Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays

From Our Family to Yours
For more information about this print and the artist see HERE

Monday, December 21, 2009

Poll shows perception gap between U.S. and Japan

Each November, the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s largest daily newspaper, and the U.S. pollster Gallup carry out a joint opinion survey in Japan and the United States of views toward each other’s country and pending bilateral issues.

The 2009 poll (appended below), released December 11, shows a return to rising mutual good feelings toward each other in both countries, after a recent period of sharp decline. Trust between the two allies is also rising.

But there remains a noticeable perception gap between Japanese and Americans not only in the level of optimism, or pessimism, about the current and future states of the relationship, but also on the handling of such alliance issues as U.S. base realignment and contributions to the war on terror.

U.S.-Japan relations again on the rise

The centerpiece of the annual Yomiuri-Gallup poll has been the assessment of mutual perceptions of Japanese and Americans toward each other’s country. In the 2009 survey, 48% of Japanese said U.S.-Japan relations were in good shape, an impressive 14 point jump from last year’s low of 34%. Only 26% of Japanese said the bilateral relationship was in bad shape.

In contrast, 51% of Americans said that relations were good, and a mere 8% thought they were not. However, on the question of whether relations were good or not, a significant 34% of Americans answered that they could not say, perhaps a sign of confusion about the advent of the new Democratic Party of Japan administration, after over 50 years of Liberal Democratic Party rule, and critical reporting in the U.S. media about its policy intention to revamp ties.

Over the long run, Japanese views toward the U.S. seem to have returned to a trend seen between 2000 and 2006, when the positive evaluation of the relationship rose from the 40 to the 50 percent level, reflecting in large part the era of good feelings under Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. The figure was 53% in 2006. In 2007, it plummeted to 39%, believed to have been influenced by the Iraq war, base and force realignment issues in Japan, and the seemingly insolvable North Korea problem.

First visit of Turkmenistan head of state to Japan

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov visited Japan from December 16th to 18th. It was the first time for a head of state of Turkmenistan to come to Japan. During his stay, he met with both Emperor Akihito and Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and was honored as a state guest.

Berdimuhamedov’s meeting with Hatoyama was held at the Kantei on the evening of the 16th. They met for about 45 minutes and discussed a range of subjects. Business relations were high on the agenda. In particular, the Turkmen leader was thankful for Japan’s anticipated support in upgrading the facilities at Turkmenbashi port. Japanese companies are preparing proposals for the reconstruction of the international seaport with a view to turning it into an “ultra-modern” facility.

The Japanese government and private companies have also been invited to join large-scale projects such as the construction of the Turkmen section of the new transcontinental North-South railway, the creation of a national tourist zone at Avaza on the Caspian Sea coast, and possibly the opening of a Japanese Information Center for High Technologies in Turkmenistan. Berdimuhamedov commented, “Turkmenistan welcomes the participation of Japanese partners in the development of national economy and intends to increase this effective collaboration.

New foreign policy journal

The National Defense University has launched a new, quarterly foreign policy/defense journal. Called the PRISM. It is:
tailored to serve policy-makers, scholars and practitioners working to enhance U.S. Government competency in complex operations by exploring whole-of-community approaches among U.S. Government agencies, academic institutions, international governments and militaries, non-governmental organizations and other participants in the complex operations space. PRISM is chartered by the Center for Complex Operations (CCO) and it welcomes articles on a broad range of complex operations issues, especially those that focus on the nexus of civil-military integration.
Hans Binnendijk and Patrick M. Cronin in the Journal's introductory article, Through the Complex Operations Prism explains the mission:
It has been over 12 years since the Bill Clinton administration released Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) 56, “Managing Complex Contingency Operations.” PDD 56 was issued in May 1997 to direct the institutionalization within the executive branch of lessons learned from such complex operations as Panama, Somalia, Haiti, and Bosnia. Our recent frustrations in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention the deaths of over 5,000 American soldiers and civilians, and multiple trillions of dollars in war-related costs have caused us once again to scrutinize the failures of our approach to complex operations and to reapply ourselves to a better understanding of those operations and the environments they are meant to address.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


All government offices in Washington, DC, that means the Federal Government, will be closed Monday, December 21st. Yes, we really do have that much snow.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Okinawa Air Base in Focus

Mike Mochizuki, Asia Policy Point board member and soon to be a dean at George Washington University and Brookings scholar Michael O'Hanlon get to the heart of the Futenma dispute in an op ed in Friday's (December 18th) Washington Times. What is Japan's commitment to its own security?

