Friday, December 30, 2016

Taiwan's Comfort Women

President Ma at opening of Ama Museum
Comfort Women” Museum Opens in Taipei, Reunites Korean Victim with Former Taiwan President

By Dennis Halpin
, visiting scholar at the US-Korea Institute at SAIS (Johns Hopkins University). He previously served as an analyst in the INR Bureau at the State Department and on the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives as an adviser on Asian issues, from 2000 to 2013. he is an APP member.

A version of this essay first appeared in the Global Taiwan Brief, Vol. 1, #13, December 14, 2016 and The Hankyoreh, December 19, 2016.
The highlight of the December 10th opening day of the Ama (阿嬤) (ama is a Taiwanese term of endearment for grandmother; halmuni is used in Korean) Museum was the reuniting of Korean “Comfort Woman” survivor Lee Yong-soo with former President of Taiwan Ma Ying-jeou. Halmuni Lee, 89, who was kidnapped at the age of sixteen and brought to Taiwan to service kamikaze pilots at the Hsinchu air base, had last met with Mr. Ma during his tenure as Taiwan’s President. 

The two embraced each other as old friends. Lee stated that, despite the horrific experience of being repeatedly raped on a daily basis as a young girl, she considers Hsinchu, located in Taiwan, her “second hometown after Daegu, Korea.” Halmuni Lee spoke of the bittersweet irony of the fact that many of the Japanese pilots she was forced to service spent their last night with her before flying off to their suicidal deaths.

Former President Ma stated that the words “Comfort Women” (慰安婦) were a misnomer and should only be used with quotation marks. Ma said that the correct words for what Halmuni Lee and other victims endured would be “military sex slaves” (軍事性奴隸). He said that the “Comfort Women” issue represents an international human rights and women’s rights issue and should be recognized as such, not only by the international community, but by the government of Japan as well. 

President Ma noted the especially harsh taboo in conservative Asian societies for women to discuss anything of a sexual nature, especially when it involves abuse. He pointed out that that was the reason that victims in Taiwan and other countries failed to come forward for almost half a century after the conclusion of the Second World War. He specifically praised the Korean “Comfort Women” victims who had the courage to come forward and publicly discuss their victimization in 1992.

Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation (TWRF, 婦女救援基金會) Executive Director Kang Shu-hua (康淑華) noted that the December 10th date for the museum opening, the first such museum in Taiwan, was deliberately chosen as it is UN Human Rights Day. Ms. Kang described the years of effort expended by TWRF in order to locate both an appropriate site for the museum, a 90-year-old building near downtown Taipei, and to raise the necessary funds for its construction. TWRF Chairperson Shu-Ling Hwang emphasized the universality of the issue raised by the opening of the museum: violence against women in armed conflict. She noted that this is an issue that continues to be relevant in today’s world.

The “Comfort Women” victims from Taiwan, estimated by TWRF to include “about 2,000, possibly more, Taiwanese women aged 14 to 30,” included both indigenous aboriginal women from the island as well as ethnic Han Chinese. TWRF established a hotline in 1992 for survivors to call and identified 58 victims in Taiwan. Only three victims survive today. One of them, Ama Chen Lien-hua (陳蓮花), 92, attended the museum’s official opening ceremony. The other two Taiwanese victims reportedly choose to maintain their anonymity. Taiwan’s Culture Minister, Cheng Li-chun (鄭麗君), who also attended the official ribbon-cutting ceremony, noted that, “as a woman, I admire the courage of the Amas.” The museum includes both biographical information on a number of the Taiwanese victims, as well as artwork prepared by them. TWRF conducted wellness workshops on a regular basis for the identified victims between 1996 and 2012. The workshop participants made use of artistic expression as a form of therapy in dealing with the post-traumatic stress disorder from which they suffered as a result of extensive physical and emotional abuse.

Despite repeated denials by both official and unofficial circles in Japan, TWRF has chronicled extensive documentation verifying the “Comfort Women” military-established brothel system. A copy of a declassified official US government document titled, “Amenities in the Japanese Armed Forces,” published on November 15, 1945, “by command of General MacArthur,” was presented to TWRF as a part of the opening ceremonies. This report, widely referred to as the “MacArthur Report,” lists its sources as “‘captured documents and statements of Prisoners of War.’” It contains specific information about the organized trafficking of both Taiwanese and Korean women to Southeast Asia:

[They] embarked at FUSAN on 10 July 1942 in a group of 703 girls, all Korean, and some 90 Japanese men and women … They sailed on a 4000 ton passenger ship in a convoy of seven ships. Free passage tickets were provided by Army headquarters … They called at Formosa, where 22 girls bound for Singapore were taken on board, and at Singapore they transferred to another ship, arriving at Rangoon on 20 August 1942.

Members of the Korean delegation noted the continuing efforts of Taiwan to achieve a formal settlement with Japan regarding its “Comfort Women” victims. These efforts have so far been rebuffed by Tokyo. The Korean delegates cautioned their Taiwanese counterparts, however, that the agreement reached between Seoul and Tokyo last year regarding the Korean “Comfort Women” was highly flawed and should not be used as a model for any future Taiwan-Japan “Comfort Women” agreement. Phyllis Kim of the Korean American Forum of California also criticized the Seoul-Tokyo agreement reached last year, noting that it did not include any pre-consultations with the “halmuni” victims like Lee Yong-soo who was present in Taipei for the museum opening. Ms. Kim noted that any agreement which does not include the input of the views of those who were directly victimized is obviously not acceptable.

