Monday, May 30, 2011

Kan Isolated as Fractures Grow in DPJ

Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s May 20 decision not to present the second supplementary budget bill to the Diet for earthquake disaster relief and reconstruction may have been a fatal mistake. He wants to delay the bill to an extraordinary Diet session in August. This tactic, however, has upset even members of his own Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) not to mention the LDP-led opposition camp. A no-confidence motion against the Kan Cabinet is becoming increasingly likely, though it would probably take place after the Prime Minister returns from this month's G8 summit in France.

Calls for Kan to resign to take responsibility for allegedly poor handling of the aftermath of the earthquake-tsunami-nuclear plant disasters have grown in the DPJ. According to press reports, Kan allegedly delayed for an hour the emergency cooling of the nuclear reactors at Fukushima with sea water, possibly contributing to a meltdown.

The latest heavyweight to join the chorus of Kan bashers is House of Councillors President Takeo Nishioka, who demanded the immediate resignation of Kan in an article he wrote for the Yomiuri Shimbun May 19. He repeated his demand at a press conference the same day. Nishioka cited Kan's responses to the earthquake and crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Kan, undisturbed, simply said, "There is no reason at all for me to resign at this time."

But Nishioka's pressure on Kan to step down has grave implications, as the Upper House president has considerable authority over the fate of bills in the divided Diet. Moreover, Nishioka comes from the DPJ, having the left the party as is customary because he must remain neutral in his post. In addition, the DPJ is starting to see junior lawmakers quit the party.

Kan also continues to take a beating in the polls. Jiji Press’ latest opinion survey, released on May 20, found nearly 70% of the public want the Prime Minister to quit immediately or after dealing disaster response measures. Only 24.5% said they want Kan to stay in power. On the government’s response to the earthquake and subsequent nuclear crisis, 71.9% faulted Kan for a lack of leadership, the poll showed. The Kan Cabinet’s support rate stood at 21.9%, up 1.4 points from the previous month. Though rising for three straight months, the approval rating remains deep in the danger zone for an incumbent prime minister. The disapproval rating was 59.5%, down 2.1 points.

Meanwhile, there are signs of a possible future political realignment growing out of fractures in party unity in both the DPJ and LDP. On May 17, two bipartisan Diet member leagues were formed linking anti-Kan forces in the DPJ and forces in the LDP opposed to the presidency of Sadakazu Nakatani. Lawmakers joining the league are mostly junior to mid-level (five terms elected or below). At the first meeting, 87 DPJ and 22 LDP lawmakers or a total of 109 showed up. The league was formed ostensibly to counter the stalemate in the Diet over critical earthquake-recovery legislation, but its true aim seems to be ultimately unseat the president in their respective party. From such a grouping could come a future grand coalition of like-minded forces in both parties preconditioned on Kan’s resignation. In the latest Yomiuri poll, 56% of the respondents supported a grand coalition in order to speed up the recovery of Japan, so the concept is already acceptable to the Japanese electorate.

The same day, a second league was formed by 12 mid-level DPJ members who are loyal to former party secretary general Ichiro Ozawa. Again, the formal reason for the gathering was to promote the reconstruction of earthquake-stricken Japan, but the true aim ultimately is to topple Kan in favor of a party president who is more to Ozawa’s liking.

In the meantime, if the 87 anti-Kan DPJ members were to join a no-confidence motion against Kan fielded by the LDP, it could pass the Lower House. The New Komeito, the LDP’s former coalition partner, has already signaled its support for a possible no-confidence motion. In such a case, Kan would have no choice but to resign. Interestingly, he does not now have the option of dissolving the Lower House for a snap election, a card past prime ministers have used effectively to survive political challenges.

The Supreme Court in March ruled that the 2009 Lower House election was in principle unconstitutional because of the disparity of voting weight favoring rural areas over urban areas. It did not disallow the election results, but ordered a correction of the imbalance. Until a law is passed reducing the rural-urban voting gap, the Prime Minister cannot use that traditional card.

As is common with the intrigues of Japanese politics, the outlook for unseating Kan is unclear. There is already serious talk in both the DPJ and LDP about a small second supplemental budget that could be passed with bipartisan support before the Diet ends June 22. This might defuse the revolt against Kan – and Tanigaki—and allow Kan to introduce a much larger extra budget in late summer.

