Saturday, December 25, 2010

Joyeux Noël - Merry Christmas

"Si l'on n'est pas sensible, on n'est jamais sublime"

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.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Press Freedom in Japan – Just a Mirage?"

As a material of reference for journalism studies and as resources material , I reproduce here an article just published by my honorable colleague Gregory Clark . As Co-Chair of the Freedom of the Press Committee of the FCCJ Board of Governors 2009 2010, I have always struggled and fought, and will continue to do under any hat or mandate, against extremism and denials, and for the free access to information and freedom of expression. Something my education in Europe has naturally taught me. I leave it here to the readers the possibility to address their analysis and the right to interact on this blog.


"Japan seems determined to live up to its “see no evil” reputation. Or as they say in Japanese, kusai mono ni futa o suru – ignore (put a lid on) the unseemly.

The evil and unseemly this time is the ugly attempt to silence well-known commentator Soichiro Tahara for reporting on television exactly what he said he was told by a Foreign Ministry contact, which was that none of the formerly remaining abductees in North Korea was still alive. Tahara was trying to counter the domestic calls for hard-line policies to force Pyongyang to free more abductees. But Japan’s conservative and rightwing establishment believes it is imperative to keep both the abductee issue and those hard-line policies alive.

No one has come to Tahara’s aid. The parents of one of the alleged abductees have even sued him for causing mental distress. He has had to remain silent ever since.

Tahara is not the only victim of efforts here to prevent free expressions of opinion on the abductee issue. This writer is another.

My own story begins with the media freedom issue this journal reported in 2006 when an avowedly rightwing Sankei Shimbun correspondent, Yoshihisa Komori, attacked and effectively ruined an effort by the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA) to create an online service offering independent Japanese views of the world in English.

The JIIA is not a left-wing outfit. On the contrary, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has long sponsored and funded the organization. But when the Commentary section on the JIIA website ran a piece by section manager Masaru Tamamoto that seemed mildly critical of Japan’s hang-up over Yasukuni Shrine, Koizumi and Sankei went ballistic.

Why was a government-funded organization being allowed to propagate this kind of anti-Japan libel, they roared. Tamamoto was promptly fired, and the JIIA was forced to apologize. David McNeill wrote criticizing Komori for this blatant denial of press freedom, and warned against rising nationalistic power in Japan in Number 1 Shimbun, as did others both in Japan and the U.S. But both Komori and Sankei were unrepentant. Sankei also refused to publish any rebuttals. Komori then set about counterattacking the critics, demanding from them the rebuttal freedom that he and his newspaper had denied them.


Part of Komori’s counterattack was an equally vicious and lengthy assault on the NBR Japan Forum. The impetus seems to be that the Forum had given space to one of Komori’s most effective critics, Steven Clemons, the vice president of the New America Foundation, who warned of “1930s-style censorship” in an article headlined “Japan’s Right-Wingers Are Out of Control.”

The Forum was accused of being a nest of Japan-hating liberals. Since it carries contributions by a range of FCCJ members – including Sam Jameson, Bob Neff, Joel Legendre-Koizumi and myself – maybe the time has come to respond with a few details. Let me start with the obvious fact that the NBR Japan Forum is utterly unlikely to be a haven for Japan-hating liberals.

The NBR, or National Bureau of Asian Research, began life as a staunchly anti-communist U.S. organization for research on the Soviet Union and China. At the end of the Cold War the bureau diversified to include Japan as a research area. And while its Japan Forum is open to all – and I recommend it highly to Club members keen to be read outside Japan and to glean outside opinions – it still bears a “U.S. as No. 1” orientation. Many of its contributors have conservative backgrounds, including some from the U.S. military. In 2006, the NBR endowed a chair in national security studies in the name of Gen. John Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for his role as senior advisor to NBR’s Strategic Asia Program. The inaugural chair, Dennis C. Blair, was President Barack Obama’s director of national intelligence. None of this suggests an organization keen to harbor lily-livered, pussyfooting, Japan-hating left-wing liberals.

But to Komori’s mind, a few distortions apparently matter little, provided they help immobilize critics. In a repeat of the JIIA affair, the worthy Japan Foundation was blasted for helping to fund the NBR. I was part of the collateral damage in this scattershot attack, accused of using the Forum to condemn the entire North Korean abductee affair as "dechiage" – meaning contrived or bogus – a word guaranteed to set off alarm bells throughout this abductee-obsessed society.

What I had written on the Forum was in fact quite different. In response to another Forum contributor, I had pointed out how articles in the UK edition of Nature and one other scientific magazine had said Tokyo’s claims about its DNA tests on some charred bones were bogus. Pyongyang had produced the bones to prove that one abductee, Yokota Megumi, had died. Tokyo said its tests had proved the bones did not belong to Yokota, and this confirmed Pyongyang was probably lying when it denied not just Megumi’s death but also the existence of other abductees still alive in North Korea.

