(社説)辺野古移設 沖縄の問いに答えよ

--The Asahi Shimbun, March 24
EDITORIAL: High time for government to answer Okinawa’s questions
(社説)辺野古移設 沖縄の問いに答えよ

How long will the central government continue to blatantly and completely ignore Okinawa Prefecture’s requests and questions concerning the plan to relocate a key U.S. air base?

Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga on March 23 ordered the Okinawa Defense Bureau to suspend within a week all work to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the crowded city of Ginowan to the Henoko district of Nago. The ongoing work includes a seabed drilling survey to prepare for land reclamation off Henoko.

If the bureau refuses to obey his order, Onaga warns he will revoke the prefectural government’s permission, issued by his predecessor, Hirokazu Nakaima, in August last year, for rock reefs to be destroyed for the construction work.

In a March 23 news conference, Onaga said, “I’ve made up my mind.” His move should be regarded as a strong signal of Okinawa’s will that this is effectively an ultimatum by the prefecture.

In pursuing the plan to build an airbase in Henoko to replace the Futenma facilities, the central government has repeatedly said it would continue efforts to win support from people in Okinawa. In reality, however, the government has been quietly but steadily going ahead with the plan without paying any attention to Okinawa’s calls.

Destruction of the rock reefs will alter the configuration of the seabed. To prevent a negative impact on marine resources, prefectural fisheries coordination regulations require advance permission from the prefectural governor for the destruction of such reefs.

The current row between the administration and the prefectural government began in January, when the Okinawa Defense Bureau, the Defense Ministry’s local branch, sank a number of massive concrete blocks onto the seabed as anchors for buoys and floats that indicate the off-limits zones.

The blocks were sunk along the borders of the off-limits zones, which surround the areas where Nakaima approved the destruction of rock reefs for the construction work. This raised concerns about possible damage to coral reefs and other natural elements, prompting the prefectural government to start an on-site inspection on its own.

But the prefecture’s attempt to conduct an inspection in the off-limits areas was rejected by the U.S. military. The local government again submitted a request for U.S. permission for the inspection. When he ordered a suspension of the work, Onaga also asked the Defense Bureau to help with the prefectural government’s inspection.

Onaga, who defeated Nakaima in a gubernatorial election in November, initially called for a suspension of the work until an independent committee set up to assess Nakaima’s approval of land reclamation off Henoko reaches its conclusion.

But the Abe administration ignored his request and forged ahead with the drilling survey.

As for the sinking of concrete blocks, the administration has kept repeating that the Okinawa government headed by Nakaima said the act is not subject to procedures for approval. Tokyo has ignored the Okinawa government’s argument that its permission is required for sinking such massive blocks.

Onaga was elected on a pledge to stop the relocation of the Futenma air base to Henoko. It is only natural for him to use his administrative powers to take action to promote Okinawa’s position on the issue.

Criticizing Onaga’s move, Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said, “I hope he will give a little more consideration to the interests of Okinawa Prefecture and Japan’s national security in thinking” about the issue.

But people in Okinawa Prefecture, which is home to an overwhelmingly large proportion of the U.S. bases in Japan, have many questions about the government’s security policy, such as why a base must be built in Henoko and why U.S. Marines have to be stationed in the prefecture.

The administration should make sincere and straightforward responses to these serious questions asked by Okinawa.


プーチン発言 「核準備」の恫喝は認められぬ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Putin’s allusion to being prepared to use nuclear arms is intolerable
プーチン発言 「核準備」の恫喝は認められぬ

It was a threat in which an allusion was made over the use of nuclear weapons. His remarks, made as a leader of a nuclear power, were extremely inappropriate and irresponsible.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said, “We were ready to do it,” when asked if Russia was prepared to put its nuclear forces on alert over the country’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula last March.

However, he defended himself by saying he believed the Crimea crisis would not evolve into a situation where Russia’s nuclear forces would actually be put into a state of combat readiness.

Nonetheless, his remarks contain extremely serious elements and must not be ignored.