Still, political instability is likely to continue to grow. When the critical mass will be reached is not easily predictable. As for the impact on U.S.-Japan relations, one might say what is new? But issues that have been repeatedly delayed regarding the Alliance – such as the Futenma base relocation conundrum – will continue to be.

William Brooks
APP Senior Fellow

This analysis appeared in the May 23rd edition of Asia Policy Point's Asia Policy Calendar sent to APP's members every Monday

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Two months out, the need remains

Immediate relief efforts for Japan's multiple March 11 disasters, now turn toward preparations for years of community rebuilding both temporal and spiritual. Even for a G-7 country like Japan with substantial global investments, critical world-class exports, leading hi-tech patents, and foreign reserves topping $1 trillion this is no small task. Conservative estimates for the reconstruction from the March 11th earthquake are over $300 billion.

There is the realization that Japan will have to face a new normal.

How can you help? Many international relief organizations retain a percentage of the donations meant for Japan (the American Red Cross reportedly retains 9%) and others have only tenuous ties to Japan’s limited civil society service organizations (nonprofits independent of the government were not possible until 1998 and contributions are not tax-deductible).

You will also find that most of the organizations listed below are contributing to the same NGOs and some even serve on each other’s boards. Some of these NGOs, until March 11, were only focused on international relief efforts. Also, if you would like to have your donation tax-deductible, it needs to be donated to a charity or nonprofit registered in the United States and recognized as such by the Internal Revenue Service.

Here is a listing of organizations with non-profit 501(c)(3) status that are popular among giving Washingtonians wanting to help the Japanese people:

Japan American Society of Washington founded in 1957 hosts the largest spring Matsuri outside Japan of which part of this year profits went directly to Japan’s Red Cross. The Society has collected funds at Metro stops and led the drive in Washington to raise funds for Japan relief with its Stand with Japan campaign with the funds going to the American Red Cross. Its fundraising activities continue in many forms.

Japan Commerce Association of Washington founded in 1988 has over 200 local corporate and individual members that are either Japanese businesses or organizations that work closely with Japan. Most of the Association’s members are the Washington offices of Japan’s major corporations and power companies. The Association has created a foundation to receive funds for the Japanese Red Cross and other relief efforts. Please send your tax-deductible checks payable to The JCAW Foundation with “Donation for Earthquake” in the memo line to the Japan Commerce Association of Washington, DC, c/o Japan America Society of Washington, DC, 1819 L Street NW, Level 1B, Washington, DC 20036.

Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA founded in 1992 has partnered with its sister foundation in Tokyo, The Nippon Foundation, to create the CARE FOR JAPAN fund allowing Americans to donate directly to a range of community rebuilding efforts. The Foundation has nearly 50 years of experience working with civil society organizations delivering social and health services to children, the elderly, the disabled, and the dispossessed, especially after Japan’s disasters. 100% of the donations will go to efforts and institutions involved in-long-term community restoration. Recipents are drawn from The Nippon Foundation’s Campan network of over 9,000 NGPs.

For nearly 60 years, the Asia Foundation has collaborated with private and public partners to support leadership and institutional development, exchanges, and policy research in Asia. Through its Give2Asia program, The Foundation established the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Fund to raise funds for Japanese NGOs delivering relief services to the Tohoku region. 95% of all funds received will go to Japanese NGOs working to help disaster victims. 5% will go to Give2Asia to coordinate with and support these NGOs.

The Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE) founded in 1970 to promote dialogue and cooperation among leaders from different sectors of society in Japan and around the world. JCIE has been active in encouraging the development of Japan’s civil society sector. JCIE/USA as partnered with JCIE/Japan and the Center for Public Resources Development (CPRD) to launch the Japan NGO Earthquake Relief and Recovery Fund. Half of the funds raised will go directly to the Center for Public Resources Development’s “Give One” initiative, which raises funds for leading Japanese organizations that are working on the ground to provide immediate disaster relief. The remaining 50 percent will be used to establish a separate fund to support Japanese NGOs engaged in long-term reconstruction efforts, which will be critical in the months and years ahead.

