Thursday, February 24, 2011

Japan, China and the Senkakus

“China over-reached” is the conclusion of APP Board member Mike Mochizuki who is Associate Dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University and holds the Japan-US Relations Chair in Memory of Gaston Sigur. In October 2010, he gave an interview to APP member Richard Katz who is editor of The Oriental Economist (TOE). TOE's monthly and daily reports are must-reads by those interested and involved in US-Japan relations.

We have reprinted with permission the interview here:
TOE: I want to ask you about the broader implications of the Senkakus incident for Japan-China relations, threat perceptions of China and so forth. But let’s begin with incident itself, in which, according to Tokyo, a Chinese fishing boat deliberately collided with a Japanese Coast Guard vessel. Do you think the collision was a premeditated testing of Japan by Beijing, or was it something that just happened and Beijing in the aftermath decided to take a tough line?

Mochizuki: I just don’t know. There’s a lot of speculation about that. I don’t know how Tokyo views it, but I’m going to try and find out when I visit in a couple weeks.

TOE: Why did Beijing take such a tough stance afterwards?

Mochizuki: One way to understand is to compare this incident to past intrusions by foreign fishing boats and such into Japan’s territorial waters or even onto the Senkakus islands themselves. There was an incident back in 2004 when seven Chinese landed on the Senkakus. This was during the Koizumi administration when Sino-Japanese relations were not good. The Japanese took them into custody, but then deported them shortly thereafter, and Koizumi made a statement about how this incident should not damage the bilateral relationship.
There was another incident in 2008 that involved a collision between a Taiwanese fishing boat and a Japanese Coast Guard frigate. In that incident, Japan’s chief representative in Taiwan ended up apologizing to the captain of the Taiwanese boat.

TOE: But in the latter case, the Taiwanese released a video showing that the Japanese vessel collided with them, not vice versa. In the latest incident, Tokyo charges that the Chinese fishing boat initiated the collision, but Tokyo has not yet released the video.

Mochizuki: That’s right. What I’m trying to get at is why the Chinese protested so strongly in this case. One possibility is that, in the past, even though there was a detention of the violator, there was a relatively quick move towards release. In this case, by contrast, the Japanese decided to hang on to the captain—while releasing the other crew members—and stipulating that they were going to go through this legal procedure implying that the captain could even be indicted and put on trial.

So from the Chinese point of view, this was going against past precedent. The Chinese protest, which was relatively ritualized at the beginning, then became increasingly intense. From Beijing’s perspective, to have a Taiwanese government stand up to Tokyo and get an apology, and for Beijing not to do the same would lead to criticisms among nationalists in China. That could be voiced on the internet or by those in government circles who might want to criticize the current leadership for not being tough enough with the Japanese.

I’m not justifying the Chinese reaction. I’m only trying to explain and understand it.
TOE: You’re hypothesizing Beijing’s move as a reaction to certain pressures, nationalistic emotions, and political infighting. But could it have been deliberate testing: let’s see what we can get away with, let’s see if we can intimidate the Japanese?

Mochizuki: That’s definitely a plausible hypothesis. And none of the facts that we know so far can falsify that hypothesis. But it’s one thing to speculate and another to claim that this is, in fact, what Beijing was doing. I think it’s irresponsible for some commentators to make that claim without any clear evidence. The Chinese decision-making process is not very transparent. So we may never know.

TOE: Do you think that, in the end, the Chinese overreached, and did themselves some harm in the eyes of other Asian neighbors? Or, do you think they actually came off looking tough and now countries throughout Asia will be afraid to mess with them?

Mochizuki: I think this was a diplomatic setback for China. They overplayed their hand. One example is the demand for apology and compensation after the Japanese released the captain. They could have acted immediately to defuse tensions, but they did not do that. I think that damaged China’s reputation among Asian countries, not just Japan. In recent months, countries in the region have become increasingly wary of China because of its assertive behavior. For example, Chinese patrol boats have pursued and even shooting at Vietnamese fishing boats in the South China Sea. This behavior has provoked ASEAN states to cooperate diplomatically to counter China. Among other things, it led them to work with the US government and to get Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to talk publicly about the importance of peaceful management and resolution of the territorial issues in the South China Sea and the importance of navigational freedom. Clinton’s comments led to a very strong and emotional, but ineffective, response by the Chinese foreign minister, Yang Jiechi.

Another example was the Chinese uproar about the announcement of US and Korean naval exercises in the Yellow Sea.

Two years ago people were talking about how China’s diplomacy was so adroit, how effective it had been in reassuring the region and getting the region to cooperate with China. People were saying China was really effective in using its “soft power.” Now, the question is: what’s happened to all that, and why is China overplaying its hand? Among expert Sinologists, people have very different answers to that question.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

US extended deterence in East Asia

Earlier this month, Japan's former Prime Minister Yukio Hatayama said that he used "deterrence" as an "expedient" fallback position to explain why he renegged on his promise to close the Futenma Marine Corps Air Base and move US Marines off of Okinawa. He, like many Japanese, are not convinced that the US on Okinawa provides a credible deterrence to Chinese or North Korean aggression.

