Friday, May 28, 2010

Hatoyama cabinet jolted after deal on Futenma?

Japan and the United States reached a fresh accord Friday on the relocation of a key U.S. Marine base in Okinawa that basically endorsed an existing 2006 pact to move the facility within the prefecture, ending a bilateral row that has put the government of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama in danger.

After the Japanese government spent eight months reviewing the previous pact, which sets 2014 as the deadline for the relocation, the two countries agreed to ensure that the ongoing environmental impact assessment procedures and the construction of the replacement facility will be "completed without significant delay."

SDP leader Mizuho Fukushima

Speculation was high in Tokyo that the current coalition with Social Democratic Party leader Mizuho Fukushima could explode! Prime Minister Hatoyama fired the SDP leader of her position as consumer affairs minister, and will have this duty assumed by his chief cabinet secretary Hirano, because she refused to accept the agreement. "I couldn't betray the Okinawans," she said. "I cannot be a part of an agreement that imposes a burden on Okinawans."

Now how will prime minister Hatoyama win the July 11th Upper House election in constituencies where he has no strong following after dismissing Fukushima?

Up to your calculator and which way the wind is blowing...

What the Japanese media say
The Mainichi Shimbun

"Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Mizuho Fukushima, a member of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's Cabinet, had opposed including references to Henoko in the joint statement. If she refuses to sign a Cabinet agreement, it is believed that Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama will consider dismissing her. Hatoyama refrained from holding a news conference immediately after the statement was issued, as government negotiations over the issue remain turbulent.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Fukushima said, "I never imagined that we would return to Henoko, so it's very disappointing." However, she indicated she would not resign from the Cabinet of her own accord. "I am not thinking of that at all," she said. On Friday the SDP held a meeting of party members in both houses of the Diet and agreed that Fukushima would not sign a Cabinet agreement based on the joint statement. Earlier, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano met with SDP Secretary General Yasumasa Shigeno and told him that an extraordinary Cabinet meeting would be held later in the day to confirm the government's policy on the issue.

On Friday morning, Hatoyama suggested that he would settle the relocation issue the same day, telling reporters, "We will present a conclusion today. This goes without saying." Fukushima, meanwhile, criticized the fact that the SDP had not been informed of the details of the joint statement in advance. "We're in a coalition government, so we should be informed of the details in advance. I would have liked to have been told," she told a news conference. Later, Fukushima told reporters that she had decided in a meeting of party officials not to sign any Cabinet agreement if the joint Japan-U.S. statement included references to relocating the Futenma base to the Henoko area.

Due to Fukushima's resistance, there is a strong view within the government that Hatoyama will have no option but to dismiss her from the Cabinet. In a news conference on Friday, Minister of Defense Toshimi Kitazawa suggested that Fukushima should leave the Cabinet if she refuses to sign an agreement. "Refusing to resign is an expression of distrust toward the prime minister. As she is a politician, it goes without saying that she should make her position clear before all this. If she stays in the Cabinet and retains her opposition, it will threaten the existence of the Cabinet."

Meanwhile, Shizuka Kamei, leader of the People's New Party, which also belongs to the ruling coalition, told reporters at the Diet, "In the end it's an issue that can't be solved without cooperation and understanding from people in Okinawa. It's a developing situation."" End of quotes, Mainichi Shimbun 29 May 2010

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Corée du nord et fièvre cafteuse

Kim Jong-il

La cascade de nouvelles alarmantes déferle... Oubli, aveuglement ou ignorance, la très prochaine session parlementaire annoncée pour Juin à Pyongyang doit être une date importante pour la succession des dictateurs "Kim", Kim Jong-il est très malade, ses fils mal préparés? Donc le moment choisi pour lancer des ballons-sondes diplomatiques-médiatiques, de balancer ou paumer, erreur ou intention, des torpilles testées sous les bateaux en représailles (ai bien dit sous, environ 10 mètres...) On parle de guerre a Washington et Paris au lieu de parler comme a Pékin Tokyo et Moscou des premiers pas de l'annonce du successeur de Kim Jong-il, donc c'est peut-être le bon moment d'approfondir la question avec moins d'âneries au lieu de lancer tous les petits soldats du journalisme sur la piste d'une nouvelle fièvre cafteuse guerrière. Champagne gratis "of course" en Asie de l'Est (Chine Corée Japon, l'Asie riche) le jour où la Chine installera des pays démocratiques a toutes ses frontières.
Sources: Reporter's notes