The US-Japan Council (USJC) established in 2009 features an advisory board with a US Senator (Inoyue), a Congresswoman (Hirono), five former US ambassadors to Japan, and four former Japanese ambassadors to the US. Its mission is to strengthen US-Japan relations and nurture Japanese-American affinity to Japan. The Council has devoted all its efforts these past two months to its Earthquake Relief Fund to support immediate relief and the long-term rebuilding of the Tohoku region of Japan. 100% of donations will go directly to Japanese NGOs, such as the Japan Platform (JPF) and the Center for Public Resource Development (CPRD), umbrella organizations for over 150 NGOs.

#QuakeBook: 2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake is neither an American nonprofit nor even an entity. It is an innovative fundraising effort to create a book of experiences and impressions documenting the Quake and Tsunami created by using Twitter and other Internet media. All the writing, graphics, and production work has been donated, and Amazon and Sony distribute it free electronically with your $9.95 donation going directly to Japan's Red Cross. The international media has spread the word. Excerpts are in the Japan Times. Hard copy distribution is expected in early June. Contributing to the book are Japanese throughout the quake affected areas as well as Yoko Ono and sci-fi writer William Gibson. The book cover is available as a poster and can be purchased HERE. 100% of all funds raised will go to Japan’s Red Cross.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Busy Monday

GI Film Festival, will be held in Washington, DC, May 8-15th. Focus this year on the Korean War and PTSD. In addition to presenting feature, documentary, and short film screenings, the GIFF also presents awards, panel discussions, educational forums and special events.

Third meeting of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) will be held in Washington, DC, May 9-10, 2011.

FEDERAL RESERVE FOR THE 21ST CENTURY: EMPLOYMENT, CONSUMER PROTECTION, AND THE FUTURE OF FINANCIAL REGULATION. 5/9, 9:00am-12:10pm, Washington, DC. Sponsor: New America Foundation. Speakers: Mike Konczal, Roosevelt Institute; Joe Gagnon, Peterson; Dean Baker, Center for Economic and Policy Research; Tim Canova, Chapman University; Travis Plunkett, Consumer Federation of America; Lisa Donner, Americans for Financial Reform; Ed Mierzwinski, US PIRG; Jo Ann Barefoot, Former regulator, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency; Dennis Kelleher, Better Markets; Mike Konczal, Roosevelt Institute.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA IN TURMOIL: THE ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL OUTLOOK. 5/9, 9:15-10:45am, Washington, DC. Sponsor: Carnegie (CEIP). Speakers: Masood Ahmed, director of the International Monetary Fund's Middle East and Central Asia Department; Michele Dunne, senior associate at the CEIP; Marwan Muasher, vice president of studies at CEIP; and Uri Dadush, senior associate and director of the CEIP's International and Economic Program.

COPYRIGHT AND COMMERCE: GUARANTEES OR PROMISES? 5/9, 10:00am-Noon, breakfast, Washington, DC. Sponsor: Copyright Clearance Center. Speakers: Tim Jacoby, associate counsel at the Washington Post; Marybeth Peters, U.S. register of copyrights; and Jon Baumgarten, intellectual property lawyer, partner in the D.C. office of Proskauer.

THE TRILATERAL PROCESS: WASHINGTON, KIEV, MOSCOW AND THE FATE OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS IN UKRAINE. 5/9, 10:00-11:30, Washington, DC. Sponsor: Brookings Institution. Speakers: Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution; Pavel Baev, research professor at the Peace Research Institute Oslo; Steven Pifer, senior fellow in foreign policy at the Center on the United States and Europe; Ukrainian Parliament Deputy Borys Tarasyuk, former foreign minister of Ukraine.

TAIWAN AND EVOLVING CROSS STRAIT RELATIONS. 5/9, 10:15am-12:30pm, Washington, DC. Sponsor: Sigur Center, Elliott School, GWU. Speakers: Shawn McHale, Director, Sigur Center for Asian Studies; Robert Sutter, Adjunct Professor of International Affairs, GW; Colin Kao, First Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Taiwan; Nancy Bernkopf Tucker, Professor of History, Georgetown University; Bruce Dickson, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, GW; Scott Kastner, Associate Professor of International Relations, University of Maryland; Shelley Rigger, Brown Professor of Political Science, Davidson College; Steven Phillips, Director of Asian Studies; Professor of History, Towson University; Edward McCord, Associate Professor of History and International Affairs, GW. 

SYRIA AND IRAN: AN ALLIANCE TESTED. 5/9, Noon-1:15pm, Washington, DC. Sponsor: Wilson Center (WWC). Speaker: Jubin Goodarzi, professor of the International Relations Department at Webster University.