This issue will be discussed by APP member Richard Bush, Senior Fellow and Director, Center for Northeast Policy Studies, Brookings; Steven Pifer, Senior Fellow and Director, Arms Control Initiative, Brookings; and Victor Cha, D.S. Song Professor of Government, Georgetown University at a Brookings Institution forum, US Extended Deterence in East Asia, on Thursday, February 24th from 3:00 to 4:30pm. CNAPS Brookings is an institutional member of APP.

APP member Michael McDevitt, Vice President and Director, CNA Strategic Studies just published a Brookings Commentary, Deterring North Korean Provocations. He argues that it is time to strengthen the deterrence against North Korea by focusing on retaliation and commitment. It may be time to end US forces "strategic flexibility" in South Korea: "Taking strategic flexibility off the table would be a step the alliance could take to impress upon Pyongyang that the defense of South Korea is still its central task, and that the United States is not intimidated by the fact that Pyongyang has a nuclear capability that puts U.S. forces in Korea at risk." Further, he suggests that Washington should adopt Seou's new “manifold retaliation” approach that promises consequences for hostile acts that go beyond economic and diplomatic options.

Yet he concludes:
Finally, we should not lose sight of the fact that being reluctant to retaliate and perhaps trigger an escalatory cycle that could lead to war has been a successful strategy against a second North Korean invasion. South Korea has avoided war, and as a result has flourished politically and economically. In retrospect, the frustration of not being able to militarily punish North Korea for its hostile acts has been the price that was paid for the overall success of South Korea and its current prominence in the world. Ironically, by attempting to deter North Korean provocations, the new approach could make war more likely if it turns out that Kim Jong-il has a higher tolerance for risk than President Lee believes. If over time, alliance mangers conclude that restraint is more sensible than retaliation, the North should not be allowed to conclude that this “turning the other cheek” to a hostile act implies a weakness in the ability of the alliance to defeat an invasion.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A conversation on the Japanese economy

APP member Hugh Patrick, Robert D. Calkins Professor of International Business Emeritus, Columbia University and founder of the Center on Japanese Economy and Business will give the annual  Warren S. Hunsberger lecture this week at the American University School of International Service in Washington, DC on Wednesday, February 23 at 3:30pm. Details HERE.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Technology convergence

The hottest word now among S&T policymakers in Seoul is "convergence." In November 2010, South Korea's National Assembly passed a law making technology convergence a national priority. The mandate for Koreans is to find connections between previously unrelated fields allowing discrete technologies to spill over on to each other. Nanotechnology merges with biotechnology, IT with tourism, medical technology with social networking.

Helping Koreans recognize the potential benefits of breaching these disciplinary walls, merging of previously separate industrial fields, and linking with the liberal arts is APP member Dr. Emanuel Pastreich who lives and works in Daejeon, South Korea.

He believes, as a recent MIT report The Third Revolution: The Convergence of the Life Sciences, Physical Sciences and Engineering concludes, convergence between technologies and industries will be the driving force of the economy in the 21st century. In many ways, South Korea’s research model fits well into this new interdisciplinary paradigm. To fully realize Korea's potential to use the emerging market for technology convergence, he helped establish in 2010, the Korea Industry Convergence Association.

Recently, two interviews have highlighted Dr. Pastreich’s pathfinding work. This month, the Korea IT Times featured him in “An American in Daejeon,”
What is clear from the conversation with Pastreich is that his interest in technology and the environment is part of a dialog is bigger than Daejeon, and bigger than Korea. Pastreich is appreciated by Koreans for his enthusiasm regarding Korea's potential, and his willingness to work tirelessly for goals in which other foreigners take little interest. At the same time, Pastreich idealism about Korea's global role is not always aligned with the assumptions held by Koreans. Although he listens carefully to what the Koreans need, and works closely with them, there are subtle aspects of his work that can be traced back to his arguments over the last ten years for US engagement with Asia as a whole. Pastreich's work on environmental policy in Daejeon is linked to his arguments for international international cooperation. His ideas are vertically integrated like a set of nested chairs. Such a three-dimensional approach to problem solving is confusing to many around Pastreich, and his critics remark that he seems to be running in every direction instead of focusing on one project.
In a December 2010 interview with Korean Business Central, he states,

We see vast range of technologies emerging in Korea. People once looked down on Korean research institutes because they lacked “basic research.” Suddenly we are finding that research institutes around the world are moving from basic research towards commercialization, and even towards marketing. This puts Korea in a strong position.

