in military affair.

It is true that things are not that simple. And while Tokyo announced this 5% increase of military spending, John Kerry launched a diplomatic missile from Vietnam towards China, probably to push Beijing to avoid a tough answer to Abe’s plan, Kerry has especially warned Beijing against any attempt to extend China’s ADIZ. "This area should not be implemented, and China should refrain from taking unilateral measures similar elsewhere, particularly in the South China Sea."

[China declared on November 22nd an Air Defense Identification Zone. The ADIZ is an airspace over land or water in which the identification, location, and control of civil aircraft is required and here covers a large part of the East China Sea which straddles the Japanese archipelago and especially includes the islets of the Senkaku Diaoyu.]

Watching China, Korea and Japan for years, I noticed how this policy of tension follows a step by step regular rhythm. In spite of economical development, nations here have not shown any political maturity to build a comprehensive community with trust and reciprocal respect but remained dependent on policies established by what some call a Chinese fossilised political system or by guidelines (Japan, ROK) decided elsewhere (in Washington) under the guarantee that all is built on a serious land of respect of democracy and sovereignty... Cold war is over but a tenacious flavour persists and a demonised DPRK adds to the picture of an impression of "Deja Vu," then allows potential belligerents to formulate their battle plan to the displeasure of many hundreds of millions of Asians who aspire to more benevolent foreign policies. Have they elected (when they can) the correct representatives?

Indeed, after benefiting from the US protection since WWII, Japan's recent military buildup and its defiance of the post-war order strike "a discordant note at a time when the world is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Cairo Declaration, writes Zhang Junshe in China Daily. For a glimpse into Abe's militarist streak, he says, one just has to recall a scene from earlier this year when he [Abe] put on military uniform and posed inside a training jet numbered 731, a reminder of the notorious Unit 731 that undertook lethal human experimentation before and during World War II.  This is shocking, more so because Japan's gaffe-prone Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso has said that Japan could learn from Nazi Germany to revise its pacifist constitution on another occasion. Such militarist rhetoric and posture should set the alarm bells ringing in the region and beyond. And Japan's national security strategy, although seemingly targeted at China, should be viewed by one and all as a threat to world peace." EoQ.

Cooperation, competition, or simply say a boost to defence industry where nationalists of both nations, China and Japan, are played like chess pieces by higher hands. Today, Tokyo believes that the danger comes primarily from China and from a nuclear North Korea, and thus the number of the Japanese three armies should be redeployed to the south seas, with a projection force on remote Japanese islands. "These new guidelines clearly emphasise the priority chosen to defend the islands in the East China Sea. And they demonstrate Japan's determination if China’s bluff was to turn into a real military action," commented Hideshi Takesada of the Takushoku University of Tokyo.

Of course we remember the history of conflicts in Asia that were staged because of need of territory expansion due to history disagreements, claims about empires, national defense and trade conflicts. We have in North East Asia the ingredients of a serious conflict with the Diaoyu-Senkaku and Takeshima Dokdo between Japan and China and Korea, and other territorial conflicts set with Vietnam and the Philippines. But after all, these territorial disagreements might just be seen as a case of the tail wagging the dog. The bigger picture is in the implementation of a regional policy, and Japan already started a very significant institutional dialogue with Asean favoured by a huge economical aid policy to Asean. Talking about strategical partnership this is one. But here again Japan and China choose to confront instead of joining hands. No regional vision shared by major players. Is it here Abe's fault seen by some of his "patriots" as too close to Americans?" Time will tell.

Talking with a friend, a veteran western businessman born in Japan in the 30's, his comments about the current path of events remind him a lot of what happened in his youth. "I see the Japanese changing more and more nowadays, they abandon their pacifism and look more like the ones I have seen during war time here. It's worrying somehow."

In fact, it's all rhetorical. At yesterday briefing, the Japanese Defense ministry officials requested that their name be withdrawn and that no pictures of vdo of their presentation be used by journalists! This is the new Defense ministry policy. Fear to be recognised, irresponsibility? This bureaucratic imposition describes better that ever that Japanese defense system is not yet ready for a regional power play nor transparency. No bluff here!

