Sunday, September 17, 2017

Monday in Washington, September 18, 2017

TAIWAN'S ENVIRONMENTAL LEADERSHIP. 9/18, 8:30-10:00am. Sponsor: China Studies, CSIS. Speakers: Lee, Ying-yuan, Minister of Environmental Protection, Taiwan; Jane Nishida, Acting Assistant Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; David Ribeiro, Senior Researcher, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy; Moderator: Scott Kennedy, Deputy Director, China Studies, CSIS. 

USTR LIGHTHIZER ON U.S. TRADE POLICY PRIORITIES. 9/18, 11:00-11:45am. Sponsor: CSIS. Speaker: Robert Lighthizer, USTR. Location: CSIS, 1616 Rhode Island Ave., NW. Contact:

MOVING FORWARD WITH ABENOMICS. 9/18, 1:30-2:30pm. Sponsor: Hudson. Speaker: Toshimitsu Motegi, Minister, State for Economic and Fiscal Policy, Japan. Moderator: Kenneth R. Weinstein, President and CEO, Hudson.

COMPETITION POLICY FROM A EUROPEAN PERSPECTIVE: A CONSERSATION WITH EU COMMISSIONER FOR COMPETITION MARGRETHE VESTAGER. 9/18, 1:30- 2:30pm. Sponsor: AEI. Speaker: Margrethe Vestager, European Commission; Moderator: Jeffrey Eisenach, Visiting Scholar, AEI, Director, NERA Economic Consulting.

POPULISM AND THE ECONOMICS OF GLOBALIZATION. 9/18, 2:00pm. Sponsor: Inter-American Development Bank (IADB). Speaker: Dani Rodrik, Professor, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

WEIGHING BAD OPTIONS: REFLECTIONS ON PAST DIPLOMACY WITH NORTH KOREA AND ALLIANCE OPTIONS TODAY. 9/18, 2:00-3:30pm. Sponsors: U.S.-Japan Research Institute (USJI); Carnegie. Speakers: Christopher Hill, Ambassador, Denver University; Mitoji Yabunaka, Professor, Ritsumeikan University; Keiji Nakatsuji, Operating Advisor, USJI; Doug H. Paal, Vice President, Carnegie; Moderator: James Schoff, Senior Fellow, Asia Program, Carnegie.

THE IMPACT OF THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION ON US-TAIWAN RELATIONS. 9/18, 2:00-3:30pm. Sponsor: Stimson Center. Speakers: Dr. Hung-jen Wang, Assistant Professor of Political Science at National Cheng Kung University.

AMID TRANSITION AND CONFLICT, 70 YEARS OF U.S.-BURMA TIES. 9/18, 3:00-4:30pm. Sponsor: U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP). Speakers: U Aung, Ambassador of Burma to the United States; W. Patrick Murphy, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Southeast Asia, Department of State.

CHINA’S ARCTIC AND ANTARCTIC AMBITIONS. 9/18, 4:00-5:00pm. Sponsors: Kissinger Institute at Wilson Center, Polar Initiative. Speaker: Anne Marie Brady, Fellow, Kissinger Institute. Discussant: Michael Sfraga, Director, Polar Initiative. Moderator: Robert Daly, Director, Kissinger Institute.

THE GLOBALIZATION OF VENALITY: KLEPTOCRACY'S CORROSIVE IMPACT ON DEMOCRACY. 9/18, 4:00-5:30pm. Sponsor: National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Speakers: Oliver Bullough, Author, Let Our Fame Be Great and Last Man in Russia; Brett Carter, Professor, University of Southern California; Daniel Fried, Distinguished Fellow, Future Europe Initiative and Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council; Cynthia Gabriel, Founder, Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism; Moderator: Christopher Walker, Vice President, Studies and Analysis, NED. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Monday in Washington, September 11, 2017

INTERNATIONAL LAW AND THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: USE OF FORCE UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW. 9/11, 11:30am-12:30pm, Online. Sponsor: GWU Law School. Speakers: Jack Goldsmith, Harvard Law School, former Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice and former special counsel, Office of the General Counsel, U.S. Department of Defense; Oona Hathaway, Yale Law School, former special counsel, Office of General Counsel for National Security Law, U.S. Department of Defense; Moderator: Laura Dickinson, GWU Law School, former senior policy adviser, U.S. Department of State.