The reason for the shifts in R&D can be attributed to financial limitations, or market forces, but I think there is something beneath the surface going on. Moore's law states that the number of circuits you can place on a microprocessor doubles every two years. Moore’s Law has held for 50 years.The result is that you can do more computer calculations, hold more memory, for less and less cost. As a result, the primary issue is no longer producing technology. We are producing more technology than we know what to do with. The question then becomes how can we can apply that technology. And as that task also becomes easier and easier over time, we will find ourselves working more and more on how to market the technologies we produce. I would go out on a limb and say that Moore's law will eventually make patents relatively unimportant.

Security in the Asia-Pacific Region

APP Member organization, Asia Society Washington Center presents

Maintaining Security and Stability
in the Asia-Pacific Region

A Conversation with

Admiral Robert Willard
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command

Thursday, February 17, 2011
12:15 pm to 2:00 pm

Admiral Willard will address strategic challenges and opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region and the critical role the U.S. military plays in maintaining regional security. With over 27 years of experience in the Asia-Pacific and more than a year overseeing the largest combatant command in the world, ADM Willard possess unique insights regarding this important Area of Responsibility (AOR), a region that is home to 36 nations and stretches from the west coast of the United States to the western border of Ind

As PACOM Commander, his perspective is informed by significant interaction across the AOR with leadership at the highest levels of government and extensive command focus on several strategic areas of significance that include Allies and Partners, as well as China, India, North Korea, and Transnational Threats.

Admiral Robert F. Willard is a Los Angeles native and a 1973 graduate of the United States Naval Academy. He has a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management from Old Dominion University and is an MIT Seminar XXI alumnus. An F-14 aviator, Willard served in a variety of west coast fighter squadrons; VF-24, VF-124, VF-2, and VF-51 aboard the aircraft carriers USS Constellation, USS Ranger, USS Kitty Hawk and USS Carl Vinson. He later commanded the "Screaming Eagles" of Fighter Squadron 51.

Following nuclear-power training, Willard served as Executive Officer of USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), commanded the amphibious flagship USS Tripoli (LPH 10) in the Persian Gulf during “Operation Vigilant Warrior” for which Tripoli received a Navy Unit Commendation and commanded the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72).

As a Flag Officer, Willard twice served on the Joint Staff, was Deputy and Chief of Staff for U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, commanded Carrier Group Five aboard USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) and commanded the U.S. Seventh Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan. In March 2005, Willard became the 34th Vice Chief of Naval Operations; in May 2007, he assumed command of the U.S. Pacific Fleet; and on October 19, 2009, he became the Commander, U.S. Pacific Command, Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii.

Admiral Willard’s decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit and various other awards.

The St. Regis
923 16th and K Streets, NW
Washington, DC

Asia Society Members: $60
Asia Society Non-Members: $75

Reservations, please contact
Ms. Pickard, (202) 414-2806

Saturday, February 12, 2011

History matters

Making Friends While No One Is Looking: 
The Role of Sub-national Actors in 
Reconciliation in East Asia and Europe

Monday, February 14, 2011

Johns Hopkins University
Washington, DC

Panel One: Reconciliation in East Asia and Europe – Where Are We Now? 

Reconciliation between Japan and its East Asian neighbors has been rather problematic in the past. For decades Japan refused to apologize for any atrocities committed before and during World War Two and even after apologies have been issued, South Korea and China have doubted their sincerity and depth while some Japanese citizens have protested any apology as unnecessary and unpatriotic. The historical frictions continue to flare up today as the most recent incident between China and Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islets shows. Progress, however, has been made on the sub-national level, especially in the relationship between South Korea and Japan. Where do reconciliation efforts between Japan, South Korea, and China currently stand? What is the role of the government or are these efforts largely driven by sub-national groups and actors? What is the role of exchange programs in fostering reconciliation in general? What are the achievements in Germany’s foreign policy of reconciliation that might be useful as East Asian countries develop exchanges?

Speakers: Andrew Horvat, Stanford University in Kyoto; Vladimír Handl, Institute of International Relations, Prague; Lily Gardner Feldman, AICGS. Moderator: Michael Brenner, Ludwig Maximilians Universität Munich/ AICGS

Panel Two: Youth Exchanges and Sister City Programs – Educating the Next Generation By Crossing the Historical Divide? 

Youth exchanges have been an important tool for Germany’s reconciliation with its neighbors. Instituted soon after the end of World War Two, these exchanges have enabled new generations to learn about historical responsibilities and increase awareness about their neighboring countries and former victims of Nazism. The idea of sister cities, in which cities establish formal twinning agreements with other, often similar, cities in other countries, has also been one of the mechanisms of reconciliation between Germany and former victims. This cooperation can range from the symbolic to the very practical and usually includes exchange programs between the cities and municipalities. Japan, China, and South Korea have increased their exchange programs in recent years and their cities are also participating in some twinning programs. How can youth exchanges and twinning programs increase reconciliation? What are the hallmarks of successful exchanges and what conditions have to be in place to make them successful? What can Japan and other East Asian countries learn from the German example? Who is organizing and financing the youth exchanges? What is the role of the respective governments and societal actors?