International delegations attended the museum’s opening ceremony, the largest being from Japan. This delegation included Mina Watanabe, General Secretary of the Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace (WAM) in Tokyo and Eriko Ikeda, WAM’s Chair of the Board. The delegation from South Korea included Professor Heisoo Shin, Director of the “Voice of the Comfort Women project for UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register;” Shin-Kwon Ahn, Chairman of the House of Sharing (residency for “Comfort Women” victims), Jeung Seun Anyi, Representative from the Daegu Citizen Forum for Halmuni; and Kuk-Yom Han, Co-Representative of the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan. The American delegation consisted of Phyllis Kim, Executive Director, Korean American Forum of California and her husband, Roy Hong; Tomomi Kinukawa, Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, University of California, Berkeley; and Dennis Halpin [the author], Visiting Scholar, U.S.-Korea Institute, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University. The American delegation brought a congratulatory letter on the museum opening from US Representative Mike Honda of California, the chief sponsor in 2007 of House Resolution 121 calling upon the government of Japan to “formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Forces’ coercion of young women into sexual slavery, known to the world as ‘comfort women.’”

There was also a delegation present from the People’s Republic of China, demonstrating that despite political tensions there can still be cross-Strait solidarity on the “Comfort Women” issue and other issues related to WWII history.

APP's director sent a statement for the record to read at 
the Museum's opening.

December 10, 2016 

Congratulations and greetings from the United States. On behalf of Asia Policy Point’s Board and members, I welcome the opening of the Ama Museum by the Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation. The museum is dedicated to telling and preserving the history of the Taiwanese Comfort Women, those who were forced into sexual slavery by Imperial Japan’s military and government during the 1930s through 1945.

The Ama Museum is a critical addition to world knowledge about this sordid chapter of Japanese imperialism and colonialization. The Ama Museum confirms that rape during warfare is no longer viewed as inevitable or excusable. Rape is no longer believed to be an aggressive manifestation of male sexuality; but it is a sexual manifestation of male aggression. The Ama Musuem is recognition that violence against women is a global health concern and a violation of human rights. The Ama Museum demonstrates that the story of the Comfort Women is not just a grievance between Korea and Japan or a historical war crime.

Most important, The Ama Museum confirms that the Comfort Women are no longer treated as outcasts. And we embrace them.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Niihau Incident: that other fallen Japanese pilot at Pearl Harbor

Shigenori Nishikaichi
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a stop at the stone and cement marker of the crash site of the Navy Lieutenant Fusata Iida at US Naval Air Station Kāneʻohe Bay (today's Marine Corps Base Hawaii). He was the flight leader of carrier Soryu’s squadron of 12 Japanese dive-bombers. The first Japanese aircraft destroyed in action during the December 7 attack were shot down at Kāneʻohe. The Iida marker may be the only marker on a US military installation dedicated to an enemy soldier.

However,  10 Zero pilots and aircraft were lost during the attacks on December 7, 1941.

Below is the story of the 10th pilot who died December 12, 1941 in a struggle with a Hawaiian on Niihau Island. The collaboration of two Japanese residents on the island with the pilot reportedly contributed to Washington's decision to intern Japanese living near the coasts.
The Niihau Incident

BY WILLIAM HALLSTEAD, HistoryNet, 11/12/2000, originally appeared in the November 2000 issue of World War II magazine.

PBS History Detective Special on the The Niihau Incident
A Podcast December 16, 2016 on "Omitted"

By midmorning, December 7, 1941, 22-year-old Airman 1st Class Shigenori Nishikaichi knew his Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero fighter was in serious trouble. Flying escort for a flight of bombers from the Japanese aircraft carrier Shokaku during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Nishikaichi and seven other fighter pilots from the carrier Hiryu had attacked targets in southeastern Oahu. The fighters strafed the U.S. Naval Air Station on the Mokapu Peninsula and then hit Bellows Army Airfield, 10 miles to the south. In both attacks, bombing followed the strafing. The fighters then made another pass to hit additional targets of opportunity.

After the raids, the Zeros reassembled and began the return flight to the carriers. The plan was to rendezvous with returning bombers just north of Oahu’s northern tip. The bombers would then lead the fighters–which had few navigation aids–back to the carriers waiting nearly 200 miles away. Before the Zeros neared the rendezvous point, however, a flight of nine American Curtiss P-36A fighters dived out of nowhere and a one-sided battle ensued. The lightly armed P-36As looked fierce, but they were already obsolete. The Zeros outclimbed, outturned and outran the slower, less maneuverable Curtisses. The American pilots went down one after the other, victims of the Zeros’ superior maneuverability.

In the aerial melee Nishikaichi’s fighter was hit, but at first the damage seemed superficial. As the Zeros regrouped, however, the pilot noticed an excessive rate of fuel consumption. In fact, one of the half-dozen hits on the plane had punctured its gas tank. The engine began to run rough, and Nishikaichi soon fell behind the others. By the time he reached the rendezvous area, he was alone. Then he spotted another Zero approaching, this one ominously trailing smoke.

During the morning briefing aboard Hiryu, the pilots had been told that crippled aircraft should attempt to make emergency landings on tiny Niihau, the westernmost of Hawaii’s seven main islands. There, survivors were to wait along the coast for the arrival of an Imperial Navy I-class submarine assigned to rescue duty. There would be no problems with locals on the island they were assured, since Niihau was uninhabited.

Nishikaichi made a quick calculation based on his rate of fuel consumption and reduced airspeed caused by the now faltering engine. He decided that a try for Niihau, about 130 miles to the west, was more feasible than attempting to reach Hiryu, which probably would be steaming away from Hawaii and back toward Japan. With the other damaged Zero trailing behind, he turned due west.

Twenty minutes later the two limping Zeros passed to the south of Kauai’s green slopes. After a few more minutes, Nishikaichi spotted dead ahead the lava cliffs on the east coast of 18-mile-long, 6-mile-wide Niihau. In tandem, the two faltering Japanese fighters circled the island. At that point Nishikaichi discovered that Japanese Intelligence had blown it. Contrary to the information he had received, the island was clearly inhabited. About a third of the way up the west coast was a large central building, along with several smaller structures. A mile or so beyond that was a small settlement, where he could see a cluster of people standing in front of what appeared to be a church. From his low altitude, Nishikaichi observed that the people appeared to be Polynesian natives.

In some confusion, Nishikaichi flew southwest, away from the island. The other plane followed. Then Nishikaichi faced the inevitable, realizing that he would have to either land on Niihau or crash at sea. He slipped back toward the other plane and signaled its pilot to head back to the island.