. 9/11, Noon-1:30pm. Sponsor: USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy. Speakers: Matt Chessen, Senior Technology Policy Advisor, U.S. Department of State; Jennifer Lambert, Deputy Director of Analytics, International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State; Luke Peterson, Director of Analytics, International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State; Lovisa Williams, Digital Strategist, PD's Office of Policy, Planning, and Resources, U.S. Department of State; Moderator: Shawn Powers, Executive Director of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.
FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE CIA TALKS RUSSIA, VENEZUELA AND NORTH KOREA SANCTIONS. 9/11, Noon-1:30pm. Sponsors: Institute of International Economic Law (IIEL), Georgetown University; Atlantic Council. Speaker: David Cohen, Former Deputy Director, Central Intelligence Agency.

HARNESSING THE DATA REVOLUTION TO ACHIEVE THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS. 9/11, 1:30-3:00pm. Sponsors: Project on Prosperity and Development Cordially, CSIS; Japan International Cooperation Agency Research Institute (JICA-RI). Speakers: Naohiro Kitano, Director, JICA-RI; Alex Attal, Head, Digital Services; Shawn Dolley, Industry Leader, Health & Life Science Cloudera; Kenichi Konya, Senior Director, SDGs Mainstreaming Team, JICA; Claire Melamed, Executive Director, Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data; Paul Zeitz, Former Director, Data Revolution For Sustainable Development, U.S. Department of State; Moderator: Daniel F. Runde, Director, Prosperity Project, CSIS.

NATO'S ADAPTATION AND PROJECTING STABILITY. 9/11, 1:30-3:00pm. Sponsor: Elliot School, GWU. Speaker: Gen. Denis Mercier, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, NATO.

UN AND INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION IN THE ERA OF TRUMP. 9/11, 2:00-3:30pm. Sponsor: U.S.-Japan Research Institute (USJI). Speakers: Kazuhiro Maeshima, Operating Advisor, USJI; Yasuhiro Ueki, Professor, Global Studies, Sophia University; Edward Luck, Professor, Columbia University; Barbara Crossette, Journalist, The Nation.

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AL-QA’IDA: SIXTEEN YEARS AFTER 9/11 AND BEYOND. 9/11, 2:00-4:00pm, Arlington, VA. Sponsor: Inter-University Center for Terrorism Studies (IUCTS) and International Center for Terrorism Studies (ICTS), Potomac Institute; Inter-University Center for Legal Studies (IUCLS), International Law Institute; Center for National Security Law, University of Virginia School of Law. Speakers: Ambassador Ronald E. Neumann (Ret.), President, American Academy of Diplomacy; Mir Sadat, Policy Strategist, Chief of Naval Operations, U.S. Navy. Moderator: Yonah Alexander, Director, IUCTS, Potomac Institute.

9/11, 4:00-5:00pm. Sponsor: History and Public Policy Program, Wilson Center (WWC). Speakers: Jeremi Suri, Chair, Leadership in Global Affairs, University of Texas at Austin (UT), Author, The Impossible Presidency: The Rise and Fall of America’s Highest Office; Moderators: Christian F. Ostermann, Director, History and Public Policy Program, WWC; Eric Arnesen, Professor, History, GWU.

A DISCUSSION OF THE KOREAN ECONOMIC AND SECURITY ALLIANCE WITH AMBASSADOR AHN HO-YOUNG. 9/11, 4:00-5:15pm, Washington, DC. Sponsors: WITA; National Economists Club (NEC). Speaker: Ahn Ho-Young, Ambassador, Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the USA, Fee.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Recognizing Japanese War Crimes Prior to 1945

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Documenting German and Japanese War Crimes prior to 1945: The UN War Crimes Commission

Tuesday, September 12, 2017
9:30 AM — 11:15 AM
Light breakfast

Book presentation with Dr. Dan Plesch, director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS, University of London and author of Human Rights After Hitler: The Lost History of Prosecuting Axis War Crimes. (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2017. 272 pages)

Cooperative program between Asia Policy Point and the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS)

American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS)
 R. G. Livingston Conference Room
1755 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Suite 700
Washington, DC,  20036 United States


Dr Dan Plesch will present his analysis of thousands of newly available indictments of Germans and Japanese many made during the Second World War and supported by the Allies. His presentation will draw on his book “Human Rights After Hitler: The Lost History of Prosecuting Axis War Crimes.” The book is based on the archive of the 1943-1948, 17-nation UN War Crimes Commission. Among the findings are indictments of Nazis for the death camps in 1944, while they were still operating and that these were considered and endorsed by representatives of China and still-Imperial India along with the Western Allies. His research demonstrates: that sexual violence in warfare was recognized during WWII as a war crime; that there was a working definition of a “crime against humanity” during WWII, not after; and that Asian states and Asians were involved in establishing this definition and in identifying war crimes prior to the end of the war. Most interesting, both the German and Japanese governments were aware of the work of the UNWCC and the terms of the indictments.