They write that there are military alternatives to Futenma and that:
Mr. Hatoyama is right not to feel streamrolled by the arguments of defense professionals and establishment figures that Futenma or its successor is militarily crucial to the future of the alliance. But his concerns about the burden that Okinawans have borne for hosting U.S. military forces and bases need to be placed in a larger perspective. Although many Western nations led by the United States are asking their soldiers to risk their lives on global military security operations, including the war in Afghanistan from which the Sept. 11, 2001, attackers against America originated, Japan is not doing so. 
Mr. Hatoyama is right to insist on a more equal partnership with the United States and a greater voice in the alliance, but this requires that Japan contribute much more to global security. 
So it comes down to this: Mr. Hatoyama, as the leader of a sovereign state, has every right to rethink his country's previous commitments, just as he already has in replacing Japan's Indian Ocean resupply operations for U.S. Navy ships there with a larger aid package for Afghanistan. But that latter policy suggests the way forward here, too: If Mr. Hatoyama is to walk away from a deal others in Japan and the United States have worked hard to create, he must do something real, and big and historic in timely fashion instead. 
Beyond funding any American military redeployment, Japan might send substantial numbers of peacekeeping troops to Sudan and Congo. These troops are allowed to use force to protect not only themselves but civilians. Some Japanese would argue such deployments would require constitutional changes, others would not. This would be an issue for Japanese to resolve in the coming months as they see fit. 
Moving toward a true alliance in this way could do much not only to ease the pain over an Okinawa base disagreement, but to transcend it and reinvigorate what former Ambassador Mike Mansfield called the world's most important bilateral relationship two decades ago. 
If Mansfield's words are to remain true today, we need to lift our sights above bickering over bases and put strategy and the world's real problems back at the center of our alliance. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Polling Data: Why the DPJ Won

The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s largest daily, published recently a detailed study*--carried out jointly with three Waseda University political scientists--that analyzes extensive polling data on past Japanese elections. The book focuses on the Democratic Party of Japan’s (DPJ) August 30, 2009 landslide victory in the House of Representatives where the party won an unprecedented 308 seats.

Each of the seven chapters tackles the polling data from a different angle trying to explain why the DPJ was suddenly catapulted into power and ending the near 50-year rule of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP, with the exception of one year). In August, the LDP was able only to garner 119 seats, far below the 296 seats it had won four years before. The analysis suggests that LDP decline began long ago and that the enormous shift of voter behavior to favor the DPJ followed a predictable pattern.

The structure of decline of the LDP is meticulously examined in the first chapter by Professor Aiji Tanaka of Waseda’s Institute of Political and Economic Studies. The historic defeat of the LDP in 2009 was in stark contrast to the Party’s decisive victory in the 2005 lower-house election. Tanaka asks the key question: "What happened in only four years to bring about such a radical change in voter behavior?".

Monday, December 14, 2009

First meeting of the Japan-Arab Economic Forum

The first meeting of the Japan-Arab Economic Forum was held in Tokyo from the evening of December 6th to the 8th. The event was attended by Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, METI Minister Masayuki Naoshima, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, and scores of diplomats and businessmen.

The main objective of the Forum is “to strengthen mutual economic relations between Japan and Arab countries through cooperation in a wide range of fields such as trade, investment, energy, technology, and human resources development.” Media reports highlighted possible Japanese investment in the water development industry. METI Minister Naoshima told reporters, “Arab nations face a chronic problem of water shortages. We will hold intergovernmental dialogues to accelerate and smooth efforts to solve the problem.” The METI minister also pledged further cooperation in the fields of solar-electricity panels and water-desalination systems.

For his part, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa added, “We are looking to develop this Japan-Arab Economic Forum to include all aspects of international cooperation at a time when we are facing the new challenges imposed by globalization and the global financial crisis as well as climate change.”

According to Kyodo News, Japan is the Arab countries’ third-biggest trading partner after the European Union and the United States. The trade volume between the two sides expanded to US$184 billion in 2008 from US$48 billion in 2003, while Japanese investment in Arab states stood at about US$3.1 billion in compared with around US$1 billion in 2004. A Japanese official stated, “The Arab countries have shifted their focus to how to attract investment from advanced and major developing economies like Japan and China after being damaged by the global economic crisis.”

