Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Japanese PM resigns

by tuasfait Tue Jun 1st, 2010 at 10:45:15 PM EST

After only 8 months, Hatoyama's popularity dipped for multiple reasons to 19 to 20 percent from over 70 percent initially. His attempt to move the US marine base off Okinawa cost him badly too. I will give you some background FWIW:

1. Corruption charges
Never-ending corruption charges were thrown at Hatoyama and the party strongman Ozawa. The charges were originally brought up by the opposition, but the prosecution took particular interest in Ozawa and worked very hard to find slush funds, which did not exist. In Hatoyama's case, the money was a gift from his mother, a very wealthy woman. The mass media, both conservative and progressive (?) kept bringing up the issue for the past 8 months and the public bought into it, somewhat.

2. Okinawa
There is a 2006 agreement under which we are supposed to give Americans more air strips in exchange for closing of an unsafe air strip in Okinawa. Hatoyama tried, a bit half-heartedly, to re-negotiate the deal to relocate the base to the mainland. The only problem is that marines do not want to move out of Okinawa, where they feel more "comfortable" (i.e., like Cuba before the revolution), at the expense of Okinawa feeling more "uncomfortable". Obama and Gates seem to hate Hatoyama's decision to withdraw from the Afghan operation, and showed muscle with us over the relocation.

We Japanese are simply unable to spend any meaningful amount of time confronting Americans.  Mainstream media who believe in the alliance were appalled, and even rejoiced, at watching Hatoyama denied a tete-a-tete with Obama at the non-proliferation summit in Washington. (What was the point of refusing to meet with the representative from the only country which suffered the blast, not once but twice at the "non-proliferation" stunt anyway?) Hatoyama finally gave in and accepted the 2006 agreement. This led to withdrawal from the coalition of leftish Social Democrats.

Once again, Okinawa was left behind, and America-loving commentators laughed hard at Hatoyama, who "gave Okinawa too much hope". Or was it too much a change?

3. Way forward
Democrats will do better in the up-coming election anyway now that Hatoyama and Ozawa left.  But I am not sure about how much longer Democrats can hold on to power.  

As Helen put it, The US must have really put the thumbscrews on somehow.

But just what is that somehow?

You write,

We Japanese are simply unable to spend any meaningful amount of time confronting Americans.

But if anyone was going to confront the Americans, it was Hatoyama. Something very concrete, very specific, must have been rubbed into his face to force such an ignominious reversal.  What could that have been?

I agree with Nomad:  It's a sad thing if the Japanese thought that closing the base entirely was simply not an option.

tuasfait - Japanese PM resigns

Mainstream media who believe in the alliance were appalled, and even rejoiced, at watching Hatoyama denied a tete-a-tete with Obama at the non-proliferation summit in Washington.

Really?  What percentage of the mainstream media wants Japan to continue being the USA's servile protectorate?  Most Japanese I know are disgusted with the status quo, with the American military still occupying prime territory all over the country.  How could there be such a disconnect between the media establishment and the general public?

The point is not to be right, but to get to right.

by marco on Wed Jun 2nd, 2010 at 01:04:23 AM EST
Nothing specific was done to Hatoyama. Angering the American leadership, even so remotely, is a taboo. Conversely, having a friend in U.S. President is a tremendous asset, even if it is George W. Bush. When Obama and Gates confronted Hatoyama a few times, most of our people became suddenly unhappy.

I am not sure about your friends, but Japanese newspapers are united that the current agreement is the "only option."  Current editors (and Washington correspondents) seem to have been brainwashed by the Beltway.

I will become a patissier, God willing.

by tuasfait on Wed Jun 2nd, 2010 at 02:45:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I bet here is the "specific something" that got the LDP and its media lackeys to get really riled up against Hatoayam -- and which ultimately probably forced Hatoyama to make his "heartbreaking decision":

Why is the U.S. sticking to relocating Futenma to Henoko? - The Mainichi Daily News

In any case, one cannot help but wonder why Washington is sticking to the plan to move the base to Henoko.