Dr Plesch directs the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS, University of London and his previous books include “America Hitler and the UN” and the “Beauty Queen's Guide to World Peace.” Dr Plesch read history at Nottingham and obtained professional qualifications in social work and public administration from Bristol in 1979 and 1980, he then worked for non-governmental organizations focused on the abolition of nuclear weapons. In 1986, he founded the British American Security Information Council (BASIC) and directed it from Washington, DC until 2001, when he became the Senior Research Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies in London.

His book will be available at the program or through this LINK

Monday, August 28, 2017

What's China's View On Abe’s Latest Cabinet Reshuffle?

Compared to the past, China has been relatively restrained in its criticism of Abe.

By Pengqiao Lu, was a research assistant at Asia Policy Point, he holds an M.A. in International Affairs from the George Washington University. His research focuses on security and economic governance in East Asia and Cross-strait relations. He has worked at multiple think tanks in Washington, DC. You can follow him on Twitter: @plu91

The Diplomat, August 17, 2017

On August 3, Japanese Prime Minister Abe reshuffled his cabinet. The shake-up came at a time when the prime minister was embroiled in scandals, his political protégé was under great pressure due to gaffes and missteps, and the ruling LDP was crushed in the Tokyo metropolitan assembly election. Chinese media and scholars riveted by the shake-up have attempted to make assessments and speculation about its impact. Overall, while recognizing some positive signs, most Chinese commentators are pessimistic about the prospect of the Cabinet and a comprehensive Sino-Japan détente if Abe does not overhaul his domestic and foreign policy.

A Not-so-fresh Cabinet Signals the End of Abe Dominance
One view is that this reshuffle is a wholesale shake-up. A CRI online article tracked previous reshuffles: September 3, 2014, six out of 18 ministers were retained by Abe; October 7, 2015, 9 out of 19; and August 3, 2016, 8 out of 19; notably this time, only 5 were retained. The article hence described this Cabinet shake-up as the “largest political reshuffle since Abe took office.”Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

Stability is another major feature stressed by Chinese commentaries. As China Central Television put it, “for a regime with plunging approvals, another failed Cabinet revamp could be fatal to it; therefore, the key word for the new Cabinet is stability.”

According to Chinese observers, Abe tries to reach that goal in three ways. First, purging cabinet members that — using a Xinhua article’s words — “fail to handle troubles effectively and leave a negative impression on the public.” Xinhua referred to then-Minister of Education Matsuno Hirokazu, then-Minister of State for the Promotion of Overcoming Population Decline and Vitalizing Local Economy in Japan Yamamoto Kozo, and then-Minister of Justice Kaneda Katsutoshi. Second, opting for political veterans over fresh faces in appointing ministers. Safe hands noticed by Chinese observers include the new Defense Minister Onodera Itsunori, new Justice Minister Kamikawa Yoko, new Education Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa, and Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy Motegi Toshimitsu. Finally, retaining the core Cabinet members. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Aso Taro and Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide as Abe’s “right-hand man” stay on.

Gao Hong, deputy director of the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, commented that “Abe purged some of his ‘dumb friends,’ and picked some moderate and balanced new cabinet members, which will to some extent mollify Japanese public’s discontent.”

Moreover, Chinese analysts noted Abe’s emphasis on the factional balance in this Cabinet reshuffle. Li Ruoyu, a researcher with the Institute of Japanese Studies at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, wrote that “compared to previous Abe Cabinets, the new cabinet features less Abe’s personal preferences and more balancing among LDP’s factions. Diet members, such as Kono Taro and Noda Seiko, that have been keeping some distance from Abe, or even are potential challengers to Abe within the party, all assume ministerial posts in the Cabinet.”

Meanwhile, according to Meng Xiaoxu, an Associate Professor at the China University of International Relations, “for the 19 cabinet members, the number of ministers from the Kishida faction increased to 4, matching the largest faction in the LDP, the Hosoda faction. And Kishida Fumio himself was appointed the critical post of the Chairman of LDP Policy Research Council, a move to balance relations between factions. Appointing dissident Noda Seido also represents Abe’s compromise. Moreover, avoiding filling key posts with Abe’s confidants could also quell intra-party dissatisfaction, reduce internal threats, and stabilize the political situation.”

Since his return to premiership in December 2012, Abe has maintained seemingly invincible political dominance. On the grounds that this Cabinet reshuffle is so cautiously managed and “not-so-Abe”, Chinese analysts assert that such dominance has come to an end, or at least has been crippled. Lian Degui, Professor at the Shanghai International Studies University, observed that “Abe’s status has been shaken. Voters’ discontent is mainly targeted at Abe. Even a Cabinet reshuffle could not reverse the trend of Abe’s shrinking influence.”