The pilot of the other stricken Zero, Airman 2nd Class Saburo Ishii, waved away that suggestion. He had just radioed his carrier, Shokaku, that he intended to return to Oahu and crash-dive into some worthwhile target. A few minutes later, Nishikaichi watched Ishii climb steeply, then inexplicably dive straight into the sea. The shaken Japanese pilot turned toward Niihau and began looking for a place to land.

Nishikaichi soon discovered that whoever lived on Niihau had better prepared that small island for a possible war than the military authorities had on Oahu. With admirable foresight, Niihau’s manager had ordered potential landing sites to be heavily plowed or studded with rock piles.

With his fuel almost gone, Nishikaichi finally found a relatively level, uncluttered stretch of pasture near an isolated house. He eased the Zero into a shallow approach glide and braced himself for a hard landing.

The island Nishikaichi was about to land on was strictly kapu, or forbidden, to any outside member of the public. In 1864, King Kamehameha V had sold Niihau to the Robinson family, in whose hands it has since remained. The native Niihauans–and the Robinson family, for whom most of them work–were and still are a fiercely independent lot. In 1959, Niihau was the one out of Hawaii’s 240 precincts to vote against statehood.

The predominantly native Hawaiian inhabitants herd sheep and cattle and gather honey, and they have made the island famous through the export of highly prized jewelry made of tiny shells collected on the island’s beaches. Humpbacked little Niihau–known throughout Hawaii as the ‘forbidden island’–has a very dry climate since most rainfall is intercepted by the towering mountains of Kauai, 17 miles to the east across the Kaulakahi Channel.

As the Japanese pilot flared out for a landing in this benevolent private fiefdom, the Zero’s wheels struck a wire fence, and the plane nosed in hard. Nishikaichi’s safety harness tore loose, and he slammed against the instrument panel.

Watching the dramatic arrival of the sleek airplane with its red circle markings from his front yard was native Hawaiian Howard Kaleohano. Born and educated on the Big Island of Hawaii, he had been permitted by island manager Aylmer Robinson to visit his sister on Niihau in 1930. He had stayed on and married, becoming one of the few native Hawaiians on the island who was fluent in English.

Kaleohano rushed to the crashed Zero, hauled the groggy pilot out of the wreckage and took away his sidearm and what looked like official papers. Speaking in schoolboy English, Nishikaichi asked Kaleohano if he was Japanese. ‘I am Hawaiian,’ Kaleohano told him. He then took the pilot into his house, where his wife served the visitor breakfast.

When it became evident that Nishikaichi’s limited English was of little use, Japanese-born Ishimatsu Shintani, a 60-year-old beekeeper, was summoned to help. When he arrived, the beekeeper was not at all happy about being asked to translate for the Japanese pilot. Shintani had lived in Hawaii for 41 years, and his children had been born there, so they were by birth American citizens. But Shintani himself was barred from U.S. citizenship by the law then applicable in the Territory of Hawaii. With his own background in mind, Shintani was nervous about becoming involved in this unusual situation. After he and Nishikaichi spoke briefly, Shintani was seen to turn pale, as though he had received a shock. The beekeeper then left the house without relaying much useful information to Kaleohano. Clearly, Kaleohano needed to find someone else to help him.

Next summoned to the scene were the Haradas, who spoke both Japanese and English. Yoshio Harada, 38, had been born to Japanese parents on Kauai in 1903. His birth in Hawaii made him an American citizen, but he had three brothers in Japan, and his wife, Irene, had been born to Japanese parents. Speaking Japanese, Nishikaichi told the Haradas of the attack on Oahu. He also demanded that his pistol and documents be returned. Because the Haradas knew the Niihauans regarded them as more Japanese than Hawaiian, they kept what Nishikaichi had said to themselves. That was the beginning of a sell-out that would cost them–as well as the nation–dearly.

Unaware that the United States was now at war with Japan, the Niihauans treated the pilot to a luau at a nearby house. Nishikaichi even sang a Japanese song at the gathering, accompanying himself on a borrowed guitar. He was probably wondering when the rescue submarine would arrive and send a shore party to escort him aboard. He was not going to be rescued by sub, however. A submarine had indeed been in the vicinity, but at 1:30 p.m. Hawaiian time its commander had been ordered to sail on toward Oahu and intercept any incoming American relief ships.

By nightfall, word of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the other Oahu military installations had reached Niihau by radio. The pilot was questioned anew, and Yoshio Harada realized he had better accurately report what Nishikaichi had told him.

Now the problem was what to do with the enemy pilot. Aylmer Robinson, Niihau’s absentee landlord, lived on Kauai and made weekly visits to Niihau to look after family interests there. The island’s former resident superintendent, John Rennie, had died in September, and Robinson had appointed Harada paymaster in Rennie’s place. That had made Harada a man of stature on Niihau, and he was now torn between his American citizenship and his Japanese heritage. While the Niihauans debated what to do with the enemy interloper, Nishikaichi was lodged for the night at the home of John Kelly, the luau host. The Haradas stayed there with the pilot.

The next day Nishikaichi was taken by tractor to Kii Landing, near the northern tip of the island. Robinson’s boat from Kauai docked at Kii when he made his inspection visits, and he was expected to arrive on December 8. Robinson did not appear, however. Unbeknown to the Niihauans, newly imposed wartime restrictions had precluded boat traffic across the 17-mile channel between the island and Kauai.

The time spent waiting at Kii was an opportunity for Nishikaichi and Harada to converse on the beach by themselves. The pilot apparently had sensed Harada’s ambivalent loyalties, and he began to play on them. If the shaky defense of Oahu was a typical American response, he told the uncertain Harada, Japan was sure to win the war. Nishikaichi gradually won over Harada and, to some degree, Harada’s wife Irene.