A clue to the question can be found in a copy of a Japan-U.S. secret agreement on nuclear weapons in Okinawa, which was found in the drawer of the late former Prime Minister Eisaku Sato's desk earlier this spring.

The document states that the U.S. government requires that nuclear arsenals in Kadena, Naha and an area around Henoko, Okinawa Prefecture, be kept operational at all times so that they can be used in any serious emergency situation.

It also says the Japanese government will be prepared to meet these requirements in cases where prior consultations are held over the use of the arsenals.

Then Prime Minister Sato and then U.S. President Richard Nixon signed the document designated as "top secret."

The document shows that there was a nuclear arsenal in Henoko and that the two countries secretly agreed that U.S. forces would bring nuclear arms into the facility in case of a military conflict.

It raises suspicions that if a secret nuclear facility still exists in Henoko, what is called a "deterrent in Okinawa" refers to the facility. If so, no wonder the United States is sticking to relocating Futenma base to Henoko. (By Hidetoshi Kaneko, Expert Senior Writer)

If you can't pay the bills, it's not sustainable.
by marco on Wed Jun 2nd, 2010 at 10:40:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I heard about this too. But my guess is much simpler. When I visited Okinawa I was struck by the marines' attitude. I sensed they thought the islands were "theirs" and can have their way, as Russians did in Eastern Europe. I ran into a few of them in Tokyo recently at night, and they were walking together, visibly concerned about their safety. They knew they are not always welcome and can't have their way in the mainland.

About the nuclear stockpile, I am not sure. It would be dangerous for Americans to maintain a depot in a foreign country.

I will become a patissier, God willing.

by tuasfait on Wed Jun 2nd, 2010 at 11:34:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you are right, i.e. that it just boils down to an American sense of entitlement to hold onto its territories in Japan, then the Japanese need to grow some serious hairy ones and just tell the U.S. to sod off.

But I find it hard to subscribe to that interpretation of the situation for two reasons.

First, Obama is not one to embrace an imperial sense of entitlement; that is a noxious legacy he has been working to overcome from the last administration (forgive me: I am an American liberal, I know it's not fashionable to have a positive regard for Obama these days).  He is analytical, and would want substantive reasons for putting the screws on Hatoyama the way he did about the bases in Okinawa.  (Are there any other reasons for suspecting him of being anti-Japanese, he who bowed to Emperor Akihito last fall to the outrage of philistines across America?)

Second, it just doesn't make sense that successive Japanese governments would continually debase themselves and cave in to hectoring U.S. demands for no reason except they want to be seen to "be on good terms" with the Americans.  The Americans must have something on them, especially Hatoyama.  After all, he won by a landslide basically on a populist anti-American campaign with promises to get rid of the U.S. military in Okinawa.  Just as Obama is the last president to bully tier 1 U.S. allies for no reason except U.S. entitlement to territorial holdings, Hatoyama was extremely unlikely to do an about-face with respect to Okinawa just to make nice with the White House.

Or am I utterly underestimating the lack of dignity that the Japanese ruling classes have descended to, even in someone as "progressive" and "revolutionary" (in the Japanese context) as Hatoyama.

If you can't pay the bills, it's not sustainable.

by marco on Thu Jun 3rd, 2010 at 12:38:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama is not the imperialist legacy type, I agree. But the way he dealt with Hatoyama does not appear policy-based; it seems to represent something personal (arrogance maybe). Also, he relies too much on Gates, from Afghanistan to DADT, Gtmo, etc. Gates seems one of those Americans who love tough talks.

You are absolutely right. It is the question of dignity. Quite a few mainstream Japanese individuals have a strong sense of dignity, only towards Chinese, and Koreans. To Americans, only the people of Okinawa have it. Let me give you an example. In 2003, I kept fighting rightwing Republicans over the Iraq war on Slate. When I talked about it with friends in the government, they were appalled, "How dare you say such a thing to Americans?!"