On the arms race here is what I wrote October 21, 2010 in "Hysterical Arms Race in East Asia"

and report for RTL France "With the Japanese navy, in the Pacific Ocean on board destroyer JS Yudachi DD 103"

Report with the Japan Ground Self Defense Forces

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Japan state secrets protection legislation: a direct violation of the society? 

Pire que Les Tontons Flingueurs... After considering people protesting the state secrets protection bill as act of terrorism, LDP's Ishiba (no. 2 of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party) targets now the press (journalists): "Based on the conventional wisdom, activities (of the media) would be somewhat restricted if (their reports) severely endanger national security," Ishiba said at the Japan National Press Club." In the Mainichi Shimbun.

Here is stated by a top official the ambiguity of Abe's law on designated secrets, altering in Japan the freedom of the press and the free access to information. These fundamental principles appear today gravely threatened in Japan.

Nobel Prize-winning author Kenzaburo Oe expressed grave concerns about how the new state secrets protection law will affect human rights guaranteed by the nation’s Constitution.

Asahi Shimbun editorial: "Abe's words fail to clear distrust about secrecy law : Abe’s reassurances not only failed to allay suspicions that the law will allow the government to bolster its monopoly over sensitive information, but also they actually deepened our fear that the law will jeopardize democracy."

Friday, December 06, 2013

South Africa’s first black president Nelson Mandela has died

The icon of the struggle against racial oppression during the apartheid regime died on Thursday, the government announced.

L'ancien président de l'Afrique du Sud est mort jeudi 5 décembre, à l'âge de 95 ans.

(Photo Nelson

Friday, November 29, 2013

"ADIZ" China’s new air defence zone

"Should the decision be retracted, we ask the Japanese side to revoke its ADIZ first, we will then consider their demand 44 years later, Chinese defence ministry spokesman Yang Yujun..."

China aircraft carrier Liaoning to the south seas

The other day at the press club I saw my Taiwanese colleagues sitting around the Correspondents' table with somber faces, worried about this China’s new ADIZ (Air Defence Identification Zone) and military movements around. I told myself there is something they and I we share indeed. A different stage in the relationship between China and US-Japan-Korea. With the question coming in mind: How to reconcile neighbours and build a regional entity, a community, fitting a global world on a global basis and process that would fit competitors?

As soon as the US B52 passed around the ADIZ, Beijing reacted by sending its navy to address US and allies manoeuvres and exercices which disguise their real intention, an attempt to pressure Beijing, to mock its new guidelines. Changing the maritime map is not going to be accepted so easily while it is China's free decision to monitor who drops-by near his land and on seas. Now, sending its first carrier to the south seas is an other step into what still is verbal battle, major challenge.

"China's aircraft carrier passes through Taiwan Strait"

I read everywhere for years that the China seas are becoming a theatre confronting Asian nationalism and where tensions are growing. I feel that it is especially a well orchestrated destabilisation and that nationalists are as usual the little nasty tool used for overstating too much  and succeeding too little, instead of reaching a much bigger objective. Build a framework and an agreement. For the hard talk, America is no more talking about Asia Pacific but of an "Indo-Asia-Pacific region." Indo being India and its market.

Chinese ressent such moves. "It's clear that the US has made some coordination with Japan and South Korea for the defiant moves as the three countries have the same strategic interests against China, despite the historical disputes between Tokyo and Seoul, an [Chinese] air force expert said, who requested anonymity." In Global Times.

Is China to use again a variety of the scenario of "Half War" as the one launched by Mao Zedong against India in 1962 (Sino-Indian War) should things get sour? And would do south waters strike?

For several years, diplomatic tensions between China and Japan over control of a handful of islands between the two countries became very strong. Taken in this conflict, Tokyo has significantly upgraded its defence strategy and the deployment of its forces. But one should not identify these islands, a territorial issue, as a cause of direct confrontation, but understand the bigger picture, the confrontation between global powers, and learn how to interact with partners when you become one of the global power players.