On Thursday, December 11, with the pilot still being treated as a guest, albeit not a very welcome one, Harada brought the beekeeper Shintani back into the picture. The three of them conferred privately at Harada’s home, where Nishikaichi was then staying, and the following day Shintani appeared at Howard Kaleohano’s house and demanded the papers he had taken from the plane. Kaleohano refused to give them up. Shintani muttered a threat, and Kaleohano threw him out.

At that point, Harada and the pilot realized they could not count on the old beekeeper, but they were determined to proceed with Nishikaichi’s newly chosen plan for himself–death with honor. By now, the pilot was under casual guard by several Niihauans.

That same day Harada had stolen a shotgun and a pistol from the building near which the Zero had crashed–the Robinsons’ ranch house, now unused and locked. Harada had been entrusted with a key. He loaded the firearms and took them to a warehouse used to store honey from the island’s thriving beekeeping industry.

Returning home, Harada notified his wife and the pilot about the weapons he had secured. Only one of the four assigned guards was on duty at that point. When Nishikaichi asked to use the Haradas’ outhouse, Harada accompanied him outside, followed by the guard. When the pilot emerged, Harada said he had something to attend to at the nearby honey warehouse. The unsuspecting guard accompanied them there. Thereupon Harada and Nishikaichi grabbed the hidden weapons and locked the guard in the warehouse.

Just then, the guard’s wife appeared in a horse-drawn wagon. The two plotters commandeered the wagon and ordered the woman to drive them to Kaleohano’s house, where they allowed the woman to flee on the horse. When they discovered that Kaleohano was not home, the pilot and Harada made a quick trip to the nearby downed plane, which was now guarded by a 16-year-old boy. Nishikaichi tried to work the radio, but to what purpose is uncertain. The two men then forced the young guard to go back to Kaleohano’s house.

Now Kaleohano’s apparent absence was explained when he suddenly rushed from his outhouse, where he had hidden in an effort to escape the armed duo. Harada leveled the shotgun and fired at him–but missed. Being shot at settled Kaleohano’s politics, and he managed to get away from Harada and Nishikaichi. He rushed to the village and warned the residents, then borrowed a horse and headed for the northern tip of the island, intending to build a signal fire. First, however, Kaleohano stopped at his now deserted house and picked up the plane’s papers, which he took to his mother-in-law’s home.

The guard who had been locked in the warehouse was able to escape at that point and dashed to the village, where he corroborated Kaleohano’s earlier story. As a result, nearly all of the villagers fled to remote areas of the island.

A bonfire had already been set on Mount Paniau, Niihau’s highest point, by a group of alarmed men, but when Kaleohano arrived he decided that relying only on signals was too chancy. Shortly after midnight, he and five others set off in a lifeboat from Kii Landing to Waimea, on Kauai, a 10-hour pull against the wind.

Robinson, who had learned about the signal fire and was chaffing under the travel prohibition, was astounded when he received a phone call from Kaleohano in Waimea. For several days Robinson had been trying to get the commander of the Kauai Military District to send a boat to Niihau, but the Navy’s ban on all boat traffic had frustrated his efforts. Now briefed by Kaleohano on the situation, Robinson finally received approval to organize a rescue mission.

In the meantime, Nishikaichi and Harada recaptured the escaped guard and forced him to walk through the deserted village, calling on any remaining inhabitants to come out of their houses. Only one man, Kaahakila Kalima, appeared, giving the renegades their second prisoner. They then returned to the plane, stripped off the Zero’s machine guns and remaining ammunition and stowed them on a wagon. They also tried to burn the plane, but the fire they set in the cockpit did not spread. Harada sent Kalima to tell Irene that he would not be returning that night. Then he and the pilot–apparently drunk with power–walked through the now silent village firing their weapons and yelling for Kaleohano to surrender.

Once away from his captors, Kalima made for the beach, where he found his wife along with Ben Kanahele and Ben’s wife. Kanahele, 49, was a 6-foot native Hawaiian sheep rancher, noted for his prodigious strength. Kalima and Kanahele managed to avoid Nishikaichi and Harada and removed the machine-gun ammo from the wagon. But when they and their wives attempted to return to the village for food, they were captured.

After nightfall on December 12, Nishikaichi and Harada searched Kaleohano’s house for the plane’s papers, then burned it down in frustration. They then forced Ben Kanahele to search for Kaleohano. Kanahele, who knew that Kaleohano had left for Kauai, put on a show of calling for him.

Nishikaichi, now holding the shotgun and with the pistol stuck in his boot, told Kanahele that if he could not produce Kaleohano, he and all the others on the island would be shot. The placid Niihauans were normally slow to anger, but by this time the islanders had had enough. Speaking Hawaiian, Ben Kanahele demanded that Harada take away the pilot’s pistol. Harada refused, but he indicated to Nishikaichi that he needed the shotgun.

As the pilot handed over the gun, Kanahele and his wife lunged at him. Nishikaichi was too quick for them. He yanked the pistol from his boot and shot Kanahele in the chest, hip and groin. Enraged, the big Hawaiian grabbed the pilot, hoisted him in the air and threw him against a nearby stone wall. Grabbing a rock, Kanahele’s wife began to bash the fallen pilot’s head. Kanahele then drew a knife and slit Nishikaichi’s throat. Harada, no doubt realizing that he had abetted a disastrous chain of events, jammed the shotgun muzzle into his own gut and pulled the trigger.

When an Army rescue party from Kauai finally arrived the following morning, it seemed that the remarkable episode was over. But that was not the end of the story.

Ben Kanahele recovered from his wounds. In August 1945 he was awarded two presidential citations, the Medal of Merit and the Purple Heart.

For his peripheral part in the Niihau incident, Ishimatsu Shintani was taken into custody and interned on the U.S. mainland throughout the war. He blamed Japan more than the United States for his actions. With the postwar repeal of racial barriers to immigration, he became a naturalized American citizen in 1960.

Irene Harada lost not only her husband but also her freedom. Thought to be a Japanese spy, she was jailed on Kauai on December 15, 1941. She was transferred to a military prison on Oahu, where she was reportedly questioned but held her silence. Irene was released in late 1944 and returned to Niihau, embittered for life.