I will become a patissier, God willing.

by tuasfait on Thu Jun 3rd, 2010 at 01:38:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
tuasfait: When I talked about it with friends in the government, they were appalled, "How dare you say such a thing to Americans?!"

Extraordinary.  Hasn't this class of people evolved at all in the last fifty years?  They need to start taking pointers from their Chinese counterparts.

If you can't pay the bills, it's not sustainable.

by marco on Thu Jun 3rd, 2010 at 01:44:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hasn't this class of people evolved at all in the last fifty years?

Yes, actually. They used to have some backbone 38 years ago. Otherwise, Okinawa would have never come back to us in 1972.

I will become a patissier, God willing.

by tuasfait on Thu Jun 3rd, 2010 at 02:09:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
tuasfait: They used to have some backbone 38 years ago. Otherwise, Okinawa would have never come back to us in 1972.

Yes, but at the cost of betraying the Three Non-Nuclear Principles, as well as honesty with their own people.  I guess whatever backbone they had has continued to degenerate since then.

If you can't pay the bills, it's not sustainable.

by marco on Thu Jun 3rd, 2010 at 03:19:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
it just doesn't make sense that successive Japanese governments would continually debase themselves and cave in to hectoring U.S. demands for no reason except they want to be seen to "be on good terms" with the Americans

Uh, what? Replace "Japanese" with just about any European country and you have a fair description of the public debate on foreign policy...

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 5th, 2010 at 02:56:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That is the question I had, but the following two excerpts suggested that the agreements had become "inoperative" or "obsolete":

It was only in 1991 when the George H. W. Bush administration decided to withdraw all theater and tactical nuclear weapons from the field and from ships that events overtook the transit arrangements.

The Nuclear Vault: Nuclear Noh Drama - Tokyo, Washington and the Case of the Missing Nuclear Agreements

In 1991 former President George H.W. Bush ordered the removal of tactical nuclear weapons from U.S. naval ships (not counting ballistic missile submarines, which do not call on Japanese ports), and from South Korea.

RealClearWorld - Tokyo's Long-Held Secrets Coming Out

Tokyo continued to deny the agreements, even after they became officially inoperative in 1991 as a result of George H. W. Bush's decision to withdraw tactical and theatre nuclear weapons from the field.

Japan 'lied' on secret US nuclear deal | The Australian

The panel's findings prompted Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada to say that he could not rule out the possibility that U.S. ships carrying nuclear weapons made port calls in Japan or transited through Japanese territorial waters.

But the panel said that because of U.S. President George H.W. Bush's 1991 announcement that the U.S. would withdraw tactical nuclear weapons from its naval ships, the port call and transit issue no longer troubles Japan-U.S. ties. The U.S. also maintains a "neither confirm nor deny" policy with regard to the deployment of nuclear weapons.

Secret agreements to get along | The Japan Times Online

In 1991, then US president George Bush announced that US vessels would no longer carry tactical atomic arms, rendering any pact with Japan allowing US nuclear-armed ships to visit obsolete.

Japan-US secret nuclear deal discovered: reports | Nuclear Weapons News at DefenseTalk

Though successive LDP governments, which had ruled for over half a century, had full knowledge of the secret pact at least up to 1989, it was kept under wraps all these years. It was only in June 2009 when former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Ryohei Murata revealed that "each foreign minister was briefed (on the secret agreement) in writing by the vice minister." The documents made public by the panel of experts of the MOFA on 9 March 2010 confirmed that senior MOFA officials briefed successive administrations at least up to the Cabinet of former Prime Minister Kaifu Toshiki in 1989. The panels revealed that the briefing document was created on 27 January 1968 by then Foreign Ministry American Bureau chief Togo Fumihiko and contained a detailed account of the American interpretation of the secret agreement.