Will the Reshuffle be Abe’s Lifesaver?
Barring major policies adjustments, most Chinese analysts are considerably pessimistic about the long-term effects of the cabinet revamp in terms of rescuing the Prime Minister’s political outlook. From their perspective, the current predicament stems from himself: his arrogant ruling style, and more importantly, his rightist policies.

Wang Shaopu, director of the Japan Study Center with the Shanghai Jiaotong University, wrote that “the reshuffle might have short-term effects but cannot ensure stability in the long run. The troubles of the Abe Cabinet were caused by Cabinet members such as Inada Tomomi, but were rooted in Abe… The root is Abe’s insistence on the national policies that are against the trend of the world. Currently there is few sign that Abe will fundamentally adjust those national policies. In this case, it is hard to imagine that Abe cabinet will get out of the mess because of the changes of several cabinet members.” Consequently, he predicted that “in the foreseeable future, Japan will operate under a government with low supporting rates and political infighting will hence intensify.”

Chinese observers used more space to speculate the effects of this reshuffle on the Sino-Japan relations.

The appointment of Kono Taro, the son of the famous China-friendly politician Kono Yohei, as the foreign minister, the increasing influence of dovish Kishida faction within the Cabinet and the LDP leadership, and the retention of other China hands (namely, Vice-President of the LDP Komura Masahiko and LDP Secretary General Nikai Toshihiro) all caught Chinese analysts’ eyes. Some observers gave Abe credit for those arrangements and therefore expressed some optimism about the prospect of improving Sino-Japanese ties.

Gao Hong, for example, commented that “Overall, this Cabinet reshuffle and LDP’s personnel changes do not overtly provoke China. Nikai Toshihiro stays as the General Secretary and Kono Taro is appointed as the New Foreign Minister. Both leave some space for the stabilization and improvement of bilateral relations.”

Lu Zhongwei, the former president of China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), also commented on the combination of a hawkish Itsunori Onodera and a dovish Kono “might suggest that Japan’s China diplomacy will make slight adjustments.”

Zhang Jingwei, Senior Researcher at the Charhar Institute, believed that “the appointment of a China hand Kono Taro as the Foreign Minister will have some positive effects on cracking the history disputes among China, Japan, and South Korea.”

Lian Degui was even more optimistic, claiming that the strong presence of doves in the leadership will push the new Cabinet’s Asia policy “moving toward moderation” and “is bound to be of some help for improving Sino-Japan ties.”

However, Chinese analysts also cautioned against expectations of an overhaul in Abe’s China policy and a comprehensive Sino-Japan détente for three reasons.

First, the doves’ influence in the Cabinet will be constrained as Abe is the ultimate decision-maker. Li Ruoyu, for example, wrote that “whether Abe’s appointment of Kono Taro as the Foreign Minister signals an all-around transition in Japan’s foreign policy? Not necessarily. Even if we assume Kono Taro completely follows his father’s foreign policy, it is certain that an independent foreign policy under the Foreign Minister is impossible… Kono could only take limited initiatives under the premise of implementing Abe’s foreign policy approach.”

Lu Yaodong of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences viewed Abe’s appointment of Kono more as a move to stabilize LDP factions and earn their support, and to make preparations for submitting the Diet a draft new Constitution.

A Global Times editorial mocked: “Abe is a born hawk; even if he stuck several doves’ feathers in his wings, his eyes, his mouth and his voice couldn’t hide his hawkish gene.”

Second, Abe shows no sign of fundamentally shifting his Asia policy. Arguing that “the nation’s rightward trend has not changed,” Lu Zhongwei thought that “Abe see that as the historical mission of the LDP and the political standard for picking officials to make sure the new Cabinet continue to push Japan moving forward along this path.” Meanwhile, he also believed that “[Abe’s] thinking of leaning on the U.S. and confronting China has not changed.” In a word, “this move seems new, yet old in essence, entailing not many adjustments to the ever-existing political mindset and governance style over the past five years,” he wrote.

Finally, the structural contradictions have decided the limits of Sino-Japan détente. Zhang Jingwei predicted that “even if Abe steps down, no matter who succeeds, Sino-Japan relations still face structural conundrums. The geopolitical situation in the Northeastern Asia shifts as the power pendulum sways. Deep down, the historical impasse and contemporary contradictions are not caused by Abe himself, but rather a reality of many interweaving factors.” Similarly, a CRI online article warned that “the structural contradictions will not disappear with Cabinet reshuffle or administration change.”