The actions of Shintani and the Haradas, all Niihauans of Japanese ancestry, were noted in a January 1942 Navy report as indications of the ‘likelihood that Japanese residents previously believed loyal to the United States may aid Japan.’ With the nation in an uproar over the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, there can be no doubt that the Niihau event influenced the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to summarily remove more than 100,000 persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast and intern them in the U.S. interior.

In Hashihama, Japan, the hometown of young pilot Shigenori Nishikaichi, there is a stone column that was erected in his honor. Chiseled in granite is a version of his exploits over Oahu that claims he died ‘in battle.’ Also engraved there are the words: ‘His meritorious deed will live forever.’

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Abe at Pearl Harbor

Japanese PM Abe hugs survivor
Abe offers ‘everlasting condolences’ at Pearl Harbor as Obama praises partnership in peace


Japan Times, December 28, 2016

HONOLULU – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s historic visit to Pearl Harbor wrapped up Tuesday with addresses from the Japanese leader and U.S. President Barack Obama on the power of reconciliation and its ability to transform once-hated enemies into close friends and strategic partners.

Seventy five years after the “day of infamy,” on Dec. 7, 1941, when Japan attacked U.S. forces at Pearl Harbor, Abe and Obama recalled the past but also focused on the importance of the present postwar U.S.-Japan strategic alliance. Abe’s visit and meeting with Obama, who leaves office in less than a month, was an attempt to gird the legacies of both leaders in the Asia-Pacific region in the face of uncertainties surrounding the fate of bilateral relations under President-elect Donald Trump.

In a meeting between the two leaders, Abe thanked Obama for his efforts to work with Japan on a number of issues ranging from dealing with North Korea’s nuclear program to his support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, despite opposition by congress and large portions of the American public, as well as Trump, who has announced he will cancel the TPP on his first day in office.

For Abe, the hope is that his trip to Pearl Harbor also sends a message to the U.S., and especially to Trump, that the long-standing postwar relationship should continue, and that the military alliance in particular needs to be strengthened in order to deal with a host of challenges relating to regional security.

While U.S. veterans of Pearl Harbor invited to attend Tuesday’s ceremony appreciated Abe’s visit, how it will be received by the larger American public remains uncertain. Some groups expressed disappointment that Abe offered no apology for the attack, or suggested his administration needs to make similar efforts at reconciliation with not only the U.S. but also other nations victimized by Japan during the 1930s and 1940s.

In a carefully worded address that avoided an apology for Japan’s decision to go to war with the U.S., Abe spoke about the necessity of never repeating the horrors of war. [TEXT]

“As prime minister of Japan, I offer my sincere and everlasting condolences to the souls of those who lost their lives here, as well as to the spirits of all the brave men and women whose lives were taken by a war that commenced in this very place, and also to the souls of the countless innocent people who became victims of the war,” he said.

Abe, who favors revising Japan’s postwar pacifist Constitution to allow for a more proactive military, added that since World War II, Japan has resolutely upheld its vow to never again wage war.

“To the souls of the servicemen who lie in eternal rest aboard the USS Arizona, to the American people, and to all peoples around the world, I pledge that unwavering vow as the prime minister of Japan,” he said.

Obama, who hosted the prime minister in Pearl Harbor seven months after Abe hosted him at Hiroshima, called the visit a historic gesture and also spoke of reconciliation and Pearl Harbor’s historical legacy. [TEXT]

“We cannot choose the history that we inherit. But we can choose what lessons to draw from it. The fruits of peace always outweigh the plunder of war. This is the enduring truth of this hallowed harbor,” Obama said in his remarks following Abe’s address.

In a veiled reference to concerns both in and outside the U.S. created by Trump’s election, Obama also referenced the Japanese phrase otagai no tame ni — doing things with and for each other — as words to follow when resisting the urge to demonize others or turn inwards.

“Over the decades, our alliance has made both of our nations more successful. It has helped to underwrite an international order that has prevented another world war and that has lifted more than a billion people out of extreme poverty. And today, the alliance between the United States and Japan — bound not only by shared interests, but also rooted in common values — stands as the cornerstone of peace and stability in the Asia Pacific and a force for progress around the globe. Our alliance has never been stronger,” Obama said.

Following their statements, Abe and Obama shook hands and exchanged greetings with three survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack, who are now in their 90s. All three welcomed Abe’s visit.

“Apologize for the attack on Pearl Harbor? What for? There’s nothing to apologize for. The U.S. and Japan are friends now,” said Everett Hyland, who was on board the USS Pennsylvania when the attack began and was severely injured by a bomb.

Total U.S. casualties for the Pearl Harbor attack were 2,403 dead and 1,178 wounded.

Abe received a brief tour of the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center before proceeding to the Arizona memorial and holding a separate meeting with Obama. He then addressed a crowd that included large numbers of U.S. military personnel and Japanese-American residents of Hawaii.

The visitors center includes displays and explanations of the political situation in the U.S. and in Japan in the 1930s, describing the decisions, especially by Japan, that led to the attack as well as details of the attack itself. It also describes the impact it had in the U.S. as a whole and on Hawaii’s Japanese-American community.

The center’s chief historian, Daniel Martinez, told Abe that “The exhibits reflect the voices and views of people who were involved in the attack or the war, not the opinions of academics.” Abe was accompanied by Defense Minister Tomomi Inada — who in the past has espoused revisionist views of Japan’s wartime history — and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.

Abe’s gesture was widely welcomed in Hawaii and among Americans and Japanese who deal directly with each other. Its impact in the U.S. as a whole, three-quarters of a century after the attack, is less clear. For most Americans, Pearl Harbor was a long time ago — a different century.

However, for those concerned about historical reconciliation issues in the Asia-Pacific region, there were calls to continue the reconciliation process, especially with Japan’s Asian neighbors.

In an open letter released on Christmas Day, over 50 international historians, filmmakers — including director Oliver Stone — and others asked the prime minister about his views on Japan’s history and about previous public statements he’d made.