The briefing document is significant because successive prime ministers and foreign ministers had noted in the margins the date and time they received the document with the word "read" or "verbally briefed". The last entry is dated 24 August 1989 by then Vice Foreign Minister Kuriyama Takakazu, who noted that Kaifu and foreign minister Nakayama Taro were briefed. No further notings had been made since 1993 when a non-LDP government assumed power for a short period of nine months.

One argument is that the gap between 1989 till the present was probably because the Cold War ended in 1991 and the common "enemy" - the USSR - no more existed and President George H.W. Bush may have halted deployment of nuclear weapons on US vessels in 1991.

Testing Times for the Japan-US Alliance: "Secret Pact" Revealed | Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses

And yet, in an editorial last December, the 朝日新聞 Asahi Shinbun asked precisely the same question that I had:

... it is more important for Tokyo to confer with Washington and come up with a unified stand on whether the 1969 pact is still legally binding today.

There is a big difference between today and 40 years ago in the security environment and the nuclear weapons operating strategy. In practical terms, there is a bare possibility of the United States requesting Japan to allow the re-entry of nuclear weapons today.

Still, it would be wrong to leave unattended the conflict between the secret deal and the three non-nuclear principles. Failure to face this problem could shake the public's faith in the Japan-U.S. alliance.

Especially now that Hatoyama's waffling on the Futenma issue is straining Japan-U.S. ties, the government must act wisely.

asahi.com(朝日新聞社):EDITORIAL: Secret nuclear accord | The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 23 (IHT/Asahi: December 24,2009

Masanobu Inoue of the Japan Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (and thus someone clearly not unprejudiced on the issue) argues that the agreements are in fact still in effect:

As is widely known, under the George H. W. Bush (Bush 41) administration in 1991, the US removed all strategic nuclear weapons deployed abroad, and cancelled the nuclear mission of the Marines, naval aircraft, and warships. Does that mean the secret agreements on nuclear arms introduction are already something of the past? That is in fact being discussed in Japan, but the agreements are still very much alive. Even now the US maintains the nuclear missions of some Air Force units and some nuclear-powered submarines, and submarines so tasked visit Japanese ports. In a contingency, it is certain that nuclear weapons would be deployed to these submarines and Air Force units, and that nuclear weapons would be brought into Japan. The US still upholds its NCND ["neither confirm nor deny"] policy.

That the Japanese government knows best that nuclear weapons could be brought into Japan is proved by the following fact. On April 1, 2009 the Congressional Commission on U.S. Strategic Posture (chaired by former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry) submitted a report. It is believed that his report will heavily influence the review of the US nuclear posture being conducted by the Obama administration. In preparing its report, the commission conferred closely with the governments of allies and friendly nations. At the end of the report is a list of the people from each government with whom the commission conferred, and the names of four diplomatic officials at the Japanese Embassy in the US are given first as Japanese government officials. After Japan come other countries including Denmark, Turkey, Germany, France, and Israel. The officials at the Japanese Embassy in the US submitted a three-page memorandum stating the Japanese government's position, apparently telling the commission that Japan opposes the decommissioning of the nuclear cruise missiles deployed on a nuclear-powered submarine scheduled for decommissioning in 2013, and making these requests: low-yield earth penetrating nuclear weapons enhance the reliability of the nuclear umbrella; Japan wants prior consultation on the decommissioning of submarine-launched nuclear Tomahawk missiles; and Japan wants details on nuclear forces and tactical nuclear plans. This shows that not only does the Japanese government consent to bringing nuclear weapons into Japan under the secret agreements, but also desires it, the reason being that it maintains the effectiveness of the nuclear deterrence policy, which is the centerpiece of Japan's security policy.