An Opportunity for Sino-Japan Ties?
The examination of Chinese views toward Abe’s latest Cabinet reshuffle indicates that in contrast to their harsh rhetoric in the past, Chinese sources are relatively restrained in their criticism against Abe. Judging from their commentaries, this is because of a strong dovish presence in the Cabinet and LDP leadership that could potentially check Abe’s rightward impulses. And many Chinese analysts interpret such presence itself as Abe’s signal to show his willingness to improve Sino-Japan ties.

Unfortunately, their analyses also reveal their ingrained mistrust of Abe. They seriously doubt he would make any fundamental shift in his China policy. Meanwhile, when compared to 2006, when Koizumi’s step-down ignited optimist feelings that Sino-Japan ties would quickly rebound, many Chinese observers now seem to believe that the structural contradictions are so deep that even if Abe cabinet could not last, a comprehensive Sino-Japan détente would still be unrealistic. On these grounds, they contend that the warming of ties would be tactical and limited.

Nonetheless, as long as steps toward détente are steady, a little bit sluggishness does not matter. One critical reason for the chilliness in these years’ Sino-Japan exchanges is that there are fractures in the foundation of the relationship. If those fractures could be carefully healed, a Sino-Japan springtime will come, sooner or later.

Koike tests possibilities and perils of populism in Japan

Populism is revanchism by another name in Japan

BY Jeff Kingston, director of Asian Studies, Temple University Japan and APP Member


The horrendous images beamed around the world from Charlottesville, Virginia, serve as a poignant reminder that white-supremacist populism is a toxic force in the United States. President Donald Trump’s repugnant response, coming out on the wrong side of history on both Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, inflamed passions and reminded everyone that he is unfit to be president.

The Brexit vote, Trump’s election and French President Emmanuel Macron’s thumping victory are symptomatic of the age of anger we live in. Populism is about claiming to represent the “real people” and targeting the establishment, corruption and immorality. Populists feed on social discontent and promise to clean up a bankrupt system that is rigged for the favored few while the interests of the “real people” are neglected. They invoke culture wars and promise to revive and protect traditional values and community ties that have been sundered by a self-seeking elite. They promise a better life and trade in disappointment and nationalist grandstanding.

Populists have astutely exploited unease about job security and rising inequality, stoking resentment against the broken promises of globalization made by the political and business establishment.

So why no populist revolt after Japan’s economic bubble collapsed in 1990 or the 2008 “Lehman shock”? Perhaps this is because Japanese politics is influenced by a culture that esteems self-effacement, proper conduct and harmony. This is to say that a bumptious and meretricious candidate like Donald Trump is unthinkable.

Populism feeds on significant disparities in wealth, power and cultural values between the governing elite and “the people” and harps on a shared feeling of exclusion — slim pickings here as income disparities are relatively modest and social cohesion is strong.

Anti-immigrant activism is also quite limited because there are not many in Japan. Non-Japanese legally resident in the country total about 2.23 million, with an additional 200,000 foreign trainees and 240,000 foreign students. Japan’s welcome mat for asylum seekers is minuscule, with the government accepting just 28 refugees from a total of 10,901 applicants in 2016, so there is not much to grandstand against.

Zaitokukai, a right-wing fringe organization, has been at the forefront of xenophobic agitation, targeting Japan’s Zainichi community of ethnic Koreans who came to Japan in the prewar era, mostly under duress, and remained after Japan’s 1945 defeat. But its hatemongering confronted much larger counter-demonstrations, and in the 2016 Tokyo elections the group’s founder ran and won 110,000 votes. That’s puny compared to the nearly 3 million votes that clinched Yuriko Koike the governorship, but that’s still a lot of xenophobes.

Populism in Japan is not feeding on resentments stirred by glaring economic disparities, a large immigrant population or significant cultural divisions. Instead, Koike is riding an anti-establishment populist wave like her mentor, Junichiro Koizumi. He became president of the Liberal Democratic Party in 2001 by promising voters that he would destroy the party. He didn’t sugarcoat his agenda, instead embracing the slogan “No pain, no gain,” offering hope of better times down the road, but only if the public would bite the bullet now; voters loved it. He was a populist neoliberal raging against the conservative establishment who convinced people he was on their side against the vested interests, even as his popularity helped the party that represents those interests.

Telegenic and charismatic, Koizumi was the first Japanese prime minster who understood the power of media in the theater of politics. He barked out pithy sound bites, controlling the message by giving the media what they needed on his terms.

Current PM Shinzo Abe is no populist, but he has learned about the threat of populism. Koike emulates Koizumi in the theater of politics, winning public acclaim by promoting transparency and accountability regarding the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the relocation of the iconic Tsukij fish market. The public lapped up the spectacle provided by hearings that skewered the LDP old guard for sweetheart deals and greenlighting the market’s relocation to a toxic site. It was classic David vs. Goliath — we the people against the powers that be — earning Koike kudos for having the guts to challenge the powerful dinosaurs that call the shots in Japan.