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Rescuing Failing States

Lester R. Brown, Earth policy

"One of the leading challenges facing the international community is how to rescue failing states, those countries most at risk of collapse due to a combination of weak governance, internal violence, and social upheaval. Continuing with business as usual in international assistance programs is not working, as evidenced by the continuing deterioration of places like Haiti, Somalia, and Yemen. The stakes could not be higher.

Failing states are a relatively new phenomenon, and they require a new response. The traditional project-based assistance program is no longer adequate. State failure is a systemic failure that requires a systemic response.

The world has quietly entered a new era, one where there is no national security without global security. We need to recognize this and to restructure and refocus our efforts to respond to this new reality."

Lester Brown was our guest speaker at the press club today (FCCJ) and the famous environmentalist detailed all aspects where he sees dangers for the planet, being food scarcity, climate warming, land resources, and the failure of the market and the governments to tackle the current situation, "knowing the impact on our lives is related to our life style, our lifestyle has to change".

Lester Brown (L) Moderator (R)

During his lecture and answering to our questions at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan today for this professional luncheon I enjoyed emceeing, Lester Brown said he considers that Japan should focus on developing geothermal energy, adding that the archipelago, a volcanic island-nation, could become the global leader in this form of energy.

"Japan could make geothermal energy the centre of its new energy economy just as the US or China will make wind the centre of theirs. There are no leaders in the world today in this field. There is no industrial country in the world that now has a well established geothermal industry"

We know that Japan is located at the crossroads of four tectonic plates and on what is known as the "Pacific Ring of Fire" and dotted with volcanoes, with daily earthquakes, some unperceived, others as dramatic as Tokyo (1923) Kobe (1995) Niigata (2004) Ishikawa-Noto (2007).

If Japan can launch full development of geothermal energy technology, Brown added "it would not only lower carbon emissions in Japan, but it would also give Japanese industry the potential for playing a leading role in developing the world's geothermal energy resources." For Lester Brown "demand for the technology will grow in other geothermal-rich countries located on tectonic faultlines such as Indonesia and the Philippines in Asia as well as Chile, Peru and Colombia in South America, this is an opportunity for Japan to move to the centre stage in an area where it is richly endowed."

Japan makes use of hot springs as a resource for tourism, but geothermal energy only accounts for 0.3 percent of its energy mix, and the country relies heavily on imports of oil and other resources. So why not a new niche in this field, after all why do Japanese just boiled eggs or warm their "Onsen" bath (hot-spring) with such precious and massive energy ready to use?

Sources : Earth Policy, Terra Eco, Agencies, Reporter's notes, Fccj.

Lester Brown organization page

Monday, May 24, 2010

Japanese premier Yukio Hatoyama red-faced on Okinawa campaign pledges!

During his visit to the southern island on Sunday, Mr. Hatoyama faced angry protests by residents who had hoped to see the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station moved entirely off Okinawa, instead of relocated to a less built-up part. Okinawa, which hosts more than half the 47,000 U.S. troops in Japan, has long sought to remove the bases, which are locally unpopular mainly because of noise, pollution and the risk of accidents and crimes. “I apologise to people in Okinawa as I could not keep to my word that I'll relocate the base off the prefecture,” said Mr. Hatoyama in a meeting with Okinawa governor Hirokazu Nakaima, shown on television. “As the Prime Minister, I have to say that I can't allow the deterrent power of the U.S. forces in Japan, including the Marine Corps, to decline, given that the security environment in East Asia remains fragile.” Yukio Hatoyama said.

Explanations and press quotes : "Opposition parties laid into Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama on Sunday for reneging on his promise to seek to move a contentious U.S. Marine base outside Okinawa Prefecture, saying that it has amounted to a betrayal of the wishes of local people. Hatoyama announced the plan to relocate the Futenma Air Station in Ginowan to an area around Henoko, a coastal area in Nago on the same main island of Okinawa, during talks with Gov Hirokazu Nakaima in the prefectural capital of Naha earlier in the day.