“You state that you are going to visit Pearl Harbor to ‘mourn’ the 2,400 Americans who perished in the attack. If that is the case, will you also be visiting China, Korea, other Asia-Pacific nations, or the other Allied nations for the purpose of ‘mourning’ war victims in those countries who number in the tens of millions?” the group asked.

They added that in Diet questioning on April 23, 2013, Abe, as prime minister, indicated that the definition of what constitutes “aggression” has yet to be established in academia or in the international community.

“Does that mean that you do not recognize Japan’s war against the Allied and Asia-Pacific nations and the preceding war against China as wars of aggression?” the scholars asked.

Jan Thompson, president of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society, said she was impressed by the sincerity of Abe’s speech, saying it took moral courage. She said she knew that he would not apologize for the Pearl Harbor attack but encouraged him to visit other Asian countries as well.

“It’s taken 75 years for us to get to this point where a Japanese prime minister can come to Pearl Harbor and make that kind of a speech. However, while some people are saying that his visit means reconciliation with the wartime past is over, it’s actually only one step on the road. Reconciliation is cross-generational,” she said.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Japan reconsiders and reinterprets the Pearl Harbor attack

And ignores the Prime Minister's upcoming visit

BY MARK SCHREIBER, a Tokyo-based writer

THE JAPAN TIMES, December 24, 2016

In May, U.S. President Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to make a historic visit to Hiroshima, the city that became the birthplace of the age of nuclear warfare. It should come as no surprise that Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, is scheduled to make a reciprocal gesture of reconciliation this week, possibly making him the first sitting Japanese prime minister to visit the USS Arizona Memorial.

So far, however, news coverage in Japan has been disappointingly spotty, partly because the story has been eclipsed by the usual year-end roundups, interspersed with breaking news stories: the Osprey crash in Okinawa and resulting blowback; the terrorist incident in Berlin; heavy pollution in Beijing; and President-elect Donald Trump’s latest tweet.

In December, the January 2017 issue of prestigious monthly magazine Bungei Shunju was released with a 13-page essay by history critic Masayasu Hosaka titled “Pearl Harbor: The true nature of the blunder.” Though written long before the announcement of Abe’s upcoming visit, it nonetheless provides some scholarly insights into how Japanese reacted to news of the attack 75 years ago.

At 7 a.m., on Monday, Dec. 8, 1941, a young NHK announcer named Morio Tateno told radio listeners, “The Naval department of Imperial headquarters announced that at 6 a.m. today the Imperial Navy, during predawn hours, initiated hostilities with the British and American navies in the Western Pacific.”

On the night of Dec. 8, Prime Minister Hideki Tojo invited the heads of the army and navy to celebrate with a Chinese-style repast at the prime minister’s residence, during which he effused over the “better than anticipated results” of the attack and expressed anticipation of President Franklin Roosevelt’s imminent downfall. Extra editions of newspapers were passed out to pedestrians on the streets and stirring martial tunes such as “Warship March” emanated from loudspeakers. Company workers at their morning assemblies were exhorted to exclaim “banzai” cheers. Stock prices on the Tokyo exchange shot up by 10 percent.

As Hosaka observes in Bungei Shunju, “The exhilaration over the successful attack on Pearl Harbor was the beginning of what was to become a stream of glorified lies on the progression of the war.”

But, unlike Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, who went to war with the specific goal of recovering their former empires’ lost territories, Japan had no clearly defined purpose for initiating hostilities.

“Having gone to war with vague goals,” he wrote, “Japan had no means of determining how to bring the war to an end. Even after Tojo’s Cabinet fell, it could not speedily halt the war.”

This year, several magazines chose to run articles about Pearl Harbor with strongly revisionist slants. The January issue of conservative monthly Rekishi-tu featured two, one that accused the wily President Roosevelt of “maneuvering” Japan into attacking the U.S., and another maintaining U.S. intelligence had broken the Japanese naval code before Pearl Harbor and, therefore, had advance knowledge of the attack. The January issue of Shincho 45 magazine ran an article that claimed British leader Winston Churchill knew of the Japanese plans but chose not to inform the Americans. Move on folks, nothing new here.

In a live telephone interview on New York’s WABC Radio, Tokyo-based American entertainer Dave Spector remarked, “In America, it’s ‘Remember Pearl Harbor.’ In Japan it’s more like ‘Forget Pearl Harbor.’ “

Nonetheless, in a poll of 959 people conducted earlier this month by NHK, 34 percent of respondents said they “strongly approve” of Abe’s visit, with another 48 percent giving their qualified approval. Only 3 percent voiced completely negative opinions.

On the other hand, Sunday Mainichi (Dec. 25) opined, perhaps Abe’s not the right person to go there. After all, over the past several years it has been the Emperor and Empress who traveled to Saipan, Palau and the Philippines to console the war dead. A visitor from the Imperial Family would carry more weight than a prime minister and, Abe’s good intentions notwithstanding, it’s unlikely his visit will erase the lingering U.S. sentiment that the attack on Pearl Harbor was a “cowardly act.”

Contradicting most news reports, meanwhile, it appears that Abe might not necessarily be the first sitting Japanese prime minister to visit the USS Arizona Memorial after all. Shukan Post (Jan. 1-6) claims the former Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita also went there in June 1988, during his tenure as Japan’s leader.

Takeshita, while traveling aboard a government-chartered Japan Airlines DC-10, stopped in Hawaii on the return leg of a summit meeting in Toronto. The magazine’s check of airport flight records notes that Takeshita’s aircraft first flew from Toronto via Chicago to the island of Maui on June 24, for a two-night stay. At 8 a.m. on June 26, he flew to Oahu, and returned to Tokyo’s Haneda at 6:23 p.m.

Allowing for a flight of 30 minutes from Maui to Oahu, and the seven to eight hours flying time between Honolulu and Haneda, Takeshita would have had a stopover of from one to two hours in Oahu. No records exist, however, of his having gone to Pearl Harbor.

“While no record of such a visit exists, there have been cases where visitors do not go through military channels,” Daniel Martinez, chief historian at the USS Arizona Memorial, explained to Shukan Post.