One participant in the Forum told the Shingetsu Institute that Arab states may be beginning to “look east” in their economic policies because economic relations between Arab states and the United States have more or less reached their limit. The rise of China is concentrating Arab minds in the direction of East Asia, and this has certain benefits for Japan as well, should it decide to seize the opportunity.

Michael Penn
APP, Nonresident Senior Fellow
Executive Director, Shingetsu Institute

Innovation in Singapore

Singapore does well on the many global innovation rankings, but the Singapore Competitiveness Report 2009 (released on 11/25/09, 92 pgs) by the Asia Competitiveness Institute at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy points out some weaknesses in the country’s innovation system. Singapore's profile of relative strengths and weaknesses when it comes to innovation is atypical of advanced economies such as South Korea, Iceland, the US, and Japan. Instead, it is more similar to economies like Armenia, Peru and Uganda, the report says.

“Doing the math on innovation,” a Business Times article, discusses the report’s conclusions that Singapore should focus more on the commercialization of its science research. Instead of being an R&D hub, Singapore can position itself as a 'global connector of knowledge', refining its 'innovation-driven economy ambition' to include developing new concepts, management strategies, processes and business models.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Is the RMB really "re-pegged" to the US$?

China's premier, Wen Jiabao, criticized the United States last week for its insistence that China revalue its currency, the RMB. A great deal of western commentary has declared that in the summer of 2008, when storm clouds appeared ahead of the global financial collapse, China "re-pegged" its currency to the U.S. dollar, fundamentally changing its exchange rate policy.

Here is how the Financial Times put it as it told the story of Premier Wen's criticism: "The renminbi has been repegged to the US dollar since mid-2008, putting on ice the Chinese currency’s tightly managed rise during the previous three years against the dollar." (Patti Waldmeier, "Wen labels renminbi pressure 'unfair,'" Financial Times, 30 November 2009)

But there is another way to look at Chinese exchange rate policy. It suggests that the "re-pegged" story isn't the whole story, and may not be the real story at all.

China's foreign aid underwhelms

China’s Assistance and Government-Sponsored Investment Activities in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia by Thomas Lum, Specialist in Asian Affairs , November 25, 2009, 19 pgs.

This report is largely based upon research conducted in 2007-2008 by graduate students at the New York University Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service under the supervision of Wagner School faculty and CRS specialists. The students’ findings, while not comprehensive, suggest a dramatic increase in PRC economic assistance and state-sponsored investment from 2002 through 2007. The numbers provided in this report are not meant to be interpreted as reliable foreign aid totals. Furthermore, some PRC loans or aid pledges may not have been fulfilled and some aid pledges that include multiple projects or that span several years may have been counted more than once.

According to the Wagner School research, during the 2002-2007 period, Africa received the greatest amount of loans and other economic assistance, followed by Latin America and Southeast Asia. The findings suggest that China’s aid activities in Africa and Latin America serve the PRC’s immediate economic interests, while those in Southeast Asia relate to longer term diplomatic or strategic objectives. In Africa and Southeast Asia, PRC-sponsored infrastructure and public works projects constitute the most common form of activity, while in Latin America, where some countries are more developed, Chinese natural resource development projects are more prominent.

China is fast becoming a top trading partner with Africa and Southeast Asia, and it is second to the United States as a market for Latin American commodities and goods. Although the PRC’s economic assistance activities are a highly visible reminder of China’s growing diplomatic and economic influence, or “soft power,” the European Union, the United States, and Japan continue to dominate foreign investment in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Poll: Gulf still wide between Japanese and Chinese

The results of a recent opinion poll carried out jointly in Japan and China by the non-profit organization Genron NPO and a Chinese news agency underscore the deep-seated negative views that Japanese and Chinese continue to hold toward each other. The poll was produced for the 5th Beijing Tokyo Forum held in mid-October.

The poll shows, for example, that for many Chinese, Japan remains a “militarist country.” It reveals that there is still little direct contact between the two peoples and not much desire by Japanese and Chinese to know more about each other. Relying on the media for their information, Japanese and Chinese retain misperceptions and biases toward each other that should have evaporated years ago, based on the poll results.

Still, there are some signs of improvement in attitudes, as seen in this, the fifth annual survey sponsored by Genron. In each country, 80 percent of those surveyed admitted that the Japan-China relationship was “important”, and a growing number of Chinese are seeing current relationship with Japan as being in good shape. Japanese were less sure, with a large percentage unable to say whether bilateral ties were in good shape or not.