Tokyo was trying hard to create the false image of a beautiful and tragic Megumi languishing in a North Korean hell and needing immediate rescue. It had launched its campaign of sanctions against Pyongyang based in part on this flimsy evidence. Flimsy, because the scientific experts at Nature had pointed out that DNA testing of charred bones was impossible. I checked the details with Japan’s top specialist based in the Kazusa DNA Research Institute. He confirmed what Nature had written.

Other details were also relevant. For example, the official DNA bone tester had no proper qualifications. He also disappeared from sight after confessing that proper bone testing had been impossible. Then there was the official reluctance about allowing Yokota’s parents – or anyone else for that matter – to visit Megumi’s daughter in Pyongyang to find out directly what had happened to her mother, and the refusal to allow others to test the charred bones. (For students of how Tokyo sets out to create foreign-policy myths, read the excellent Wikipedia summary of the bone-testing saga.)

Even so, Tokyo was not just insisting that North Korea was evil and had to be sanctioned, but was also using resolution of the abductee issue as a condition for cooperating in the Six-Party Talks aimed at halting North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Meanwhile, they had to ignore the real evil in the abductee issue: the way so many seemed to have suffered ugly deaths, including Megumi, abducted at age 13, married off to a Party hack, and an eventual suicide. How do you say this if you insist the abductees are alive and waiting to be freed?


The story does not end there. The slander in Komori’s Sankei column was bad enough; what followed was worse. Blogs by leading commentators are popular in Japan, and Komori was soon in full cry. As in his Sankei column, he named a university I was associated with then and demanded to know why such an anti-Japan person as myself was being allowed to poison the minds of young Japanese students. Soon the entire nation seemed to be up in arms. Dozens of threatening letters flooded into the offices of those responsible for my university connection, demanding that I be sacked immediately. (Fortunately those offices did not bow to this especially cowardly form of rightwing pressure, but the damage was done.)

The fallout continued. Requests to write articles for the magazines and newspapers I had long known dried up. Invitations to give talks on Japan’s lively lecture circuit died overnight. One of Japan’s largest trading companies abruptly canceled my already-announced appointment as outside board director with the vague excuse of wanting to avoid controversy.

I had long known about the Japanese sensitivity to the abductee question, and had made it clear I had no liking for the North Korean government in The Japan Times and other articles. But equally I had little liking for the way Japan was using the abductee issue to stall or prevent efforts by other nations to come to terms with North Korea, and to whip up anti-Pyongyang feeling here at home. The Megumi charred-bone story had played a key role in it all.

Even worse was one of the likely byproducts of all this: namely, that North Korea now has every incentive to ensure there are no more abductees to be released. Meanwhile, their parents are being cruelly led to believe a release will occur if only Tokyo tried a bit harder in its clearly counterproductive efforts to pressure Pyongyang.

The bottom line? First, know that there are people out there monitoring every word you write that appears critical of official policies. And second, realize that in this mood-dominated society you cannot expect anyone to come to your aid once the nationalistic rightwing mood creators, now on the rise, decide to attack you.
Freedom of speech and opinion is being whittled away relentlessly.

Gregory Clark is a former diplomat and was the head of the Tokyo bureau of The Australian. He is also the author of several books, including Understanding the Japanese (Kinseido, 1982).

Posted by FCCJ Web-page on Mon, 2010-12-20 13:05" Unquote

Sources: FCCJ, Illustration Google.

Monday, December 20, 2010

2011! Tragedy for car sales in Japan?

Japan's car makers are doing well abroad, but are having and will continue to have a terrible time in the local market. The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association reckons that sales will fall by at least 10% to just 4.4m units next year, the lowest sales level since 1977.

Although there was a brief pick up in numbers this year, leading to probably around 4.9m units being sold, this was largely due to the government subsidies on green vehicles and this ended recently.

"The association blames the decrease on the end of government subsidies for people to buy environment-friendly vehicles and the uncertain outlook for Japan's economy. If the prediction is true it will mark a fall of 40% from 1990 when new car sales topped 7.7m and the lowest level since 1977 when they were 4.2m."


"It's the social network, stupid!"

Thanks to a Facebook friend from Armenia, Angelina, I read an informative survey on the Facebook users in the world. Surprisingly Japan just ranks 52nd in the list of country users with 1,8 million users, 1.43%, while over 50 millions use the Docomo iMode.

France is 5th, Indonesia is 2nd, UK's 3rd, China is... 120th and Vatican is 212nd, God communicates in mysterious ways. Brics? Brazil and Russia increase of course, India is 10th with 16 million users but just 1.4% of penetration.

Now the numbers with Facebook Inc: "More than 500 million active users. 50% of our active users log on to Facebook in any given day. Average user has 130 friends. People spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook... There are over 900 million objects that people interact with (pages, groups, events and community pages) Average user is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events. Average user creates 90 pieces of content each month. More than 30 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) shared each month.