TPP started very bad and Beijing feels isolated. Declining US since the Lehman shock they live with (or UK and France as a matter of fact) allowed Asian growth based on ingenuity and astute action based on accurate information. Look at the billions of billions that Chinese media spend for they people's media! Many would call it a laboratory of new economical theories. Avoiding conflict but getting ready.

We are just at the beginning of a long and tough arm-wrestling. And many in the backstage are preparing their guns factories for a new monkey business with alarming theories that will frighten populations but not drive them into war theorists. So, it is not time loss and rather interesting too read Kissinger on China, especially the afterword: "US China inherent and inevitable competition within defined limits, if not, tension is inevitable." World order was built without China. Time to make space to the 1.3... billion Chinese.

Both (US and China) are convinced to represent unique values, American exceptionalism is missionary, willing to spread its value everywhere and its $ on all markets while China "exceptionalism is cultural and does not claim that its contemporary institutions are universel or relevant outside of China." China sees itself as the Middle Kingdom with thousands years of civilisation and political experience and values the concept of a kind of cultural universality.

Kissinger talks about coevolution, is diplomacy smart enough? "History lauds not conflict of societies but their reconciliations."

At a lunch this week in Tokyo, with a dozen senior executives of major Japanese firms, frequently travelling to China and ASEAN countries for work, I heard their word: it is not a verbal war nor mentor nor missionary they need but contracts, and make it win-win strategy for their firms! Concrete...

To read: "On China" by Henry Kissinger (Penguin Books ISBN-10: 0143121316)
To watch: Henry Kissinger: China, the US, and a Common Challenge

Zhou Enlai and Kissinger in Beijing

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Fukushima: état d'exception permanent

26 cas de cancers de la thyroïde opérés sur Fukushima et 32 autres sur le point de l'être, il y a augmentation des cas de cancers. Le gouvernement japonais refuse le lien possible entre l'accident de Fukushima et la poussée du nombre de ces cancers. Une question de date, de savoir quand et comment les tests de dépistages de ces cancers ont démarré au Japon. Des imprécisions apparaissent sur les dates et les mesures des radiations. Dans un pays aussi organisé et scrupuleux que le Japon, cela semble invraisemblable. Pourtant les scientifiques ne sont pas aussi optimistes que les organisations gouvernementales sur l'impact de l'accident de Fukushima Daiichi. Un discours alarmiste face au discours de bon sens? 

Je me souviens d'avoir abordé la question de l'information scientifique lors d'une conférence et un débat organisé à Kyoto le 1er Octobre 2011 par la délégation européenne au Japon, en marge du "Science Technology and Society Forum". 

Pourquoi disais-je alors y-a-t-il aussi peu de convergences entre les scientifiques sur l'explication de la catastrophe mais ensuite sur les conséquences humaines, psychologiques, économiques? Quelles réponses technologiques offrons-nous pour opposer le drame suscité par Fukushima Daiichi? Que dire du démantèlement et de la décontamination actuelle sur le réacteur 4 de Daiichi? J'ai reçu cette intéressante communication d'un scientifique français qui travaille sur Tchernobyl et Fukushima : 

“… L’industrie atomique est coutumière de l'usage de bras et robots télémanipulés pour saisir et déplacer des objets irradiants. Quant aux manifestations de goût pour la catastrophe annoncée, c'est le syndrome de la tour infernale, sans happy end de préférence. On se joue un scénario apocalyptique sans tenir compte du contre et en imaginant un pour où tout convergerait, la fragilité du système, l'incompétence mille fois affirmée de l'opérateur (sans autre confirmation que des fuites, inévitables quand on pense aux circonstances), des faits de Dieu (du Diable en l'occurrence) et un danger surévalué à son maximum maximorum, la sublimation intégrale du stock des pastilles radioactives de céramique frittée contenues dans les assemblages de combustible usé. La perspective de l'Archipel nippon rendu inhabitable pour l'éternité et d'un Océan mondial à l'état de soupe radioactive complète le tableau. Que cela n'advienne pas sera mis sur le compte de la chance, une chance presqu'imméritée. Avec des si, dit le dicton, on mettrait Paris en bouteille.