Speakers: Toshihiro Menju, Japan Center for International Exchange; Dieter Bingen, Deutsches Polen Institut; Stefan Seidendorf, Deutsch-Französisches Institut. Moderator: Kirsten Verclas, AICGS.

Luncheon Keynote Speaker: Yoshibumi Wakamiya,
Asahi Shimbun

Panel Three: Media Exchanges – Providing Understanding Across Borders? 

Germany and France founded the television channel Arte in 1990, intended to bring French and German citizens closer on a cultural level and promote cultural integration throughout Europe. Exchange programs for French and German journalists have also flourished over the last decades. Similar activities occur between Japan and some of its neighbors albeit with much less frequency and intensity. What kinds of media cooperations and exchanges have been successful? What can successful endeavors such as Arte teach about reconciliation? What is the role of new media in reconciliation? Is there a multiplier effect of media cooperation and how can it be measured? How do practitioners evaluate these exchanges?

Speakers: Peter Theiner, Robert Bosch Stiftung; Chiho Sawada, Japan Policy Research Institute at University of San Francisco's Center for the Pacific Rim; Alexandra Sakaki, Universität Duisburg-Essen.
Moderator: Elizabeth A. “Lili” Cole, United States Institute of Peace.

Final Comments: American Perspectives

Speaker: Mike Mochizuki, George Washington University; Moderator: Lily Gardner Feldman, AICGS.

Friday, February 11, 2011

National Foundation Day Japan

APP member, Michael Penn of PressTV in Tokyo sends in this interesting report on dueling conservative and liberal protests on Japan's National Foundation Day holiday.

According to, National Foundation Day in Japan was first recognized on February 11 in 1872 during the Meiji Period. It was originally established to honor the Imperial family line and the founding of Japan. It is now thought that the Meiji government wanted to raise the profile of the Imperial Emperor and unite Japan as a nation after the elimination of the Shogunate during the Edo period.

The story behind National Foundation Day dates back to an event recorded in the Nihon-Shoki, one of the earliest records of Japanese history. It states that the first Emperor of Japan, Jimmu, believed to be a direct descendant of the sun goddess, was given the title Emperor on February 11 in 660 BC. Although this is now considered to be a myth, at the time it was a strongly unifying idea and lead to the belief that Japan as a nation was (descended from the gods and therefore) invincible.

Until WW-II this day was celebrated with great pride and ceremony, however, as a consequence of the war, the day was abolished as it was seen to express inappropriate ideals. In 1966, the Japanese government brought a slightly more muted version of the day back to the public holiday calendar in the form of the National Foundation Day we know today.

On Kenkoku Kinen no Hi, Japanese people consider what it is to be Japanese and express their patriotism to their country. The Japanese flag, known as the "Hinomaru" or sun flag, represents the divine selection of the Emperor. It remains a strong symbol on this day and many people will carry and wave flags at local festivities.

Your editor's personal experience with National Foundation Day is touring the Yashukuni Shrine with a Japanese noble a few years back whose grandfather helped restore the Meiji Emperor. We were both fascinated to see so many elderly men and their grandsons all decked out in their Imperial Japan Army and Navy uniforms coming for picnics at the park that encircles the Shrine.

The groups of Yakuza and rightists thugs in their own type of 20th Century uniforms--Western busines suits or jumpsuits--gathering to pay homage at the Shrine captured our attenion as well. My elderly companion was simply besides himself with my continually taking pictures of these men and trying to talk with them. We lunched at the museum cafeteria on Japan Navy curry surrounded by fantasy Kamakazi fighters in full flying regalia.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tokyo's new man to DC?

The DPJ looks set to get their man in DC. Japan’s next ambassador to the US is rumored to be Mitoji Yabunaka, the former Ministry of Foreign Affairs Vice Minister. But despite his tenure at MOFA since 1969 - the same as current Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki - Yabunaka has been receptive to Democratic Party of Japan views.

Yabunaka's best-selling book The Destiny of the Nation laments Japan's current diplomatic situation, and he has not hidden his desire to become ambassador to the United States. His only previous US experience was as Consul General in Chicago (1998 and 2002).

He studied at Osaka University, and graduated from Cornell University. He spent a year as the senior researcher at International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. He is currently a consultant to Noruma Research Institute.

The Yomiuri Online published last month a conversation between him and Harvard's Joe Nye about US-Japan relations, Japan Needs a Shock to Awake. Yabunaka argues that the alliance with the United States is as relevant as ever, given the rise of China, but Japan must face the shock of embracing immigration to stave off the calamity of a greying Japan.

Perhaps more can be learned from his book Destiny of a Nation published upon his retirement from Japan’s Foreign Ministry in the summer of 2010 after 40 years of service.

He urges Japan to consider distancing itself from the overwhelming diplomatic sway of the US and to adopt an independent role in world affairs, which resonates with with the principles of diplomacy laid down by the DPJ.