In so doing, he dashed the hopes of Okinawa people seeking to reduce the footprint of U.S. forces on their island. ‘‘It has become clear that, realistically, it is difficult to resolve the matter by the end of May,’’ Liberal Democratic Party chief Sadakazu Tanigaki said in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, referring to a deadline Hatoyama had vowed to keep in securing the agreement of the major parties concerned. ‘‘The next prime minister would find it difficult to work if the public thinks a remark about staking one’s job is as light as Hatoyama has made it seem,’’ he said, urging the prime minister either to quit or to call a snap general election.

Hatoyama said last month that he will stake his political fortunes on resolving the base question, as his government continued to review a bilateral relocation deal reached by the previous LDP-led government. Tanigaki said his party will consider submitting to parliament a no-confidence motion against Hatoyama.
Natsuo Yamaguchi, who heads the smaller opposition New Komeito party, criticized Hatoyama as not being qualified to be prime minister, telling reporters in the city of Saitama, ‘‘He betrayed the people of the prefecture by raising their hopes for Futenma’s relocation outside the prefecture. Hatoyama is trying to resolve the matter ‘‘in a fraudulent manner.’’

In a statement, Japanese Communist Party policy chief Akira Koike called Hatoyama’s action ‘‘the worst betrayal’’ of the people of Okinawa and the Japanese public, saying that the government’s effort to find a new relocation site has clearly broken down. Koike went on to call for an unconditional removal of the Futenma facility, whose closure and return to the Japanese side is tied to the relocation of its air operations to a coastal area of the Marines’ Camp Schwab in Henoko by 2014 under a 2006 agreement reached between Japan and the United States.

Your Party leader Yoshimi Watanabe called for Hatoyama to step down, telling reporters in the city of Chiba that the prime minister must take responsibility for raising the hopes of the people of Okinawa for Futenma’s relocation outside of the prefecture. Okinawa hosts the bulk of the facilities used exclusively by the U.S. military in Japan. Before coming to power, Hatoyama, as president of the then main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, said he would seek to relocate Futenma’s functions outside Okinawa to reduce the prefecture’s base-hosting burdens.

Insights on this new filibustering issue with professor Gregory Clark on the NBR Forum (opened source access)

"A major factor allowing Hatoyama to volte face on the
Futenma issue has been the fuss over the recent
Maritime Self-Defense Force scuffle with the Chinese
military in the East China Sea. So now it is not just
North Korea as the hypothetical enemy justifying
continued US bases in Okinawa and a Japanese military
buildup; we now are told that the government,
including even Hatoyama, now lists a possible
confrontation with rising Chinese military might as a
reason for reneging on the promise to move bases from

Nowhere, even in the pages of Asahi, do we find any
hint of realising what the East China Sea
confrontations are about, namely the failure to decide
between valid but rival EEZ claims. It is simply
taken for granted that the Japanese median line claim
is correct and that any Chinese attempt to operate on
the basis of their continental shelf claim being
correct proves aggressive intent (even if the Japanese
claim had some validity the Chinese cannot be expected
to weaken their negotiating position by seeming to
accept it; the Chinese claim also has weight and they
have in fact have made the very reasonable proposal
for joint development between the rival claims).

This strange Japanese ability to assume that in any
dispute - Northern Territories, Takeshima, Senkakus,
North Korean abductees, East China Sea - the Japanese
position is 100 percent correct and that any criticism
shows aggressive intent by the other side is worrying.
Only rarely, and in some cases never, does one find
any analysis hinting that the other side also has some
basis for its position. Those who do try to make such
an analysis find themselves quickly ostracized by the
Mood (Kuuki) that decides most things in Japan. (Who
said postwar Japan differs greatly from its prewar
version?) Indeed, even a chance posting on NBR can
give the Right the chance to do a lot of damage to the

One understands why Washington sees little need to
disabuse Tokyo of this kind of naivety - it has its
own interests to pursue and if Tokyo's propensity for
the emotional and illogical pushes it in the US
direction then so be it. But long-term is it really
in US interests to let itself be dragged into ugly
confrontations by this Japanese inability to think

(For emotion and illogic, incidentally, little can
beat the current LDP (Tanigaki yesterday for example)
and other rightwing criticism of Hatoyama's Henoko
decision - namely that by not opting for Henoko he was
damaging the US alliance and friendship, and that by
opting for Henoko he has damaged Okinawan feelings,
and in either case he should resign.)