L'ignorance qui se croît sachante conduit à colporter ces divagations urbi et orbi via les “réseaux sociaux” et le web. Pour faire du chiffre certains journaux poussent à la roue. Et si vous faites valoir des doutes, alors vous êtes, soit un salaud pro-nucléaire, soit un cynique payé par le lobby, soit complètement inconscient. Les conséquences de tout ce vacarme : les dégâts à bas bruit engendrés par les faibles doses passeront plus facilement inaperçus ; le sort des évacués logés dans des alignements de conteneurs ou entassés dans des gymnases paraît presqu'enviable en regard à ce à quoi aurait échappé toute la population du pays. Le négationnisme scientifique de la CIPR et de l'UNSCEAR n'aura aucun mal à s'imposer. Les immenses problèmes posés par les réacteurs fondus seront perçus en proportion du volume qu'ils occupent rapporté à de celui de l'immensité qui “aurait pu” devenir déchet radioactif mortel…” Fin de citation.

Que va-t-il en advenir? 

Pas nécessairement et uniquement l’arrivée des maladies dues à l'exposition au rayonnement, mais "quid" des maladies psychologiques, la peur, l'incertitude, l’impact démocratique, le risque du mensonge, du secret et de la censure imposées par les autorités ?

Un journaliste vérifie par lui-même, ce que nous avons constaté le 7 novembre 2013 sur Fukushima Daiichi, ce que j'ai vu lors de 3 reportage en 2013 sur le site de la centrale nucléaire dévastée, c'est une amélioration incontestable par rapport aux mois qui ont suivi mars 2011 et une baisse depuis mars 2013 de la radioactivité. Mais je souhaite aussi en apprendre davantage sur ce tabou qui a entouré la mise en place du nucléaire civil au Japon, et sur l'absence de suivi technologique et de mise à jour avec apport de nouveaux réacteurs, de nouvelles technologies, de meilleure coopération internationale. Une revue scientifique russe expliquait, je cite: "One of the causes of the Fukushima accident was that having a 1960s design the operator did nothing to improve the design safety bases. They tabooed any changes."

Un tabou? Mais se doter de source énergétique n'est pas un tabou, et défendre les raisons qui consistent à protéger les populations, est-ce si difficile pour un gouvernement d'un pays démocratique? Quand cela explose cela le devient. Encore trop peu de progrès ont été notés pour les personnes déplacées par l'accident de Fukushima. Si peu de compensation pour ces victimes mal traitées. L'Etat japonais qui aujourd'hui contrôle Tepco a néanmoins décidé d'entreprendre un projet de gestion de la catastrophe en continu. Encore peu de détails, les financements sont astronomiques. D'ores et déjà, on sait que la communication est méthodiquement revue, confiée aux agences spécialisées, et que les ressources scientifiques sont offertes, partagées, étudiées, pour innover, pour gérer la crise, mais pas certain que les choix technologiques japonais seront garants de totale sécurité et la crise durera 30, 40 ans... et dans l'intervalle les affaires et l'industrie devront tourner comme si de rien n'était. Mais que faire d'autres? Fermer le Japon? Un de mes collègues journaliste français, commentateur bien connu, avait déclaré avec justesse sur les antennes que la configuration de Honshu interdit aux japonais de fuir leur étroit bord de mer où sont concentrées les activités économiques. 

Réalisme versus alarmisme écologique?