The reality is that the secret agreements on introducing nuclear weapons even now continue to limit Japan's sovereignty. As having territorial waters of 12 nautical miles was already taken for granted internationally during negotiations for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), in 1977 the Japanese government enacted the Territorial Waters Act and set Japan's territorial waters to 12 nautical miles. At the same time it set territorial waters to three nautical miles in the straits of Soya (La P?rouse), Tsugaru, and Tsushima. Even though both sides of these straits are Japanese territory, the territorial water limits were set at three nautical miles, which made parts of the straits into international waters, and is highly unusual from an international point of view. Why was this done?

Before these lines were drawn, the US was concerned that if the 12 nautical miles from shore were another country's territory under UNCLOS, it would limit the free movement of nuclear submarines and impose a serious impediment on the performance of plans for nuclear war in accordance with the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP). This was because although submarines have the right of innocent passage in other countries' territorial waters, they must do so by surfacing and hoisting their national flags, which would make it impossible for nuclear submarines to carry out their tactical nuclear missions. The US lobbied the Japanese government intensively. To Japan's government there was also the concern that if strategic and attack nuclear submarines were to pass through these straits while surfaced, it would create a serious political problem because the submarines would be seen as openly bringing nuclear weapons into Japan. Hence the choice made by the Japanese government, which was bound by the secret agreements on introducing nuclear weapons, was to give those straits exceptional treatment. Even now, the waters in these straits beyond three nautical miles from shore are international.

Japan's government changed and is now administered by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada sent a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and stated that Japan does not oppose the decommissioning of nuclear-armed Tomahawk cruise missiles. On March 9 the DPJ administration released the results of its investigation of the secret agreements. Foreign Minister Okada then expressed the view that the secret agreements are an issue of the past because, owing to the 1991 Bush initiative, it is no longer possible to conceive of a situation in which nuclear weapons are brought into Japan. Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama stated that the three non-nuclear principles would continue to be observed. However, it is quite possible that nuclear weapons would be introduced in the event of armed conflict in the Japan region. As the introduction of nuclear weapons is still possible, if the government's stance is to observe the three non-nuclear principles, the government must properly provide for consistency with US policy for introducing nuclear weapons in a contingency. The DPJ claims that the secret agreements are a problem of the past, and that the introduction of nuclear weapons from now on is impossible, thereby doing nothing about the contradiction between US nuclear policy and the three non-nuclear principles. This DPJ posture could create the departure point for a new secret pact.

Japan's future security policy is being called squarely into question.

On the Secret Nuclear Agreements | Japan Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms - 2010 May 14

If you can't pay the bills, it's not sustainable.
by marco on Thu Jun 3rd, 2010 at 12:06:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
TPM: Obama Takes Down (Wrong) Prime Minister

Hatoyama could not withstand the pressure from Obama -- who gave Hatoyama the kind of icy treatment that the White House has also been trying to give Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The problem is Hatoyama wilted, and Netanyahu seems to be thriving.

Does Obama have determined policies somewhere?!

by das monde on Wed Jun 2nd, 2010 at 04:24:43 AM EST
On the international stage, Obama's policies leave a lot to be desired.

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne
by maracatu on Wed Jun 2nd, 2010 at 06:29:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the one thing is really intriguing it is sudden drops and rises of popularity in opinion polls. how on earth Hatoyama got initial 70% then if for no apparent reasons his rating tanked?

I think there should be questions about selection process used by japanese pollsters and if everything seems OK then there should be sociological studies explaining such political volatility. Do you know of any?

As for consequences of his resignation I think they should be minimal, I remember he only rhetorically tried to chart new course for Japan. Well oiled government machine is functioning albeit slowly.

by FarEasterner on Wed Jun 2nd, 2010 at 12:01:09 PM EST
You are right that polling is not very accurate. Although the sample size is not small (about 2,000), almost always only half of them are willing to respond.

There are other factors playing in the Japanese media, in my view. First, conservative media (which control 2 terrestrial TV channels) were determined to do whatever they can to throw out Hatoyama. They kept making the corruption charges, which was initially brought by Asahi, the paper with a strong tie with the prosecution.