True, inability, or reluctance, to think about the
causes that precede effects and to accept that one's
own side sometimes carries blame is not a Japanese
monopoly. It underlay most of the Cold War rhetoric
and waste in the West. We see it today in the
knee-jerk reaction to the North Korean attack on the
South Korean naval vessel, which ignores the strong
likelihood that the North Koreans were simply
retaliating for a devastating attack on one of their
own naval vessels last year, and that the attacks were
in disputed waters which, as in the East China Sea
refusal to accept there is a problem which has to be
negotiated, guarantees further clashes, allowing the
hawks on both sides to do their worst.

But our Japanese friends do seem able to carry the
bias and one- sidedness even further than most. Their
claims they now face Chinese threats in the East China
Sea are worrying. Alliance supporters should start
doing their homework. Confrontations do not happen
with a bang, where blame can easily be placed. They
are usually the result of series of incidents where
rights and wrongs can only be decided by close study
of past claims and escalating events. In the East
China Sea we are now seeing the beginning of those
events. To date in the West the main result has been
a big yawn." (Gregory Clark, the NBR Forum)

Sources: agencies, The Independent, The Hindu,
Reporter's notes

Sunday, May 23, 2010

People in media : Aung Zaw, editor and director of The Irrawaddy magazine

Aung Zaw, notorious promoter of investigative journalism platform

I often covered and reported in Burma, also known as Myanmar, since mid 80's through difficult and dangerous journeys, crossing borders, mountains, rivers, seas, in harsh conditions to sojourn with warriors, refugees and resistance. I witnessed their harsh daily realities under the iron glove of the military regime, exposed the realities of the jungle based narco-traffic syndicates and human trafficking.

Among many favorable encounters, I met The Irrawaddy. Thanks to well-known Burma journalist-expert Bertil Lintner whom we also invited for a media event in Japan about the reality of this isolated nation between China and the Indian Ocean and thanks to Lintner, reality is better known. Not without dangers.

As many, I acknowledged the quality of The Irrawaddy (as I did with the former version of the "Far Eastern Economic Review") for it is an example of independent, decentralized, quality newsroom top-level magazine working on Burma and Asia region. The Irrawaddy is headquartered in Chiang-Mai, North Thailand.

Not always easy reporting. Burma is an important crossroad of interests, violence, between East and West, each side looking for supremacy of this mountainous isolated and rich territory living under repression. Often reported by the international media about activists such as Nobel Prize Aung San Suu Kyi, or the saffron Monks. All repeatedly exposed their "crying freedom" to an hearing impaired foreign community. But one did listen. His name is Aung Zaw, he is the Editor of the Irrawaddy.

"In 1988, Aung Zaw was a student activist who joined the massive democracy uprising in Rangoon that year. At the time, he was studying botany at Rangoon Hlaing Campus, also known as Regional College Number 2. A year earlier, he and a group of other students had set up an underground network to organize general resistance to authoritarian rule, and the economic and social hardships it was inflicting on the country.

He was arrested on the Rangoon University campus during one of the student rallies against the nominally socialist regime of Gen Ne Win. He was 20. He was detained for a week in Rangoon’s notorious Insein prison, where he was severely tortured during interrogation.

After release from prison, Aung Zaw and his student friends continued to work with other underground student groups. He again took part in student protests when the university campus was reopened in June, 1988.

Tipped off by neighbors, who told him military intelligence officers would soon come to arrest him at his house, he escaped from the capital. From June to September, he hid in remote villages in the countryside, sometimes joining anti-government rallies which by then had spread throughout the country.