L'irréalité dans laquelle se réfugient propagandistes et alarmistes est naturellement source de consternation et d'effarement. Pourtant un véritable drame humain se joue pour 150.000 à 200.000 "réfugiés nucléaires" rejetés par le reste de la population japonaise. Ce sont des japonais isolés, refermés sur leur destin qu'ils ne contrôlent plus. A prévoir aussi des années très difficiles pour les populations agricoles, les pêcheurs, les enfants, que les paroles rassurantes du gouvernement japonais ne touchent pas et plus jamais. Un impact économique et une région qui vit sous le rayonnement et la menace d'un nouvel accident. Un déficit de confiance, un état de catastrophe permanent "si" quelque chose se produit et qui risque le jour venu de pénaliser sévèrement la crédibilité de l'administration dont le chef de file Shinzo Abe servira de fusible facile à éjecter. 

Pour l'heure il est si urgent d'apprendre et de tirer les enseignements, pour tous, de cet accident dont on connait ici au Japon l'origine, avec la forte probabilité d'un risque récurrent majeur du à des catastrophes naturelles et à de multiples dangers pour la santé publique.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Les géants verts automobiles sur le podium des stars de la 43ème édition du Tokyo Motor Show

Car makers eco friendly new concepts at 43rd TMS

Carlos Ghosn et la Nissan's Blade Glider: 2016

 Toyota FCV pour 2015

Avec Inoue san, Mitsubishi Motors: EV + Hybride = Success story 

Constructeurs automobiles japonais et étrangers ont dévoilé leurs derniers concepts écologiques au 43ème Tokyo Motor Show qui a ouvert ses portes mercredi aux médias. Le Tokyo Motor Show se tient au « Big Sight », un gigantesque salon d’exposition situé en baie de Tokyo, c'est au même endroit que seront accueillis les médias pour la couverture de la Coupe du Monde 2020.

426 véhicules, 178 entreprises, en légère hausse par rapport à l'édition 2011 selon la JAMA (Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association) en l’absence des trois constructeurs automobiles américains de Detroit : General Motors, Ford et Chrysler.

Cette année 76 véhicules font leur première mondiale, en forte augmentation. Partout du hybride. A noter aussi le véhicule à hydrogène de Toyota qui sera sur le marché vers 2015. La berline à pile à combustible peut être complètement rechargée en trois minutes et dispose d‘une autonomie d’au moins 500 km, selon le plus grand constructeur automobile du monde. Nissan reste sceptique pour le ravitaillement en hydrogène car, dit le constructeur japonais piloté par Carlos Ghosn, encore plus coûteux à construire que pour le ravitaillement des voitures électriques, en partie parce que l'électricité est presque partout.

Carlos Ghosn, le PDG de Nissan mise toujours sur un autre type de technologie zéro-émissions avec les EV, les véhicules électriques. « Nous maintenons l'objectif de 1,5 million mais la réalité nous oblige à dire que nous ne l'atteindrons pas en 2016 mais deux ou trois ans plus tard » a reconnu Carlos Ghosn, très en forme malgré la conjoncture. Il a en revanche maintenu que la part de marché des voitures électriques dans le monde, toutes marques confondues, pourrait atteindre 10% en 2020. «Avoir un prototype est facile. L'enjeu est le marketing de masse» nous a-t-il déclaré. « La pile à combustible comme marché de masse ne sera pas viable avant 2020 ». Tiens... 2020 ? Ce seront les Jeux Olympiques d’Eté de Tokyo!

D'autres vues du 43ème Tokyo Motor Show (2013)

G: Akio Toyoda

Le superbe prototype Volvo, pour séduire la Chine

 Cabriolet Beetle

La belle & la bête

Live depuis Big Sight

Ma préférence  

L'agriculture japonaise, Honda affiche punch et nostalgie 

Big Sight

Salle de presse

Infatigable journaliste Brésilien, présentateur, reporteur, cameraman 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Fukushima Reactor 4 fuel rods removal operation

Update: A Tepco spokesperson told my office Monday morning Tokyo time about Fukushima reactor 4 that the extractions of the (uranium) fuel rods assemblies begin today (Nov 18 2013) from 3pm to 7pm. 22 assemblies to be put into to the cask, then technicians will put a lid on the cask, decontaminate the cask once it is out of the pool, carry it by crane down the 4th floor (30 m down) transport the cask by truck to the common pool 80 meters from reactor4. The whole first operation could take 1 week work.