Koike embraces right-wing political positions very similar to Abe’s, so her new party, Nippon First no Kai (Japan First), will struggle to stake out policy positions that make it an appealing alternative to the LDP. Her formula for success has been outing cronyism, promoting transparency and making the establishment look fusty and clueless, admittedly not a big challenge when you can serve up ex-Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara and Yoshiro Mori, head of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, as exhibits A and B. In championing transparency and accountability, she has made a name for herself on issues that Abe is vulnerable on given recent scandals, missing documents and his having let Tomomi Inada off the hook for what appears to be a scandalous role in an alleged coverup at the Defense Ministry on her watch.

Koike faces stiff challenges, however, in translating her appeal in Tokyo into a nationwide populist movement. Just ask former Osaka Gov. Toru Hashimoto, who tried and failed.

Problematically, Abe occupies Koike’s ideological comfort zone, so she needs to cannibalize his base to get any traction. It is thus imperative that she presents an alternative policy agenda to highlight their differences and tap into simmering dissatisfaction with the status quo. Pushing for a comprehensive indoor smoking ban in Tokyo and promoting work-life balance to cut down on excessive hours will help, but she needs much more. She could gain considerable support by declaring opposition to nuclear reactor restarts and pledging to phase out nuclear energy.

Success brings heightened scrutiny. Back in 2012, Kazusa Noda, who Koike named as head of Tokyo First in 2016, suggested the current Constitution should be invalidated and that Japan should return to the pre-World War II version. But isn’t that Abe territory?

As Koike’s record comes under closer scrutiny, the media may pop her populist bubble. Indeed, the Asahi and Mainichi are now challenging her pro-transparency image, with the Asahi giving her a grade of ‘F’ for her first year in office due to her “black box” approach to policymaking. They assert that there was no transparency in her signature policy reforms and she is acting just like her predecessors.

Populists thrive on the limelight, but it could prove Koike’s undoing, as France’s Macron now knows all too well. Bet she now wishes she had not made a point of saying how similar they are.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Washington’s shifting nuclear policy in the Asia-Pacific region

Puts Japan in a difficult position and enhances its policy contradictions

By David McNeill,
Tokyo-based journalist and writer, APP member


A global ban on nuclear weapons was approved earlier this month at the U.N. headquarters in New York. A total of 122 countries signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. None of the signatories, however, possesses a nuclear bomb.

The world’s nuclear club — the United States, Britain, Russia, China, France, India, Israel, Pakistan and, most recently, North Korea — boycotted the talks, arguably dooming them to failure. Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said in March that Washington couldn’t allow “bad actors” to have nuclear weapons and “those of us that are good, trying to keep peace and safety, not to have them.”

A joint statement by the United States, Britain and France on July 7 said the ban “disregards the realities of the international security environment.” As a result, all countries that rely on the nuclear deterrent either stayed away (including South Korea), voted against the ban (the Netherlands) or abstained (Singapore).

Japan’s absence from the talks was striking. The U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, which are estimated to have killed or wounded more than 200,000 people, mostly civilians, remain the only use of nuclear weapons in warfare, giving Japan considerable moral heft in any discussion on abolition.

Tokyo’s disarmament ambassador, Nobushige Takamizawa, lamented in March at the beginning of negotiations that while his country would “continue to pursue realistic and effective” disarmament measures, “regrettably” it was unable to join the talks.

Toshiki Fujimori, assistant secretary-general of Nihon Hidankyo, greets Elayne Whyte Gomez, president of the U.N. conference on prohibiting nuclear weapons, after participants voted to adopt a ban on nuclear arms on July 7.

Toshiki Fujimori, assistant secretary-general of Nihon Hidankyo, greets Elayne Whyte Gomez, president of the U.N. conference on prohibiting nuclear weapons, after participants voted to adopt a ban on nuclear arms on July 7. | KYODO

The decision appalled Japan’s hibakusha, the dwindling survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings. Toshiki Fujimori, assistant secretary-general of Nihon Hidankyo, an organization for atomic bomb victims, said it left him “heartbroken.” Fujimori was little more than a year old when the bomb exploded over Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945.

Terumi Tanaka, former director of Hidankyo, says he believes diplomatic pressure was brought to bear on Japanese officials.

“Up until the day before the negotiation convened, the minister of foreign affairs showed an intent to attend the negotiations but, in the end, he didn’t,” Tanaka said. “I think there was influence from the Prime Minister’s Office not to go.”

