A Strange Thing to Say in Someone Else's Country

Isn't this a strange thing to say in the Japanese prefecture most dedicated to peace, in a country for which dialogue and win-win negotiations have traditionally triumphed over military bluster?

Japan learned a bitter, bitter lesson about military bluster some 60 years ago, while the American side hasn't seemed to learn a thing from Viet Nam, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc, etc. Instead of macho pep talks, maybe it is time for the US side to use the eyes and ears (of which there are two each) instead of the lone and ever-ready mouth.

It seems the US military is very much out of step with what most people in this part of the world are aiming for. When people really want peace, then peace is what they prepare for. Peaceful trade and tourism that includes China and Korea is what Okinawa lives by.

(for the full article, go to The Japan Times online)

Here's what the news says:

U.S. not backing down, Dempsey tells troops at Yokota


Apr 26, 2013

America’s top military officer told U.S. troops based in Japan on Thursday that “the best way to avoid war is to prepare for it.”

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, made the comments at Yokota Air Base amid heightened tensions in the region after repeated threats from North Korea.

In response, the U.S. has deployed an antiballistic missile battery to Guam, while the Japanese government has deployed Aegis-equipped cruisers and land-based missile interceptors around Tokyo.

While there has been a lull in rising hostility between the two Koreas in the past few days, prospects for dialogue dimmed after North Korea demanded the lifting of U.N. sanctions and the end of U.S.-South Korea military drills as conditions for resuming long-suspended talks aimed at defusing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

But Dempsey said the U.S. would continue military exercises with its allies.

“We’ll continue to do whatever exercises we need to do to make sure we have the right command and control, the right skills, the right collaboration, interoperability with our allies in the region in the event that there is a miscalculation,” he told the military personnel during the visit, his first to Japan since assuming his post in 2011.


We like it. Why change it?

Reader Mail

This is from the Japan Times online. Serious business.


LDP out to undermine Constitution

Apr 18, 2013

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party are stepping up a call for changing Article 96 of the Constitution, a clause designed to prevent an imprudent revision of the Constitution.

Their call shows that either they do not understand or they are deliberately ignoring the fundamental principle of modern constitutional politics, which is that a constitution is an important mechanism to prevent the power of the government from subjecting people to arbitrary policies or autocratic rule.

Article 96 says that amendments to the Constitution must be initiated by the Diet, through a concurring vote of two-thirds or more of all the members of each House, and then must be submitted to the people for ratification, which requires the affirmative vote of a majority of all votes cast at a special referendum. Mr. Abe and the LDP want to change the article so that amendments to the Constitution can be initiated with a concurring vote of a simple majority in each House.

Article 96 at present makes it difficult to change the Constitution. Its purpose is to prevent politicians and political parties from eliminating the Constitution’s most fundamental clause, which states that sovereignty rests with the people, and from weakening crucial constitutional rights — freedom of thought, speech and expression, the right to choose public officials, freedom of assembly and association, freedom from arbitrary arrests, etc.

The Japan Restoration Party supports the stance of Mr. Abe and the LDP on Article 96, and both parties are striving to win the coming Upper House election so that proconstitutional revision forces can win two-thirds or more of the Upper House seats to enable the Diet to initiate a revision of Article 96.

The current situation in which politicians and political parties are casually talking about changing Article 96 is highly dangerous. Citizens should be wary of the rhetoric and moves of these politicians and parties.

The argument that the Japanese Constitution is too difficult to revise is wrong. Constitutions of many developed countries including the United States include a mechanism that prevents haphazard constitutional revisions.

The LDP’s call for weakening Article 96 without officially making proposals in the Diet to change particular constitutional articles is just an act of public deception. The party’s draft constitution, which proposes changing the war-renouncing Article 9, enables Japan to deploy the “Defense Military” overseas for military actions almost without any restrictions. The draft also restricts freedom of assembly and association and freedom of speech and expression by prohibiting activities and organizations “that harm public interests and public order.” It even intrudes into the sphere of citizens’ private lives by saying that “family members must help each other.”

It cannot be emphasized too much that the LDP is trying to impose a constitution that runs counter to the principle of modern constitutional politics as well as postwar Japan’s no-war principle.


Always Read the Fine Print

Isn't the act of inserting conditions like "replacements within the prefecture" against the spirit of returning what was supposedly only borrowed? Isn't it a kind of de-facto acknowledgement that neither government has any intention of replying sincerely to the Okinawan people?

Here is the story of the "return" of Okinawan territory loaned to the US as reported by The Japan Times online:

Okinawa U.S. land return plan inked

Reversion of five sites south of Kadena to require replacements

by Mizuho Aoki and Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writers

Apr 5, 2013

Tokyo and Washington agreed Friday on a road map for the reversion of five U.S. military sites in Okinawa, pledging to accelerate the handover of Camp Zukeran, the Makiminato Service Area, Camp Kuwae, the army port in Naha and Kuwae Tank Farm No. 1.