Tepco confirmed me this morning on the phone that the removal of fuel rod units at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan starts this Monday Nov 18th. More information later this afternoon. It's the 1st critical step in decommissioning the facility in Fukushima Prefecture. Technicians will start removing uranium rods from Number 4 reactor pool. The pool holds 1,533 units of which 1,331 are highly radioactive spent fuel rod units and 202 that are unused.

Tepco plan to transfer the units into a heavy cask under water in the pool, then use a crane to lift out the cask and transfer it to an outside storage pool about 80 meters away behind the R4. In the morning an empty cask is lowered into the pool and the fuel rod units placed into it in the afternoon at the speed of 1 cm per second. The pool is still littered with small debris that could hamper smooth removal of the units.

Some say the job requires extreme caution as any damage to the fuel rod units or the cask (in case of falling) could cause high-level radiation while Tepco says it is not true. What is real is that any delay would seriously impair the decommissioning process of the 4 reactors that could take 4 decades. But for this operation, Tepco staff told me they plan to finish removing all the fuel rod units from the Number 4 reactor by the end of 2014 or early 2015 should difficulties happen. (screen shots nhk world)

Also check my news report at Fukushima Daiichi Reactor 4 "rods removal" on RTL France:

Friday, November 08, 2013

Reporting from the top of scary Fukushima Reactor 4

I am sound-recording the scene in a quite acrobatic position (R)

This is Fukushima Dai Ichi nuclear power plant on Thursday November 7th, in the plant exploded after the March 11th 2011 earthquake and tsunami. This is the first time foreign journalists are invited to enter in and on the roof of the reactor 4 by Tepco. We are 30 meters above earth, nearby the pool with the used fuel assemblies of rods to be removed soon this month. Huge work operated with cranes in the 50 meters giant metallic structure built since 311. 

I report this Sunday for my French news broadcasting station RTL France about this day when I climbed on the top of Fukushima Dai Ichi reactor 4, watched the delicate and risky operation. 
En langue française.

On this photo I'm wearing the pink breathing filter with a yellow helmet and inspect the radioactivity while sound recording the scene, Tepco technicians rehearsal with hooks and crane by the uranium rods storage pool. Also here is the Tepco radioactivity data on Fukushima Dai Ichi plant, 7 Nov 2013.

 Radioactivity on Fukushima Daiichi 7 Nov 2013

Update - Mise à  jour le 10 Nov 2013:

My RTL's report - Mon reportage sur RTL

Programme: RTL Monde 

Fukushima Dai Ichi, Tepco plant manager Ono answers to our questions 
about the removal of nuclear rods assemblies of reactor 4 (BBC World TV photo)

R: Plant manager Akira Ono, L: Yoshimi Hitosugi Communications Manager

Carnet de bord, extraits: "... Beaucoup m’ont demandé ce que je faisais à ce moment précis saisi avec justesse par notre photographe du "pool" d'une quinzaine de reporteurs de la presse mondiale. Je suis devant la piscine de stockage, la radioactivité monte et baisse. Forte devant le réacteur, elle est un peu moins forte devant la piscine. Je suis sur l'escalier qui monte vers l'une des grues qui surplombent la piscine des 1553 assemblages de combustibles nucléaire. Sur ma droite une demi-douzaine de techniciens du réacteur 4, sur les 36 des équipes en rotation. Ils s’entraînent à récupérer ces assemblages devant une machine complexe, avec de gros crochets d’aciers de près de 30 à 40 cm de long, des crochets brillants comme des sabres japonais. Les assemblages sont dans la piscine face à moi à 2 m. Je monte l’escalier suivi par des techniciens et par le personnel de sécurité de Tepco et aussi par quelques collègues journalistes. Libre à chacun de monter ou non sur la grue. Certains le font d’autres y renoncent. A ce moment il y a pas mal de vacarme sur ce 4 e étage du bâtiment qui enveloppe le réacteur. Cela ressemble à un véritable chantier et ma surprise est grande car on dirait alors que la centrale nucléaire est flambant neuf. J’enregistre le son d’ambiance et mes interviews, j’enregistre mes commentaires à travers ce masque étouffant. Je vérifie les niveaux de radioactivité en micro et millisievert. Je les compare entre ceux de Tepco et les nôtres ainsi que les cps (counts per second). Devant nous se tient, solidement ou est-ce factice, cette piscine aux eaux transparentes, bleues, renfermant ces 400 tonnes de barres de combustibles, dans des eaux d'apparence, disons épaisse, elles renferment ce carburant nucléaire si dangereux mais si calme plongé sous 7 mètres d’eau. Vous imaginez mon regard sur cette eau troublante alors que je calcule que devant moi repose de quoi déclencher une radiation équivalent près de 15.000 fois la bombe d’Hiroshima, un sacré bruit de fond..." 