I also read elsewhere that 56 million people play games on Facebook daily! How many at work?

Are you interested in being ranked? What's your score? Test yourself here:

So, one more time:)

I am on Facebook

And on LinkedIn


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Japan, from passive pacifism to proactive pacifism!

The equivocal nature of the Japanese
discourse on nuclear armament

2 stories today.

I liked the report published today in the NZ Herald:

Theme: Highlighting Japan-US alliance, Japanese
scholar implies contrast with New Zealand-US

Of course the new guidelines of Japan cabinet and MOD
are back on track of the fundamentals of the military
alliance. The Hatoyama venture is gone although he
denied yesterday in Hokkaido he's out of politics. So
is it a jolly good time for the "industry"? Well, not
really. Fortunately, the Kiwis say.

Quoted in 2005 of whom you really know so well

"At a seminar in Wellington, a respected Japanese
scholar extolled the strength and benefits of the
Japanese-U.S. alliance -- a strength that exists
despite Japan's steadfast anti-nuclear and anti-war
policies. Implicit in her speech was a contrast
with New Zealand, whose vociferously stated
anti-nuclear policy has constrained its
relationship with the United States for nearly two
decades. The Japanese Embassy sponsored the seminar
at post's suggestion. It is an example of the
indirect means the U.S. mission in New Zealand has
had to employ to get our message across here.

2. (U) The scholar spent much of her speech at the
seminar March 22 describing the Japanese-U.S.
alliance, although the seminar was billed as
covering Japanese-New Zealand relations. The
scholar -- Akiko Fukushima, director of policy
studies at the National Institute for Research
Advancement in Tokyo -- said the alliance was based
not just on the two countries' defense needs, but
also on "common good." She cited as an example the
joint statement released February 19 after the
"two-plus-two" Japan-U.S. talks in Washington,
which called for the peaceful resolution of issues
concerning the Taiwan Straits.

3. (C) Hidehiko Hamada, the Japanese Embassy's DCM,
told post's DCM that he had counseled Fukushima on
how she should describe the Japanese-U.S.
relationship for a New Zealand audience. About 60
people attended the seminar.

4. (U) Fukushima told the audience that she first
visited New Zealand in 1997 to study its
anti-nuclear policy. She concluded that, because of
Japan's different security environment, it could
not emulate New Zealand. However, she said, Japan
could not become a nuclear power because it would
spark an arms race in the region and be strongly
opposed by the Japanese public, which harbors
lasting memories of the World War II bombings of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Fukushima noted the strong
links between Japan and the United States,
especially their shared concern about China. Except
for a disagreement over Japan's restrictions on
U.S. beef because of BSE, she said the alliance was
in the "best shape" it has been in years. At the
same time, she said, Japan needed to formulate its
own vision for the alliance's future.

5. (U) Fukushima said the move to revise the
Japanese Constitution's Article 9 -- the so-called
no-war clause -- should not be seen as imposed from
outside but as a shift from passive pacifism to
proactive pacifism, or "keeping peace by doing
something." Fukushima's institute is an independent
think tank funded by both the public and private

6. (C) Comment: We have encouraged Japanese DCM
Hamada to sponsor this type of program as a way to
highlight to New Zealanders the fact that Japan
recognizes the benefits of the U.S. military and
non-military roles in the Pacific and has worked to
facilitate our presence by making Japan's defense
policies more flexible. Post hopes that such
communications by our allies will remind the New
Zealand government and public that their country's
anti-nuclear policy negatively affects U.S.
interests in Asia and is detrimental to the New
Zealand-U.S. relationship." Unquote.

Military barracks memories...

The second story is about Stars and Stripes.

The second thing quite amazing is the poor
situation of our colleagues of press embedded in
the Stars and Stripes. Probably a Patriot
journalism, quote:

" Washington - The Pentagon has advised
journalists associated with its daily, Stars and
Stripes, not to access “classified or sensitive
information” readily available on personal or
public computers lest they be reported to “security

Stars and Stripes ombudsman Mark Prendergast
reported on Friday that Defense Media Activity, a
Pentagon-backed entity recently advised:

“Access to any classified information hosted on
non-DoD systems from any government-owned system is
expressly prohibited. Additionally, all DMA
personnel are reminded that access to classified or
sensitive information from any personally owned or
publicly available computers also constitutes
unauthorized access and is reportable to security

The move in essence bans Stars and Stripes
journalists from reading any of the diplomatic
cables recently published by Wikileaks. Prendergast
wrote on Friday: “The editorial independence of
Stars and Stripes and its readers’ right to news
free of censorship are being threatened by an
overly broad and misdirected response to the
Wikileaks debacle.” "

McCarthy is to be resurrected? No, kidding.

Sources: NZHerald & Digital Time, S & S.