The two sides also assented to transfer the operations, in fiscal 2022 or later, of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the heavily populated city of Ginowan to an airstrip to be built in the Henoko coastal area in the city of Nago, farther north on Okinawa Island, once the replacement site is operational.

By showing Okinawans concrete schedules and plans for the return and redevelopment of the five sites, all situated south of U.S. Kadena Air Base, the central government apparently hopes to resurrect the plan to replace the Futenma base within the prefecture, a move already stymied for 17 years by local opposition.

“We were able to reach an agreement on plans to return (facilities and land now used by the U.S. military) south of the Kadena Air Base. It was (an) extremely meaningful (agreement) to lessen the burden on Okinawa,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters, adding the accord demonstrates to the world that the mutual trust between Japan and the U.S. is on solid ground amid an “increasingly severe national security environment.”

According to the plan, however, four of the five complexes will be returned only after alternative sites are secured within existing U.S. military facilities in Okinawa or a large number of the U.S. Marines in the prefecture are redeployed overseas.


Something to look forward to ...

John F. Kennedy’s legacy may finally come to Japan

by Robert D. Eldridge

Special To The Japan Times

Apr 5, 2013

CHATAN, OKINAWA PREF. – If Caroline Kennedy, whose name apparently is being floated to succeed John Roos as the next U.S. ambassador to Japan, is nominated and confirmed, she will be completing, in a sense, a journey that was started almost 50 years ago by her father, President John F. Kennedy, and his staff.

JFK, the popular and young president, was tragically assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, in his third year in office during a visit to Dallas, Texas. As a result, he was not able to fulfill some of his plans and goals for the remainder of his first administration, and those of his second, had he been re-elected.

One of the first things on his agenda in 1964, despite its being an election year, was to visit Japan. In fact, on the day of that national tragedy, several members of the Cabinet were already flying over the Pacific on their way to Japan.

Secretary of State D. Dean Rusk and members of the White House staff were to begin coordinating the president’s visit when they reached Japan, but they, too, never made it there. They turned around in midair to attend the funeral and join their compatriots in mourning.

The idea of Kennedy visiting Japan seems to have been in the works for a while. The reasons for doing so were many, particularly after President Dwight D. Eisenhower had to abort his plans to visit Japan because of the Japanese government’s inability to guarantee his safety in the middle of the riots surrounding the ratification of the revised bilateral security treaty.

If JFK had been able to able to visit Japan, he would have been the first sitting U.S. president to do so. Importantly he was also a very popular president in Japan, symbolizing a youthful and vibrant United States full of promise.

Japan at the time was also very much vibrant, too, and optimistic. In the fall of 1964, it was to host the Olympics, symbolizing its return to the international community after World War II. The bullet train and expressways were coming on line, and the nation, now past the divisive security treaty revisions riots of 1960, was now united behind the moderate Hayato Ikeda administration focusing on economic growth.

For Kennedy, who had visited Japan in the fall of 1951 with his brother, Robert, Japan would have looked dramatically different in 1964.

After JFK’s seven-week trip to the “Middle and Far East,” he wrote, “The East of today is not the East of Palmerston and Disraeli and Cromer. Were it so, we might accept Kipling’s dictum that East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet. But this we dare not do. We want, we may need, allies in ideas, in resources, even in arms, but if we would have allies, we must first of all gather to ourselves friends.”

Of course, historical “ifs” are not really permitted, but I have always wondered how U.S.-Japan relations might have developed in the 1960s had JFK been able to visit Japan. His brother’s visit as attorney general in February 1962 brought a huge amount of good will and publicity, particularly for his willingness to engage in frank discussions with radical students during a visit to Waseda University. Certainly, the level of good will at the national level and deepening of the personal relationships between the president and prime minister would have been furthered.

Because JFK was not able to visit, nor did his two successors, the two countries had to wait another decade before a sitting president, Gerald R. Ford, came to Japan. During that time, relations became frayed between the two countries over the handling of the Vietnam War, basing issues, Okinawa’s reversion, trade friction and recognition of China, to name a few.

JFK is probably looking down proudly at what his 55-year-old daughter, who is the sole survivor of JFK’s immediate family, has accomplished over the years, particularly in the arts, literary world and education, in addition to foundations and nonprofits. His legacy may guide her in her new assignment in Japan, but her experiences and connections will have to power her through these difficult and less-than-optimistic times.

Robert D. Eldridge, Ph.D., a former tenured associate professor of U.S.-Japan relations at Osaka University, was a recipient of the JFK Presidential Library Research Travel Grant in 2000. He is currently working on a book about the reversion of Okinawa.