Under the basic guidelines governing its use of nuclear weapons, Russia will use nuclear weapons only in response to an all-out attack by weapons of mass destruction or if the existence of the Russian Federation is threatened.

Around the time Russia annexed Crimea, it was not expected that the country would have to fight for its survival. Thus, Putin’s remarks made a mockery of these guidelines.

A senior official of the Russian Foreign Ministry said, “Russia, in principle, reserves the right to deploy its nuclear arsenal in Crimea.”

The series of remarks by Putin are construed as an attempt by Russia to make its control of Crimea a fait accompli by intimidating the United States and European countries to forestall any intervention.

Russia’s wisdom must be called into question. As a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, the country is responsible for maintaining world peace.

Running counter to NPT

A U.S. State Department spokeswoman criticized Putin’s remarks, saying the Russian president has admitted to the whole world that Russian troops not only intervened in Crimea but also were ready to take more aggressive action. Her criticism cannot be faulted.

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty calls on signatory countries, including Russia, not to threaten the territorial integrity of other nations with the use of force. It is obvious that Putin’s latest remarks run counter to the spirit of this international treaty.

What is of great concern is that Russia over the past few years has built up its nuclear capability. This also runs against the international trend of nuclear disarmament in the post-Cold War era, a trend symbolized by the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty by the United States and Russia.

In his latest remarks, Putin said, “We never thought about severing Crimea from Ukraine until the moment that these events began [with the Ukraine] government overthrow.” With this comment, he admitted that Russia took actions to annex Crimea immediately after Ukraine’s pro-Moscow government led by President Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown in February last year.

His remarks contradicted his earlier assertion that Russia annexed Crimea because he respected the results of the referendum held last March.

It has been pointed out that Russian special forces intervened and conducted various maneuvers to have the referendum carried out in Crimea.

Putin, who has unilaterally been changing the status quo by force, is becoming a serious cause of uncertainty.

The international community, while financially supporting Ukraine and maintaining its pressure on Russia, must call on Putin to refrain from embarking on any more adventures through words or deeds.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 18, 2015)


Is Japan Asia's Next Autocracy? 日本はアジアの次の独裁国家になるのか?

FEB 20, 2015 9:00
cite from bloomberg view.com

Is Japan Asia's Next Autocracy?
By Noah Smith

Earlier this year, I highlighted a troubling trend in many countries around the world -- the move toward illiberal government and away from human rights. Unfortunately, Japan is catching the bug.

This might seem like a strange claim.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has implemented some liberal policies, such as a push for equality for working women, and he has championed increased immigration.

Japan’s society has, in general, become more liberal in recent decades, for example by implementing trial by jury. Furthermore, the country recently repealed a longstanding ban on dancing in clubs.

But all this could become largely irrelevant if Abe’s party changes the nation’s constitution in the ways that it wants.

The Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP), which is one of the most misnamed political parties in existence, has governed Japan for most of its postwar history, with only the occasional brief interruption.

A substantial chunk of the party is philosophically, organizationally and often genetically descended from the political class of Japan’s militarist period. この政党の実質的な部分は哲学的にも、組織的にも、またしばしば遺伝学的にも、日本軍国主義時代の政治的支配者の流れを汲んでいる。

As one might expect, it didn't completely internalize the liberal values that the U.S. imposed on the country during the American occupation.

That faction, once a minority, now appears to be dominant within the party.

The LDP is now campaigning to scrap the U.S.-written constitution, and replace it with a draft constitution.

In a booklet explaining the draft, the LDP states that "Several of the current constitutional provisions are based on the Western-European theory of natural human rights; such provisions therefore [need] to be changed."

In accordance with this idea, the draft constitution allows the state to restrict speech or expression that is "interfering [with] public interest and public order.”

The draft constitution also repeals the clause that prohibits the state from granting “political authority” to religious groups -- in other words, abandoning the separation of church and state.

Even worse, the draft constitution adds six new “obligations” that it commands the citizenry to follow.