GLOBAL HEU PHASEOUT - PROSPECTS & CHALLENGES. 5/9, Noon-1:30pm, Washington, DC. Sponsor: Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy, American Association for the Advancement of Science; Carnegie Corporation of New York; LBJ School of Public Affairs. Speakers: Randall Forsberg, Harvard University; Margaret Sloane, Harvard University. 

U.S.-RUSSIAN RELATIONS: STAGNATION OR MODERNIZATION? 5/9, Noon-3:30pm, Washington, DC. Sponsor: Hudson Institute. Speakers: David Satter, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute; Lev Ponomarev, President for Human Rights (Moscow) and a leading Russian human rights activist; Ilan Berman, Vice President, American Foreign Policy Council; Stephen Blank, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S Army War College; David Satter, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute; Ariel Cohen (moderator), Senior Research Fellow, Heritage Foundation; Ariel Cohen, Senior Research Fellow, Heritage Foundation; Pavel Ivlev, Director, Institute of Modern Russia; Donald Jensen, Senior Fellow, Center for Transatlantic Relations, SAIS Johns Hopkins; William Pomeranz, Deputy Director, Kennan Institute, The Woodrow Wilson Center.

EVOLUTION OF CHINA'S GOVERNANCE: CHINESE AND AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES. 5/9, Noon-5:15pm, Washington, DC. Sponsor: Brookings Institution's John L. Thornton China Center. Speakers: Stapleton Roy, director of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States; Yu Keping, director of the China Center for Comparative Politics and Economics at Peking University; Wang Changjiang, professor at the Central Party School; Cheng Li, director of research in the John L. Thornton China Center; Kenneth Lieberthal, director of the John L. Thornton China Center; Mary Gallagher, associate professor at the University of Michigan; Shi Hexing, professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance; Jing Yuejing, professor at Tsinghua University.

THE FUTURE OF THE CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE: WHAT'S NEXT FOR CONGRESS' THINK TANK? 5/9, 2:00-3:30pm, Washington, DC. Sponsor: Advisory Committee on Transparency. Participants: Steve Aftergood, senior research analyst at the Federation of American Scientists; Stan Brand, founder of the Brand Law Group; Robyn Russell, legislative assistant to Rep. Mike Quigley, D-IL.; Nye Stevens, former deputy director of the Government and Finance Division of the Congressional Research Service; and Daniel Schumann, policy counsel and director of the Advisory Committee on Transparency. 

U.S. POLICY INTERESTS IN THE ARCTIC. 5/9, 4:30-6:00pm, Washington, DC. Sponsor: CSIS. Speakers: Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg; Adm. Thad Allen, former commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard; David Reed, senior vice president of the World Wildlife Fund; and Heather Conley, director and senior fellow of the CSIS Europe Program.

LENDING TO THE POOR. 5/9, 6:30-8:00pm, Washington, DC. Sponsor: Asia Society Washington Center. Speakers: Alexia Latortue, Deputy CEO, CGAP; Swaminathan Aiyar, Research Fellow at the Cato Institute and Consulting Editor of The Economic Times; Damian von Stauffenberg, Chairman and Founder, Microrate; Sasidhar Thumuluri, Global Business Strategy Manager, International Housing Finance at Habitat for Humanity. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

The History Issues

TAIWAN’S COMFORT WOMEN: AN UNTOLD STORY. 5/4, 3:30-5:00pm, Washington, DC. Sponsor: CNAPS Brookings. Speaker: Sandy Yu-Lan Yeh, CNAPS Visiting Fellow, Taiwan.

RECONCILIATION AND CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY ON WAR CRIMES. 5/4, 10:30am, Washington, DC. Sponsor: German Marshall Fund of the United States. Speaker: Ivo Josipovic, Croatian President.

INTERNATIONAL NAZI-ERA RECORDS INTERNET PORTAL LAUNCH. 5/5, 11:00am, Washington, DC. Sponsor: The National Archives. Speakers: Archivist of the United States David Ferriero; State Department Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues Douglas Davidson; and Digitalization Partnership Coordinator for the National Archives James Hastings.

WOMEN AND WAR. 5/5, 4:00-4:30pm, 5/6, 8:00am-4:30pm, Washington, DC. Sponsor: USIP. Speakers: Book launch and symposium.