A member of Takeshita’s entourage says that the prime minister slipped away to Pearl Harbor while the others in his entourage went golfing, so only a few Diet members could have accompanied him. Efforts to identify other eyewitnesses were inconclusive, but the story’s source emphasized, “I’ve only been to the Arizona memorial once, so my recollection couldn’t possibly be wrong.”

The Dec. 24 Tokyo Shimbun can claim bragging rights for nick-of-time historical research. It has discovered that two other prime ministers, Ichiro Hatoyama and Nobusuke Kishi, also visited Pearl Harbor during their tenures, in 1956 and 1957 respectively. The Hawaii Hochi newspaper covered the events.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Japan Conference from its own perspective

Japan Conference policy official speaks to the group’s objectives, influence upon Abe government

Akira Momochi
Nikkei, October 9, 2016, p. 12 
Provisional translation for academic use by APP

The Nikkei Shimbun interviewed recently Nihon University Professor Akira Momochi, a member of the Japan Conference’s policymaking committee, on the objective of the organization and its influence on the Abe Government.

Q: What is the objective of the Japan Conference [Nippon Kaigi]?

Some people point out that we are trying to revert to the prewar [regime], but that is wrong. It is also [biased] to label “prewar” as “evil.” We campaign for stopping the rejection of the inherent virtues of the Japanese and for restoring their traditions.

Q: What are the characteristics [of the Japan Conference]?

There used to be various conservative groups, but they had difficulty tapping into the younger generation. The Japan Conference has local chapters in 47 prefectures. We are rolling out “grassroot conservative campaigns,” such as collecting signatures and petitioning local assemblies, and have produced significant results. Recently, more young people are becoming members.

NB: A group of young American progressives with extensive political experience wrote a manifesto outlining how to oppose the Trump Administration. They modeled their advice on the success of the American Tea Party. Momochi's focus on local politics mirrors this manifesto, called Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda: Former congressional staffers reveal best practices for making Congress listen. So much for "unique Japan."

Q: Is your campaign for constitutional revision spreading across the country?

Supporters [for our constitutional revision campaign] have been steadily growing in numbers. The existing Constitution was drafted by the General Headquarters of the Allied Forces during the Occupation, and this fact was concealed back then. We need to revise the Constitution so that it caters to our needs today.

Q: A recent publication points out that the Japan Conference pulls the strings of the Abe government. Is this true?

I want to ask those who make this argument the following question: Is there anyone inside the Abe government who thinks they are being manipulated by the Japan Conference? No. We don’t entertain such an impudent idea either. Those who are behind this plot must be developing the idea of overthrowing the Japan Conference, because they fear the growing momentum for constitutional revision. We have a membership of slightly less than 40,000. Other groups are far bigger than us.

Q: But a parliamentarians’ league that supports your organization is joined by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and many other influential politicians.

Our parliamentarians’ group indeed has many influential people and incumbent cabinet ministers, but this holds true for other parliamentarians’ leagues. We would appreciate the Abe government’s implementing policies we want, but it is not necessarily aligned with us [on every corner]. That is why we struggle. Constitutional revision is one example. We want the government to hasten efforts, but that is not the case in reality.

Q: The statement issued on the 70th anniversary of the end of war contains the language “remorse” and sparked criticism of Abe from conservative critics.

We understand that the criticism comes mainly from pundits who support ideological purity. We roll out “national campaigns,” so we understand Abe’s stance that needs to pay consideration to the reality. We continue to have high hopes on Abe

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Renewing America and Trump

click to order
Trumponomics: Can He Move Beyond Bluster to a Competitiveness Policy?

by Edward Alden, Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, author, Failure to Adjust

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Vice-President Elect Mike Pence tour a Carrier factory in Indianapolis, Indiana (Mike Segar/Reuters).

It was hard not to root for President-elect Donald Trump when he went to the Carrier air conditioning factory in Indianapolis to announce a deal to save about 800 jobs the company had planned to move to Mexico. For those who have not watched it, the video that surfaced during the election—in which a company manager tells assembled workers their jobs will be sacrificed to “stay competitive and protect the business for the long term”—is a film noir of heartless corporate greed in an open global economy.

Yet the move has been roundly savaged—by conservatives, who say the President-elect is picking winners and losers, and by liberals, who point out that Trump exaggerated and that Carrier is still moving hundreds of jobs to Mexico, and besides, President Obama saved far more jobs when he rescued the auto industry.

And, cynics are quick to add, most manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back, and Trump should stop pretending otherwise; automation threatens them more than the move to lower-wage countries.

Anywhere you turn, you can find glib dismissals. Washington Post conservative columnist George Will wrote that, in Trump’s new approach, “political coercion shall supplant economic calculation in shaping decisions by companies.” Former Bill Clinton Treasury Secretary Larry Summers warned that “we have started down the road towards changing the operating assumptions of our capitalism.”

Even former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, hardly a darling of the establishment, denounced the deal: “Republicans oppose this, remember,” she wrote. “Because we know special interest crony capitalism is one big fail.”

In the face of this stiff wind, pardon me for sympathizing with Trump’s efforts and thinking that no good deed goes unpunished.

I fully admit the Carrier deal is imperfect. It preserved only half the jobs and required a bribe from the state’s taxpayers. But it was at least a small blow against such rootless profit-seeking.

That’s why the move was broadly popular, with 60% of Americans, including 87% of Republicans and 40% of Democrats, saying it improved their opinion of Trump.

“Rarely do we see numbers that high when looking at how specific messages and events shape public opinion,” said Kyle Dropp, chief research officer at Morning Consult, which conducted the poll with Politico.

Changing the “operating assumptions of our capitalism”—among them that it is not only acceptable but commendable for corporate managers to replace $25-an-hour Americans with $3-an-hour Mexicans—is exactly what many Trump voters want. They are part of a sizeable group that understandably feels, as I put it in the subtitle of my new book, “left behind by the global economy,” having lost their once middle-class jobs to the rapid pace of technological change and trade competition.