Some of these, such as the obligation to “uphold the Constitution” and help family members, are vague and benign. A third, which requires people to “respect the national anthem and flag,” is similar to constitutional amendments advocated by conservatives in the U.S.

But the other three “obligations” are an obvious move toward illiberalism and autocracy. These state:

“The people must be conscious of the fact that there are responsibilities and obligations in compensation for freedom and rights.”

“The people must comply with the public interest and public order.”

“The people must obey commands from the State or the subordinate offices thereof in a state of emergency.”

These ideas wouldn't be out of place in China or Russia. The provision for a “state of emergency” echoes the justification for crackdowns used by many Middle Eastern dictators.

Unfortunately, the deeply illiberal nature of this draft constitution has largely been ignored, especially in the West.

Most people in the West hear only about one piece of Japanese constitutional change: the revision of Article 9 of the current constitution, which forbids Japan from having a military.

It is true that the LDP draft constitution does repeal Article 9. And it is true that repealing Article 9 is a big reason why Abe wants constitutional change.

But focusing on demilitarization is a dangerous distraction.

Repealing Article 9 is a sensible thing to do.

Japan already has a military (called a “Self-Defense Force”), and interprets the demilitarization clause so loosely that it’s unlikely that repealing Article 9 would change much.

It is very doubtful that Japan would invade other countries if the constitution were rewritten.

Japan might as well call its army an army.

But the focus on the military issue has drawn attention -- especially Western attention -- away from the severe blow that the draft constitution would deal to the freedom of the Japanese people.

Japan’s people, of course, don’t want to live in an illiberal state.

More than 80 percent of Japanese people opposed a recent “government secrets” law passed by Abe’s government.
And they also oppose the LDPs attempt to ease the procedures for constitutional revision.

Japanese people have grown extremely fond of the freedom they have enjoyed in the past seven decades, even if that freedom was initially imposed by a foreign power.

The risk is that the Japanese people might be tricked into signing away their own freedoms.

Like Western journalists, they may focus too much on the repeal of Article 9, and ignore the replacement of human rights with "obligations." It doesn't help that Japan’s opposition parties are weak, divided and mostly incompetent, while Abe’s government provides the best hope for resuscitating the economy.

Now, it’s important not to overreact to all this.

A constitution is just a piece of paper, and not all countries take their constitutions as seriously as the U.S. does.

Obviously, if Japan’s leaders want to create an illiberal state, the U.S.-written 1947 constitution isn't going to hold them back; in fact, some revisionist members of the LDP may already silently regard its draft constitution as the “true” law of the land.

Nor is everything in the draft illiberal -- the ban on gender, racial and religious discrimination is preserved, and even extended to the disabled.

But there is real danger in this new constitution.

First, it may be part of a wider LDP effort to crack down on civil society, which has become more obstreperous in the wake of poor economic performance and the Fukushima nuclear accident.

The government secrets law and other crackdowns on press freedom are a worrying sign -- Japan has already slipped from 10th in Reporters Without Borders’ global press freedom ranking in 2010 to 61st in 2015.

Second, adopting the LDP’s draft could be an international relations disaster.

If Japan opts for the kind of illiberal democracy that is currently the fashion in Turkey and Hungary, it could weaken the country’s regional appeal as an alternative to China’s repressive state.

It could also lead to the weakening of the U.S.-Japan alliance -- without the glue of shared values holding the alliance together, the U.S. might be tempted to adopt a more neutral posture between an illiberal China and a mostly illiberal Japan.

The optimal solution would be for Japan to repeal Article 9 of its constitution while leaving the rest untouched.

But politically, that seems to be an impossible trick to pull off -- any measure that would allow the LDP to change Article 9 would also open the door for the authoritarian “obligations” and the weakening of human rights.

The best realistic solution is for Japan to delay rewriting its flawed constitution at all, and wait for a time when the people in power are not still mentally living in the 1940s.

Japan is at a critical juncture in its history.

It has the potential to become a more liberal society, or a much less liberal one.

The former choice is both the wise and the moral choice.