Japan has for decades acknowledged the anti-nuclear cause while sheltering under the U.S. defense umbrella. The nation’s so-called three non-nuclear principles, outlined by Prime Minister Eisaku Sato and formally adopted in 1971, state that Japan shall neither possess nor produce nuclear weapons, nor shall it permit their introduction into Japanese territory.

“Japan is the only country in the world to have suffered the ravages of atomic bombing,” said Sato, accepting the 1974 Nobel Peace Prize for his contribution to the efforts toward nonproliferation of nuclear weapons. “That experience left an indelible mark on the hearts of our people, making them passionately determined to renounce all wars.”

However, those noble sentiments were not safe from the Cold War calculations needed to maintain the facade of pacifism in a heavily nuclearized neighborhood, when the Soviet Union and then China acquired their own deterrents against what they saw as potential U.S. aggression.

Japan’s no-nuke rule was undermined by a backroom deal struck between Washington and Tokyo, signed by Sato and President Richard Nixon in 1969. The deal allowed the possibility that nuclear-armed U.S. ships and aircraft traffic anywhere through or over Japanese territory for decades.

Politicians on both sides of the Pacific repeatedly denied the deal. In February 2016, Washington finally admitted what had almost become an open secret — that nuclear weapons were stored in Okinawa in Japan’s far south before its reversion to Japanese rule in May 1972. The secret agreement allowed for their re-introduction without prior Japanese consent in times of crisis.

Japan’s abstention from this year’s U.N. conference, therefore, did not come out of the blue. In 1998, it declined to sign a U.N. resolution against no first use of a nuclear weapon. Washington has historically maintained the right to a preemptive strike. Attempts to end the policy are typically condemned as liberal naivete.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appears to agree. Last year, shortly after standing beside U.S. President Barack Obama on his historic visit to Hiroshima, Abe reportedly expressed “concern” that the United States was weighing whether or not to end its policy of no first use. Abe warned Adm. Harry Harris Jr., head of the U.S. Pacific Command, that deterrence against North Korea would suffer as a result, according to a report in The Washington Post, a report that has not been denied.

Japanese officials rarely discuss such nuclear issues publicly — hardly surprising given their unpopularity: Just 5 percent of Japanese people said they wanted their country to possess nuclear weapons in a poll conducted by think tank Genron in 2016. In South Korea, by contrast, the figure is consistently over 50 percent.

A senior Japanese defense official, speaking off the record owing to the sensitivity of the issue, said whatever his personal feelings, the “reality” is that as part of Japan’s alliance with the United States, the nuclear deterrent is necessary.

“We share the view that we should have a peaceful and stable world without nuclear weapons, but can we one-sidedly do away with them?” the official asked. “If someone has nuclear weapons, they must believe in them.”

The contradictions of Japan’s position, however — acknowledging domestic sentiment on nuclear weapons while supporting the United States’ right to deploy and use them — are likely to become more glaring as tensions in East Asia grow.

As the Cold War eased following the fall of Soviet communism, U.S. President George Bush almost halved America’s nuclear stockpile, withdrawing tactical nukes from ships and submarines across Asia in 1991. His son, George W. Bush, cut the global stockpile again.

China’s growing economic and military clout and, since 2006, the entry of North Korea into the group of nuclear powers have helped convince Pentagon planners that such moves may have been premature. The shifting U.S. defense policy puts Japan in a difficult position as it tries to deal with three nuclear-armed states on its doorstep.

Bush’s “liberal” successor, Barack Obama, authorized “the largest expansion of funding on nuclear weapons since the fall of the Soviet Union,” said the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, a Washington think tank, in September 2014. The $1 trillion splurge puts the world on track for a 21st-century arms race, it warned.

Washington will not rule out a first-strike option against China, says Gregory Kulacki, a China specialist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a think tank.

“(China) has been asking that for 10 years, and we won’t give it to them,” Kulacki says.

Since building its first nuclear bomb in 1964, Beijing has repeatedly reaffirmed a no first-use policy.

The Pentagon’s Strategic Command, meanwhile, which was charged with obliterating the Soviet Union during the Cold War, is working on a new evaluation to determine “whether the Russian and Chinese leadership could survive a nuclear strike and keep operating,” the Bloomberg news agency reported.

Critics say the “modernization” of U.S. nuclear forces is code for a technological leap, increasing America’s capacity to fight and win a nuclear war.

“This increase in capability is astonishing — boosting the overall killing power of existing U.S. ballistic missile forces by a factor of roughly three,” says a paper in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in March. That, in turn, encourages America’s enemies to keep their own fingers on the trigger, the paper’s authors say.

These developments make Japan’s long-standing duality increasingly untenable, Kulacki says.