Yabunaka is particularly critical of Japan’s passivity in meeting diplomatic challenges, and “blindly following the US” instead of taking its own stand. He reveals a latent hostility toward Japan’s having dispatched SDF troops to Iraq for non-military support during the war, stating his preference for economic assistance.

He does not say that Prime Minister Koizumi’s decision to dispatch the SDF to Iraq was wrong, but he stresses that a decision to go against the US pressure for “boots on the ground” and not send the troops would have been a major policy step.

Yabunaka is not against peace-keeping activities that are civilian based, again echoing DPJ principles. In that context, he would like Japan to break away from the ingrained tendency of never doing anything diplomatically outside the context of the alliance relationship with the US. In other words, Japan should consider its national interest in its contributions to the international community.

Telling was his 2008 response to flak from the US that Japan had done too little to support the war in Afghanistan. Yabunaka answered by defending Japan’s record of economic assistance to Afghanistan, citing the building of 500 schools, training 10,000 teachers, and providing education to 300,000 students. He noted that Japan had built 50 hospitals, providing vaccines to millions of Afghans, built 650 kilometers of roads in difficult areas, and recently, completing a terminal at Kabul Airport. Moreover, Japan has paid half the salaries of 80,000 policemen in that country. He said that the Americans, unaware of these contributions, were unable to respond.

Having experienced as a MOFA negotiator the contentious years of economic disputes with the US during the 1980s and 90s, Yabunaka understandingly harbors bitter memories about some of the trade and economic concessions Japan had to make to the US. He points the finger at Japanese politicians for their tendency to overrule hard-nosed trade officials and make a “political decision” that gave the US more or less what it wanted, and at the Japanese media for simplistic claims of “Japan bashing” and now “Japan passing”.

But his biggest bête noir seems to be the bureaucracy itself, from which he has emerged, for aiding and abetting a pattern of ultimately giving in to foreign pressure during negotiations, while making few efforts to meet it halfway. He laments the tendency of the Japanese side to plead for “understanding” of Japan’s position and to ask that “special consideration” be given, while the bureaucracy stifles innovation.

He is concerned that Japan may find itself isolated unless it changes some of its domestic systems, starting with the economy itself. For example, the incompatibility of Japan’s domestic standards from the rest of world must be eliminated. The domestic economy can grow only if it can continue to develop and supply Japan’s best products to the world.

That's the script anyway. Now, it's up to Yabunaka to act.

William Brooks
APP Senior Fellow
Mindy Kotler
APP Director
Patrick Sherriff
APP Editor-at-Large

>If you want to learn more about Mr. Yabunaka, you can meet him on March 14 in London when he gives a talk to the Japan Society of the United Kingdom.

NB A fuller version of this article was included in the Asia Policy Calendar newsletters sent to APP members. Individuals can subscribe HERE. Institutions, please contact us for details.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Obama's Free Trade Opportunity

APP members Thomas "Mack" McLarty (former chief of staff to President Clinton in 1993-94 and helped bring Bill Daley into the White House to lead the 1993 Nafta ratification effort) and Nelson Cunningham (a former aide to President Clinton and to then-Sen. Joseph Biden) of McLarty Associates recently had an op ed in The Wall Street Journal, entitled "Obama's Free Trade Opportunity."

The encourage the President to advance America's trade agenda as a fundamental component of U.S. foreign policy. They write:
Our experience tells us that the only way to push a major trade agreement through Congress—even one where the nominally pro-trade GOP rules the House—is with strong and unyielding presidential leadership, a unified White House staff and cabinet, and a genuinely bipartisan approach to stakeholders and the Congress. 

First, the president must be fully committed. Nafta was a bipartisan success in no small part because of the personal involvement of Mr. Clinton and sometimes tortuous negotiations with members of Congress. It's true that some pork was doled out and more than one bridge was built as a result of a Nafta vote—something they probably still understand in Chicago. 
Second, the White House and cabinet must be unified in pulling for passage. Everyone from Vice President Joe Biden to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk must be fully engaged, without hesitation. Don't forget the crucial role that then-Vice President Al Gore's 1993 debate with Ross Perot played in swinging public opinion in favor of Nafta. 
Third, the effort must be genuinely bipartisan. We'll need scores of members from both sides to make passage possible (this is particularly true with a large tea party GOP caucus that is as yet undefined on trade). Perhaps Mr. Obama could even take a page from the 1993 playbook and bring into the White House a prominent Republican—former U.S. Trade Representative Carla Hills, former Reagan Chief of Staff Ken Duberstein, or a former congressman such as Jim Kolbe or Chris Shays, for example—to help quarterback the effort. 
Finally, the president has to show that his commitment to the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement isn't a one-off. Moderates and independents who have been spooked by an economic approach they see as veering strongly to the left are looking for signs that this president embraces their centrist views. A commitment to deficit reduction, sustained outreach to business, and a genuine embrace of trade liberalization must go hand-in-hand. Most importantly, the president should commit to advancing the pending trade agreements with Colombia and Panama right now, instead of leaving them until later as some in his administration would prefer. Why bother taking a half-measure on trade?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Nixon in China

The opera, Nixon in China, is at the Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Center in New York, from February 2 through 19th. The New York Times calls it both "audacious and moving."