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

When trilateral allies US Japan ROK work on North Korea disarmament

Japan the US and South Korea will meet this week in Washington to discuss North Korea and its nuclear program. Envoy for North Korea policy, Glyn Davies, will host a trilateral meeting Wednesday with his Japanese counterpart Junichi Ihara and South Korean counterpart Cho Tae-yong.

The State Department said it reflects close cooperation among the three nations on pursuing the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner.

It follows meetings in Washington this week between Davies and his Chinese counterpart, Wu Dawei, which discussed under what conditions six-nation disarmament talks with North Korea could restart. The North says it wants to restart the talks, without preconditions, it withdrew from five years ago. Washington first wants to see concrete steps by Pyongyang to demonstrate its sincerity about denuclearization. (From AP, Japan Today)

Also these spectacular pictures of DPRK "Uncensored Instagrams From North Korea" by David Guttenfelder, the AP’s Chief Asia Photographer.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Les risques du métier de journaliste

I'm horrified and so sad, my old friend and colleague of the French radio Ghislaine Dupont, journaliste of RFI, was killed by gunmen while reporting in north east Mali ???!!!

Ghislaine disparue, abattue en reportage au Mali. Je ne peux y croire. Nous étions proche, très proche à une époque lors de nos débuts dans le journalisme audiovisuel, proche malgré les années et la distance. Ghislaine Dupont de RFI est partie au coeur de l'action. Exécutée, assassinée samedi 2 novembre 2013, après avoir été kidnappée avec son collègue Claude Verlon à Kidal au Mali, en Afrique.

Révoltant, insupportable. Nous avons avec Gigi et d'autres copains Marion, Claude, Laurence, démarré à Radio France, à Belfort. Gigi était le sourire, la gaieté, le dynamisme, plus tard elle s'est aguerrie en travaillant sur l'Afrique qu'elle connaissait si bien et quelle aimait, avec mes vieux copains Christophe et Jean-Karim. A peine entrés à Radio France, nous avions passé des mois ensemble, au bureau, en découverte du métier dans cette grande maison, Gigi avait vécu chez moi lors de nos premiers pas dans la Maison Ronde. Que de rires et d'enthousiasmes. Gigi c'était la joie de vivre et il nous l'ont enlevé à jamais, pauvre Ghislaine, pauvres de nous. Je connaissais son bon sens, son expérience, on était très "complice" et puis un peu plus. Et puis les années et la distance kilométrique, mais les souvenirs, les sons et les mots et gestes restent profondément inscrits en mon coeur.

Je ne comprends pas aujourd'hui. Oui, je suis indigné, indigné que des journalistes sont assassinés alors qu'ils sont des messagers, des témoins privilégiés pour informer, pour porter les messages recueillis dans des conditions parfois très difficiles, et il y a des gens qui nous l'interdisent.