The Japan part of the joint poll was carried out May 19-June 17, 2009, using a direct interview method with effective responses from 1,000 adults over 18. The China side of the poll, carried out June 10-30, focused on five large cities, with 1589 Chinese responding. Due to the timeframe, the poll obviously does not reflect the Asia-friendly policy of the Democratic Party of Japan that won the national election on August 31, replacing the Liberal Democratic Party as ruling party. Some of the salient results of the poll are summarized below.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Japan's Justice Ministry

According to a new paper, Transfer of Power at Japan’s Justice Ministry, by Japan legal scholar Larry Repeta, "one of the more startling appointments to the new Cabinet is that of Yokohama lawyer Chiba Keiko to be Minister of Justice."

He writes that:
the authority of the Ministry is great, with responsibility to enforce criminal laws, protect individual rights, manage the immigration system, and generally oversee the legal system itself, including preparation and review of draft legislation. Ms. Chiba’s appointment should result in a sharp change in policy. She brings with her a history of more than two decades in the Diet in which she opposed nearly all LDP initiatives related to Ministry operations."
If there was any doubt on this score, she wiped it away in formal comments released on September 16, the day the new Cabinet took office. In her first message to the nation as Minister, Chiba declared that her mission is to help build a society that respects human rights and a judicial system that is “close to the people” (kokumin ni mijika na shiho). To achieve this, she listed three specific steps. First is the establishment of a new human rights agency. Second is ratification of so-called “Optional Protocols” to human rights treaties. Third is creating transparency in criminal interrogations.
Implementing these measures will not be easy. Establishing an independent commission and ratifying treaty protocols requires Diet action. Although the DPJ and its allies hold strong majorities, there will surely be voices seeking to protect the status quo. Progress on these issues will indicate the degree to which Japan’s new governors are willing to expend political capital on poorly understood measures related to human rights protection. Whatever the result, there is no doubt that this government takes a fundamentally different view of its obligations under Japanese law and human rights treaties from what we have seen in the past.
Transfer of Power at Japan’s Justice Ministry by Lawrence Repeta, Omiya Law School in Japan, presently a visiting scholar at the University of Washington, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 44-2-09, November 2, 2009.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Japan examines Sudan and Mindanao policy

The main developments in Japanese-Islamic relations in the first week of December took place in regard to the Horn of Africa and the Mindanao peace process. Major preparations were also underway for the Japan-Arab Economic Forum of December 7th and 8th.

As for the Horn of Africa, the new DPJ government appeared to be formulating their policies toward this unstable region. There were comments by Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano indicating that Japan might send a several-hundred-strong GSDF peacekeeping force to southern Sudan next spring, although Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa downplayed the suggestion.

Meanwhile, Defense Vice-Minister Kazuya Shimba departed Japan on the 7th for an extended tour of Djibouti—where Japan now possesses its first overseas military base—and Bahrain as part of an inspection of MSDF missions in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. Overall, Foreign Minister Okada, in particular, seems eager to have Japan participate more actively in southern Sudan, but Somalia policies have yet to depart from the lines laid down by the previous LDP administration.

The establishment of the International Contact Group (ICG) on the Mindanao peace process was formally declared on the 2nd with Japan as a key member. Peace talks between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are scheduled to take place on the 8th and 9th in Kuala Lumpur. The ICG is intended to guarantee all agreements in the peace process of the two negotiating parties.

The MILF was particularly eager to see Japan as a member of the ICG due to the perception that they have played a fair-minded role in this dispute and have been a major contributor of crucial aid to the Bangsamoro people. It remains unclear how the massacre in the province of Maguindanao on November 23rd and the declaration of martial law on December 5th will affect the larger peace process.

Michael Penn
APP, Nonresident Senior Fellow
Executive Director, Shingetsu Institute

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What's The Point?

The Point is the blog of Asia Policy Point, an independent Washington, DC, research center studying US-Asia policy. APP is particularly focused on the intersection of history and security in the region.

The Point identifies and discusses research tools for the Asia policy analyst.  It also highlights the significance of under-reported current events, trends, and challenges in the Asia-Pacific region. The blog draws from the policy research of the APP’s staff and international membership.

APP publishes two weekly email newsletters for its members. One, the APP Policy Calendarpreviews the meetings, events, news, and opinion critical to the US-Asia policy analyst. Membership is open to all. The second, is The Japan Brief, a review of news from and about Japan. Back issues of both are archived on this site.

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