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Families and Child Custody in Japan

A left behind father
One of the major deliverables expected of the Kan Administration in the upcoming summit in June, is agreement for the rapid signing of the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and the establishment of a mechanism for the resolution of contentious child custody cases. The US government now recognizes that too many mothers and fathers have been left without access to their children by Japanese former spouses who abduct their children to Japan, which is the only G-7 country that did not sign the Hague.

The Obama Administration has made this a priority, with Congress scruntinizing its actions all along the way. In the last Congress, there was a resolution (H Res 1326) highlighting the problems with Japan concerning child abduction and more congressional action is expected. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton includes the issue in all her meetings with Japanese officials. The State Department webpage on Japan and International Child Abduction is regularly updated and Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell holds regular Town Halls with left behind parents. The NSC office on Multilateral and Human Rights affairs manages the issue for the White House.

In September, US Amb John Roos issued a statement for the Tokyo Shimbun emphasizing the human toll of not signing the Hague. In November, State Department officials toured the passport issuance facilities of the Japanese Embassy in Washington and discussed procedures. Japanese consular officials have regularly and illegally issued passports for American children against the wishes and knowledge of the American parent. This makes it seem like the Japanese State is aiding the abducting parent.

Europeans, Canadians, and Australians have also pressured Japan on the issue. There have been a number of joint statements by Ambassadors asking Japan to sign the Hague. The most recent was issued in October 2010. On January 25th, the French Senate passed a resolution demanding that Japan sign the Hague.

On January 21st, Japan annouced that it set up a Cabinet-level council to examine whether to join an international convention that sets procedures for resolving international child custody cases. The council's first meeting, held on January 25th, included Senior Vice Justice Minister Toshio Ogawa, State Foreign Secretary Takeaki Matsumoto,  Senior Vice Health Minister Yoko Komiyama, and Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama. The establishment of the Council, Fukuyama emphasized, does not mean that a decision to sign the Hague is imment.

Japan is not the only Asian country that lags in signing the Hague. Only Hong Kong, Macau, Australia, and New Zealand have signed. Singapore and South Korea say that they will do so soon.

On January 13, APP held a seminar to discuss the cultural context for recent international child custody disputes between Japanese and American citizens with Professor Allison Alexy, an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Lafayette College. Dr. Alexy also met privately with congressional staffers to explain the complexity of the issue. Here is a summary of her remarks.

Families and Child Custody in Japan

In recent years, custody disputes between American and Japanese parents have gained in attention and political importance. Despite the variety of particular details in each case, they all are shaped by a single fact: the Japanese government has not signed the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. This international agreement stipulates that signatory nations will honor child custody decisions reached in other member countries and, moreover, use local forces to recover any children illegally removed from such custody arrangements. Because the Japanese government hasn’t signed, hundreds of children with one non-Japanese parent are currently living in Japan in violation of custody agreements reached in other nations.

The solution to these problems might therefore seem simple: if only the Japanese government would sign this agreement, these problems would be more easily solved. However, the Japanese government’s unwillingness to sign reflects much more than political posturing and the Hague agreement would require fundamental changes to the structure of Japanese family law.

International child custody and abduction is difficult to resolve in Japan because it: 1) conflicts with the lack of legal joint custody in Japan; 2) contradicts recent social norms and legal decisions that display a preference for maternal care and custody; 3) requires the Japanese legal system involve itself in family disputes when domestic legal norms push families to reach some agreement before seeking legal settlement; and 4) ultimately challenges the relationship between Japanese citizenship and kinship.

Lack of Joint Custody in Japan
Historical patterns of custody in Japan have changed, moving from legal preference for children to stay in their birth lineage, to gendered custody (girls going with mothers, boys with fathers), to the current preference for maternal custody. Joint custody—custody of a single child shared between parents–has never been a legal norm in Japan, although groups of children have been split between parents by gender or age (younger children going with the mother, older children with father).

Before and through the 19th century, Japanese patterns of custody emphasized the lineage and the majority of children remained with their fathers after divorce. This was not reflective of a belief that fathers would provide the best custody, per se, but rather that children should be with their birth lineage and, because the vast majority of lineage was traced through men, fathers just happened to be the representative of lineage.

Preference for Maternal Care
A second important pattern shaping current situations is the shift from a legal preference for lineage (or ie, family line) to maternal care. This shift happened in modern Japan, mostly in the postwar, and now in the 60 percent of divorces that involve minor children, mothers are granted (sole) custody about 80 percent of the time.

In the contemporary moment, because of the ways ideal family life was organized for most of the postwar, mothers were the ones responsible for explicit childcare and fathers’ support was commonly understood to come from more implicit behaviors like steady work.