Elle avait la passion de l'Afrique, j'ai la passion de l'Asie. On en a souvent parlé ensemble. Et c'est  ce matin à Tokyo en écoutant la radio française que j'ai appris que Gigi est partie, tuée en reportage. J'imagine la douleur de ses collègues, de ses amis, et de sa famille auxquels je présente nos très sincères condoléances.

Il faudra maintenant établir clairement les faits et les responsabilités.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Junichiro Koizumi battles for a safer energy

 小泉 純一郎 Junichiro Koizumi

Japan popular former Prime Minister 小泉 純一郎 Junichiro Koizumi crusades for a safe energy policy for the archipelago. His wish is to realise the abolition of nuclear power plants. He will be invited November 12th at Japan National Press Club to challenge his 後輩 (junior) Shinzo Abe's nuclear policy while the Parliament enters into long debate regarding the future of the national energy policy.

Japanese electric (atomic) industries' plan, sustained by the Abe's faction, is to renew the whole park of nuclear reactors. Junichiro Koizumi voiced his opposition against this policy that generates nuclear waste for future generations rather than seeing Japan becoming a new energies more renewable and sustainable industry giant. 

As we say in English: "Koizumi calls the shots" as TV reported on Tuesday October 29th. All news stations TVs presented long reports about Koizumi's latest political move. Koizumi insisted today while meeting Parliament members that, quotes: "he is not planning to form a new party or a political force centered on anti-nuclear policy, but he will continue to seek to change public opinion, which will eventually influence the government." 

What is astonishing since the end of summer is that Koizumi step by step deconstructs piece by piece what he regards as negative for Japan future economy and generations while proposing to enter into a deep debate about the future of nuclear energy.

Junichiro Koizumi said that public opinion could be changed to lead the government to make a political decision to phase out nuclear power plants and that it would be impossible for the earthquake-prone country to continue nuclear generation. He opted out nuclear energy after the March 11th 2011 earthquake and tsunami that triggered the Fukushima Dai Ichi nuclear power plant accident.

Officials at the prime minister’s office and LDP senior officials seem genuinely  worried about Koizumi’s anti-nuclear call, according to the evening news. As one commentator said: Junichiro Koizumi remarkably knows how politics functions. His son the popular 小泉 進次郎 Shinjiro Koizumi is currently serving at the Diet and occupying an important position in the Abe's administration  acknowledges there is nothing that can stop his father once he decides his political move.

 小泉 進次郎 Shinjiro Koizumi

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Day when China and Japan will rebuild trust 

Asians will breathe better...

(Chine Japon, juste une question de confiance...)

I like the China school of Japanese diplomats (and the Japan school of Chinese diplomats) therefore I chose today this major news: "Beijing-Tokyo Forum calls on mutual responsibilities." This is real politics

Chinese and Japanese high hands on diplomacy talks happen in Beijing on a seminar occasion to try to mend faulty diplomatics gesticulations (as we know achieved by Abe's boys and hard liners of China military) for their domestic purposes. Question is can Mr Abe and his nationalists cool down with these territories problems in the China seas which disturb the economy and trade climate in NE Asia? Founded in 2005, the Beijing-Tokyo Forum is an annual large-scale international symposium jointly sponsored by China Daily and Genron NPO, a Japanese non-profit organisation. I see the presence of Japanese Ambassador to China Masato Kitera and of former UN undersecretary-general Yasushi Akashi (ex PKO Cambodia big man)

By the way, according to Japanese security commentators whom I met, the US are pushing Japan to go for the NCS (National Security Council) and for the anti-leaks bill (Secret Bill). So at the end of the day, let's relativize Sunday Japanese media news about the Camp Asaka's JGSDF review by Shinzo Abe and these inflaming (but factual) headlines seen in Reuters "Abe says Japan won't tolerate use of force to change regional status quo" or Afp's "Japan's PM warns China on use of force as jets scrambled".

Zhu Ling (left third), China Daily's publisher and editor-in-chief, meets Japanese Ambassador to China Masato Kitera during the welcome reception before the 9th Beijing-Tokyo Forum in Beijing, Oct 25, 2013.