Historically, he says, there have been two sets of Japanese voices on U.S. nuclear weapons policy. The first, reflecting the majority of the Japanese public, “is strongly opposed to the use of U.S. nuclear weapons in the defense of Japan.”

The second, Kulacki says, “is a small and secretive group of bureaucrats in Japan’s defense and foreign policy institutions who may have different views.” Alarmed by China’s territorial claims to much of East Asia, as well as North Korea’s five nuclear tests, these bureaucrats are working harder to reverse the Bush legacy, he says.

“They have made a sustained effort to have U.S. tactical nuclear weapons redeployed in Asia,” Kulacki says. In addition, he says, the once-taboo notion of “tailored nuclear options” has growing support on both sides of the Pacific.

For tailored, read “usable.”

“(Bureaucrats) believe that a credible threat to use nuclear weapons first or preemptively is necessary for maintaining the credibility of the U.S. nuclear deterrent in Asia,” Kulacki says.

Defense officials in Japan will neither confirm nor deny these claims. Noboru Yamaguchi, a retired lieutenant general with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Forces, who supports the modernization of America’s nuclear arsenal, says tactical nukes in East Asia “don’t make any sense.”

“Tactical nuclear weapons used to be a good tool to compensate for inferiority in conventional arms,” Yamaguchi says. “Not any longer — we are conventionally superior. In this region, the U.S. Navy and Japanese Navy have always been superior to any other navy, including the Chinese or the Soviets, so there is no need to rely on such weapons.”

Ramesh Thakur, director of the Centre for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament at the Australian National University and author of “Nuclear Weapons and International Security,” calls such a strategy a seductive illusion.

“The limited utility of nuclear weapons rests on the certainty of nuclear retaliation, not in any belief in its first use,” Thakur says. “First-use posture is a Cold War deterrence legacy whose logic breaks down once nuclear weapons are used and the empirical reality is transformed from peacetime deterrence … to fighting an actual war.”

Thakur is “skeptical” of the strength and influence of pro-nuclear officials in the Japanese national security bureaucracy. Nevertheless, the distance between them and mainstream thinking in the government appears to have narrowed under Abe, Thakur says.

Some analysts note, for example, that Shotaro Yachi, a key Abe aide, was a disciple of Kei Wakaizumi, the diplomat who negotiated the secret deal with Nixon in 1969. Wakaizumi is believed to have been a “realist” who wanted to end Japan’s “insular pacifism” and over-reliance on U.S. military protection, says Giulio Pugliese, a lecturer in war studies in King’s College London.

That said, Japan is very unlikely to go so far as to start building its own nuclear arsenal for protection, despite Donald Trump telling The New York Times while running for U.S. president last year that it might not be such a “bad thing” if Japan (and South Korea) developed nuclear weapons.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden had also played a similar card last year. “What happens if Japan, who could go nuclear tomorrow? They have the capacity to do it virtually overnight,” Biden told Chinese President Xi Jinping in June 2016.

While few doubt that Japan has the required capital, technology and raw materials, there is more to joining the nuclear club than that, says Alessio Patalano, a reader in East Asian warfare and security at the Department of War Studies at King’s College London.

“You need civil-military relations set up, command and control, a national security council,” Patalano says. “And you need political confidence to understand the complexity of how to use nuclear weapons.”

Another obstacle is popular opposition — merely floating the idea of a nuclear weapon would most likely be tantamount to political suicide — and the certainty that it would trigger a regional arms race.

Whatever the thinking, tactical nuclear weapons in East Asia would be a disaster, says Thakur, ratcheting up tensions with China and North Korea and potentially spooking Kim Jong-un into launching a preemptive strike on Seoul if he fears imminent U.S. attack.

“Remember, Pyongyang has been living with hair-trigger sensitivity and preparing for a U.S. attack for decades,” Thakur says. “A nuclear umbrella may offer protection of the great and powerful ally, but any actual use ceases to be protective and instead morphs into the most catastrophically self-destructive security guarantee imaginable.”

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Monday in Washington, July 30, 2017

Washington tries to go on vacation this week. The US Senate remains in session for the week. The House is on recess. President Trump is not known for taking extended time outs.

NATO AT A CROSSROADS: NEXT STEPS FOR THE TRANS-ATLANTIC ALLIANCE. 7/31, 10:00-11:30am. Sponsor: Brookings. Speakers: Michael E. O’Hanlon, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, Brookings, Director of Research, Foreign Policy, Brookings; Steven Pifer, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Center for 21st Century and Intelligence, Center on the United States and Europe, Brookings, Director, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative, Brookings. Moderator: Torrey Taussig, Pre-Doctoral Research Fellow, Foreign Policy Program, Brookings.