In the current moment, the Japanese legal system has strong preference for the importance of maternal care, a norm which literally reinforces itself as joint custody cannot be explored. Although the lack of joint custody can be explained as a holdover from former legal preference for lineage, many Japanese people also describe it as the ideal of a clean break. Joint custody would make things too messy.

Requirements of the Legal System to Settle Disputes outside of Court
The legal and social norms that surround custody are further shaped by legal patterns that push conflict and settlement out of the court system. In divorces, for instance, the legal process is organized so that married couples must often come to settlement on their own, rather than involving the court.

In over 90 percent of contemporary divorce cases, spouses sign what is called a “mutual” or “uncontested” divorce agreement. This does not mean that they completely agree with each other, or that there was no conflict about the divorce. On the contrary, there was probably a great deal of conflict, but it remains largely hidden from the court system’s records.

In Japan, a divorce agreement like these markers of the end of negotiation and conflict–this is the agreement people sign when they have finally reached a decision. In contrast, in places like the United States, divorce petitions are usually the beginning of protracted conflict. When one spouse files for divorce in the United States, that is the beginning of the negotiation about how to end the marriage. Divorce agreements in Japan, however, mark the end of that process and, for 90 percent of currently divorcing couples, that conflict and negotiation happens outside the court system.

This pattern has strong implications for international child custody disputes because it suggests the ways in which the Japanese legal system is set up to push conflictual negotiations into personal and private settings. In divorce cases, the Japanese system strongly prefers couples to come to their own agreements and look to the state merely for ratification, rather than sustained mediation.

Kinship and Citizenship
Although actual experiences have continuously varied from the ideal, and the ideals have shifted over time, the “Japanese family” remains one of the most powerful idioms to describe Japaneseness. In metaphorical or figurative terms, images of the family have been used to build and describe corporate loyalty, educational motivation, and consumption patterns.

Ideology of and about “family” in contemporary Japan links family membership with Japanese citizenship and individual families with the nation-state. These ideologies are made concretely manifest in the koseki system. Being legally registered in a Japanese family is what makes one Japanese. It is the equivalent of having a social security number in the United States.

Family membership is the means and methods to citizenship. In cases of international child custody, this means that the two key identifying terms–citizenship and family membership–are both fraught and heavily overlaid with meaning in Japan. If children are Japanese, they are members of a Japanese family, and therefore have rights and duties that come with that. Although there are many personal, structural, and legal reasons why it is difficult to untangle international child custody disputes, the Japanese legal construction of citizenship deriving from family membership fundamentally colors the patterns in this context.

These patterns and structures that affect international child custody disputes in Japan are far from static. Indeed, contemporary Japanese society is changing very rapidly and media coverage and private conversations regularly discuss evidence of these changes. With almost two decades of recession and major demographic shifts, including the falling birthrate, rising age at marriage, and rapidly aging population, have compelled substantive Japanese societal change. Further, the rising divorce rate and decrease in so-called “life-time employment” for white-collar men mean that although social norms remain powerful more people are having experiences outside the mainstream.

Allison Alexy is Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at Lafayette College. Her teaching and research focus on family lives, intimacy, and social change in contemporary Japan. Professor Alexy is the co-editor (with Richard Ronald) of Home and Family in Contemporary Japan: Continuity and Transformation (Routledge 2011) and is currently finishing a manuscript entitled Intimate Separations: Divorce and its Reverberations in Contemporary Japan. Professor Alexy received a BA double concentrating in Anthropology and Sociology from the University of Chicago, and a PhD in Anthropology from Yale University.

US-Japan Research Institute Washington Week

photo courtesy Andrew Moyer
The US-Japan Research Institute, a consortium of five major Japanese universities, holds its annual Japan Week in Washington starting on Friday, February 4th. The programs will be held February 4-11 at a variety of locations from Capitol Hill to the Capitol Hilton. Check the event's website for locations and registration. 

STRENGTHENING POST-CONFLICT SECURITY AND DIPLOMACY: LESSONS FOR US AND JAPAN ODA POLICY AND PRACTICE. 2/4, Noon-2:00pm, Lunch, Washington, DC. Sponsor: US-Japan Research Institute (USJI). Speakers: Yoshiaki Abe, Operating Adviser, USJI, University Professor, Waseda University; Dr. Carl Bruch, Senior Attorney and Co-Director of International Programs, Environmental Law Institute; Dr. Lisa Goldman, Senior Attorney, Counsel, and Co-Director, Africa Program, Environmental Law Institute; Mikiyasu Nakayama, Professor, The University of Tokyo.