He left Burma after the military staged a coup in September that year. Two years later, he founded the Burma Information Group (BIG) in Bangkok, Thailand, to document human rights violations in Burma, including the unlawful detention of members of the democratic opposition and other dissidents and ethnic groups. BIG released several reports on the Burmese situation. It was an independent information group, not affiliated with any political organization. BIG provided news and information to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch Asia and other human rights agencies, as well as Bangkok-based newspapers such as The Nation and The Bangkok Post.

In 1993, Aung Zaw began to write political commentaries for The Nation and Bangkok Post newspapers. He later became a regular correspondent for The Nation. He contributed Burma-related articles and commentaries for the paper until 1997. His articles also appeared in the Asian Wall Street Journal, Bangkok Post, and other regional publications. From 1997 to 2005, Aung Zaw worked as a super stringer for the Washington-based Radio Free Asia.

While writing for the Nation in late 1993, Aung Zaw, then 25, launched The Irrawaddy newsmagazine in Bangkok, covering Burma affairs. The English-language, bi-monthly magazine focused solely on developments in Burma.

The Irrawaddy became the first independent news publication not associated with Burmese political dissident groups in exile and in Burma. The magazine subsequently became a monthly publication. It sought to promote press freedom and independent media, and has gained a reputation for balanced, unbiased and in-depth reporting.

Since 1999, the magazine’s coverage has expanded to include other countries in Southeast Asia undergoing transitions to more democratic forms of government. Nevertheless, the magazine has retained its main focus on Burma.

The magazine is a non-profit publication, distributed worldwide to Burma activists groups, NGOs, UN agencies, diplomatic missions, campaign groups, scholars, individuals and institutions with an active interest in Burmese affairs and Southeast Asia.

In 1995-6, The Irrawaddy relocated its office to Chiang Mai, northern Thailand." End of quotes.

Reporting New Realities in Asia: The Ethnic factor

Journalists of Asia recently gathered late April 2010 for the 2nd International Media Conference in Hong Kong. The theme was about "Reporting New Realities in Asia and the Pacific," set by the University of Hong Kong's Journalism and Media Studies Centre.

Aung Zaw, editor of The Irrawaddy magazine, said that the prejudice and self-censorship prevailing among journalists about ethnic groups are very real issues. "For our part, we try to bridge this gap by hiring as many ethnic minorities in our staff as possible, not as a token but because it is necessary to give them a voice through the media. The media play an important role in correcting misperceptions and biases... The Burmese media are newbies when it comes to covering the ethnic issue. There is a general lack of understanding among Burmese about ethnic issues and reports are very limited."


Many of Burma's ethnic groups, such as the Karen and Kachin, have long been engaged in separatist movements and comprise 40 percent of the whole Burmese population. For Thailand-based researcher and coordinator of the Canadian International Development Agency's human rights programme, South-east Asia Regional Cooperation in Human Development, Ahmed Abidur Razzque Khan, the media have also turned a blind eye on the plight of the Rohingyas a Muslim ethnic group in west Burma.

"Mae La" refugee camp, Karens try to keep their music alive

"The Burmese and even the Thai media have generally ignored the Rohingyas and have not really gone beyond their reporting of the hundreds of refugees found afloat at sea by Thai authorities in 2008," says Khan. Since then, there have not been any reports about them anymore.

The Rohingyas are not recognized by the military government as Burmese citizens. For the past 20 years, hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas have fled to refugee camps in both the Bangladeshi and Thai borders. Reports say that even at the camps, the Rohingyas suffer from persecution and appalling living conditions.

Karen girls with necks coiled in rings of brass

* The Irrawaddy is Burma's largest river and most important commercial waterway crossing North to South of Burma towards the Andaman sea.

Sources :
and Reporter's notes

VDO of the Shwedagon Pagoda, the Golden Pagoda, in Rangoon / Yangon) by Irrawady multimedia news.

"In January 1946, General Aung San addressed a mass meeting at the stupa, demanding "independence now" from the British with a thinly veiled threat of a general strike and uprising. Forty-two years later, on August 26, 1988, his daughter, Aung San Suu Kyi addressed another mass meeting of 500,000 people at the stupa, demanding democracy from the military regime and calling the 8888 Uprising the second struggle for independence."