Second, after 60 years of one-party rule, there is a strong network (and the country is small) among those who believe are important among LDP politicians, bureaucracy, business, and media. The task of a political writer in a major media outlet has always been to be a friend of a (LDP) politician to gain inside access, and they even had some influence over the policy.  It was a cosy, interesting job, and I suspect they all miss those days which suddenly ended last year. Third, there is a pro-Washington group whose asset is ties with those in power there. Their latest version was brought up during Bush.

Despite their talk of democracy, they want to remain in the comfortable role they played when LDP was in power. Hatoyama, who began inviting non-major media to governmental press conferences was no friend of them.

I will become a patissier, God willing.

by tuasfait on Wed Jun 2nd, 2010 at 10:14:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
to the right wing media environment in south korea and taiwan. i korea they even got the former president to (allegedly) commit suicide over the corruption charges,m and in  taiwan chen shuibian remains incarcerated for essentially the same crime that got the current president ma yingjiu a mere slap on the wrist.

it's the old singapore model, really.

by wu ming on Sat Jun 5th, 2010 at 12:56:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
According to a local source I have, the Taiwanese situation is much more dire.  The KMT, horrified by their temporary loss of power, are doing everything possible to prevent the opposition from ever again attaining political power, democracy be damned.  
by Zwackus on Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 05:21:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the EFCA  free trade deal with china's a big part of that. should be fascinating to see what happens if the DPP looks like it's going to win back the govt. taiwanese are pretty stubborn, feisty people, when it comes down to it.
by wu ming on Thu Jun 10th, 2010 at 01:49:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As I wrote back in December, I'm having a déjà vu...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jun 2nd, 2010 at 04:28:07 PM EST
the conventional wisdom seems to be that while the Japanese don't like the fact that the American military occupies prime real estate all over their country, causes noise pollution, threatens if not already harms environmentally sensitive areas, intermittently rapes underage local girls, and gets a huge chunk of it paid for by Japanese taxpayers, its presence is the lesser of two evils, by far, where the other evil is being forced to take on responsibility for its own self-defense where all of its neighbors are still wary of any increase in Japanese military build-up.

And the only way to change this situation would be to amend Article 9 of Japan's constitution.

If you can't pay the bills, it's not sustainable.

by marco on Sat Jun 5th, 2010 at 12:48:45 AM EST
That presupposes that the marine base on Okinawa has anything to do with Japan's defense.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jun 5th, 2010 at 08:16:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not necessarily. Things like that are mostly about perceptions and symbolism. What the bases are actually there for is only relevant in case of war.
by generic on Sat Jun 5th, 2010 at 09:18:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In fact, Japanese right-wing (or mainstream) individuals reached that conclusion a long time ago. You may wonder what the hell that is for, because they are the ones who love the US military presence in Okinawa.

It represents a yearning to restore nationalistic pride, not against Americans, but against Chinese and Koreans. For that purpose, they happily embrace the US military in a place they don't live and don't care.

Their idea is bankrupt anyway. We are more dependent on China than on US, in terms of trade, and the size of their economy surpasses ours this year (and growing).

My solution: join EU.

I will become a patissier, God willing.

by tuasfait on Sat Jun 5th, 2010 at 10:48:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That would make Japan the largest country in the EU, not even counting the robots. I support it out of sheer coolness factor.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Sat Jun 5th, 2010 at 11:46:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But I suggest they wait until we are done with our austerity induced depression.
by generic on Sat Jun 5th, 2010 at 12:14:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for this diary and the comments it produced. We have too few contributions about Japan from 'on the ground'.

I confess to being relatively ignorant on Japan, in spite of my company being named after a great Japanese artist, and my first act as an art student in the early Sixties being to saw the legs off all furniture in my flat.

It is an ignorance that should be put right. Except there are around 200 other countries and cultures to get through ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Jun 5th, 2010 at 12:52:18 PM EST

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]