EAST ASIAN SECURITY ENVIRONMENT AND THE FUTURE OF JAPAN-US ALLIANCE. 2/7, 9:30-11:40am, Washington, DC. Sponsor: US-Japan Research Institute (USJI). Speakers: Shotaro Yachi, Professor, Organization for Japan-US Studies, Waseda University, Adviser to the Minister for Foreign Affairs; Takeo Akiba, Minister for Political Affairs, the Embassy of Japan; Dr. Patrick Cronin, Senior Advisor and Senior Director, Asia-Pacific Security Program, Center for a New American Security; Tomohiko Taniguchi, Senior, Guest Fellow (Defense and Security), Sojitz Research Institute, Former Spokesperson at the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

LEADERSHIP AND PARTNERSHIP OF US AND JAPAN IN MANAGING LEGAL AND POLITICAL RISK IN ASIA PACIFIC REGION. 2/9, 3:00- 8:00pm, Dinner, Washington, DC. Sponsor: US-Japan Research Institute (USJI). Speakers: Katsuhiko Shirai, Chair, USJI, Executive Advisor for Academic Affairs, The Former President, Waseda University; Joel P. Trachtman, Professor of International Law, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Director, The Hitachi Center; Prof. Thomas F. Holt, Jr., Partner, K&L Gates, Adjunct Professor of International Law, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy; Naoyuki Agawa, Vice Chair, USJI, Vice President, International Collaboration, Professor, Faculty of Policy Management, Graduate School of Media and Governance, Keio University; Michael J. O'Neil, Partner, K&L Gates, North America Director, Trilateral Committee, Former General Counsel, CIA; Akihiko Tanaka, Vice Chair, USJI, Executive Vice President, The University of Tokyo; Partha S. Ghosh, Visiting Professor of Strategic & Innovation Management, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Professor of Practice, Tufts Gordon Institute, Former Partner, McKinsey & Company; Slade Gorton, Of Counsel, K&L Gates, Former U.S. Senator; Junichi Mori, Vice Chair, USJI, Vice President, Kyoto University; Mr. Carl Green, Senior Advisor, Former Senior Representative, Hitachi Corporate Office in Washington DC; H.E. Ichiro Fujisaki, Ambassador of Japan to the United States; Stephen S. Bosworth, Dean, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, U.S. Special Envoy for North Korea (Video Message); Thomas F. Holt, Jr., Partner, K&L Gates, Adjunct Professor of International Law, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy; Takashi Ohde, Corporate Officer and General Manager, Hitachi Corporate Offices, D.C. & L.A.; Katsuichi Uchida, President, USJI, Vice President, Waseda University.

HOW TO INNOVATE THE HIGHER EDUCATION ROLE IN THE NEW GLOBAL KNOW-LEDGED BASED SOCIETY? 2/10, 10:00- 11:40am, Washington, DC. Sponsor: US-Japan Research Institute (USJI). Speakers: H.E. Ichiro Fujisaki, Ambassador of Japan to the United States; Katsuhiko Shirai, Chair, USJI, Executive Advisor for Academic Affairs, The Former President, Waseda University; Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, President Emeritus and University Professor of Public Service, George Washington University; Xu Zhihong, The Former President, Peking University.

A JAPAN THAT CAN SAY YES: MAINTAINING JAPAN'S PRESENCE IN THE UNITED STATES AND ELSEWHERE. 2/10, 2:00-4:00pm, Washington, DC. Sponsor: US-Japan Research Institute (USJI). Speakers: Kevin M Doak, Professor & Nippon Foundation Endowed Chair in Japanese, Studies Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Georgetown University; Dr. Daniel M. Kilman, Visiting Fellow, the Center for a New American Security; Irene Hirano Inouye, President, U.S.-Japan Council; Takeo Mori, The Embassy of Japan.

THE CURRENT GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS AND ITS EFFECTS ON US, JAPAN, AND ASIA PACIFIC REGION. 2/11, 10:00am-Noon, Washington, DC. Sponsor: US-Japan Research Institute. Speakers: Nobuhiko Hibara, Operating Adviser, USJI, Associate Professor of Finance, School of Business, Administration, Ritsumeikan University; Mireya Solis, Associate Professor, School of International Service, American University; David Weinstein, Carl S. Shoup Professor of Japanese Economy, Columbia University, Associate Director for Research Center on Japanese, Economy and Business; Kiyoaki Aburaki, US Representative, Keidanren and the 21st Century Public Policy Inst. Visiting Fellows, Center for Strategic and International Studies; Sachio Nakato, Professor, College of International Relations, Department of International Relations, Ritsumeikan University.

CLIMATE CHANGE POLICIES IN THE US AND JAPAN. 2/11, 2:00- 4:00pm, Washington, DC. Sponsor: US-Japan Research Institute. Speakers: Zbigniew Bochniarz, Visiting Professor, Evans School of Public Affairs, University of Washington; Yacov Tsur, Professor & Head, Department of Agricultural Economics & Management, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Jane Nakano, Fellow, Energy and National Security Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies; Tatsuya Shinkawa, Chief Representative, Representative Office in Washington, DC, New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization; Harry de Gorter, Professor, Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University.