Some 6 million manufacturing jobs, about one-third of all such jobs, disappeared during the 2000s, and few have come back.

With Trump, this group seems finally to have a leader fighting for them. He followed up the Carrier deal by blasting another Indiana manufacturer, Rexnord, which plans to move about 300 jobs to Mexico, and then told Time magazine: “I want to get a list of companies that have announced they’re leaving. I can call them myself five minutes apiece, they won’t be leaving.”

The question now is whether Trump’s Twitter rants and promises to jawbone companies one by one can amount to a coherent economic vision that might transcend the partisan divides that have long paralyzed economic policy in Washington. Even before taking office, Trump has reshuffled the ideological deck. His challenge now is to move beyond bluster and enact real policies that strengthen America’s economic competitiveness.

If he succeeds, in a few years he will be roundly and rightly cheered. If he fails, he will sorely disappoint those who elected him.

The field is wide open for someone to champion the long-suffering American worker. New research from a team led by economist Raj Chetty at Stanford, for example, has concluded that the American Dream has stalled for many. In 1970, 92% of 30-year-olds earned more than their parents had at the same age; today barely half do.

Yet in the face of this erosion, Republicans since Ronald Reagan have advanced a version of free-market capitalism in which government should cut taxes, slash regulations and get out of the way of corporate decision-makers, believing this would create a dynamic capitalism that would help most Americans. The GOP slammed President Obama’s bailout of the auto industry, for example, which saved far more jobs than the Carrier deal at no cost to taxpayers, as unnecessary government intrusion in the market.

Democrats, meantime, have used government regulations to soften the edges of competition, but still genuflected before the global ambitions of corporations. President Clinton bucked the labor unions and a majority in his own party to back the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada, while Barack Obama—who ran in 2008 as a NAFTA opponent—came to embrace the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal with Asia.

In the end, both parties came out in a similar place, supporting trade rules that opened up global markets to American corporations, and lowered prices for U.S. consumers. They then let the chips fall where they might for those American workers harmed by import competition and outsourcing.

What Trump has recognized, and ridden to power, is that this notion of pure free-market competition was always a bit of a sham. While the United States was championing Marquess of Queensbury rules for trade and investment, many other governments were behaving more aggressively.

China uses the full array of government powers—subsidies, cheap land, regulatory preferences, technology theft and discrimination against foreign competitors—to propel its steel, auto, solar, semiconductor and aerospace industries. The Mexican government proudly boasts that in the 1970s and 80s, it “granted large incentive packages to entice foreign manufacturing” and that today, after a lull in the 2000s, “once again, valuable incentive packages are on the table.” Germany and France put pressure on their large companies to invest and create jobs at home.

Even in the United States, while Washington has long been hands-off on investment, the states have been far more aggressive. Reliably Republican Texas hands out nearly $20 billion to corporations each year in investment incentives, mostly tax breaks. Massachusetts and city of Boston coughed up $145 million—$181,000 per job—to lure General Electric to move its headquarters from Fairfield, Connecticut. New Jersey under Gov. Chris Christie has offered some $4 billion in incentives, including millions to JP Morgan Chase to move more than 2,000 jobs from Manhattan to Jersey City.

The hand-wringing over the $7 million offered to Carrier seems rather overblown by comparison.

So having a President who jumps in the trenches and fights for investment, and for good jobs for American workers, is long overdue.

The problem is that battling deal by deal, which seems to be Trump’s preferred approach, will do little to address America’s bigger competitive challenges. That will require working with both parties in Congress on policies that change the competitive landscape from the ground up.

The easiest piece to fix may be corporate taxes. While U.S. corporate taxes used to be low by global standards, the competition for investment has seen every other major country cut its tax rates, so that the top U.S. rate of 35% is now the highest in the developed world. Reducing it—while simultaneously tightening rules that allow large tax breaks for foreign investments—would help level the playing field.

With Republicans in charge in Congress, regulations will be another target. This one is trickier. While the United States is not over-regulated compared to most European economies, it suffers from regulatory creep, in which new rules pile on top of old ones, creating mountains of paperwork for smaller companies in particular.

Trump’s “one in, two out” proposal, in which two old regulations must be axed for every new one created, was used successfully in the UK.

While these measures would reduce the costs of investing in the U.S., they are far from sufficient. Successful U.S. manufacturers have a hard time finding the skilled workers they need, yet Trump has been silent on worker retraining. The United States spends far less on worker retraining than its economic competitors do.

Trump has promised a much-needed rebuild of aging U.S. infrastructure, which would also create good construction jobs, but his preferred mechanism—tax credits—would only help on projects that promise investor returns, such as toll roads in urban areas. No private investor is going to pay to fix the water supply for Flint, Michigan.

That means Trump must take on the tax-cutters in his own party to preserve funds for these initiatives. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s tax plan is heavily skewed to the wealthy, as was Trump’s own campaign plan. It was encouraging to hear the nominee for Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, say that only the middle class, which actually needs the money, would see tax reductions under his preferred plan.

And Trump quite sensibly wants to win more in global markets. The U.S. share of global exports, for example, has fallen sharply over the past decade while China’s has soared and Germany has held its ground. Yet it was the Republican Party that in 2015 shut down the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which gives a significant boost to U.S. exports at no taxpayer cost, claiming it was a tool of “crony capitalism” because it helps big U.S. exporters like Boeing and Caterpillar.

And will Trump embrace Obama’s network of manufacturing innovation centers to help the U.S. lead in new manufacturing technologies like 3-D printing and next-generation semiconductors? Congressional Republicans oppose those as needless government interference in the market.

Trump’s shot across the bow to Carrier, Ford and other companies was refreshing. He is using the bully pulpit to try to persuade American companies to do what they used to do, which is to take some responsibility for the communities in which they have invested. Michael Porter, the Harvard Business School competitiveness guru, has called this the “business commons”—training a local workforce and supporting local suppliers, for example. If Trump has forced U.S. companies to think twice before they pull up the stakes, that will be a positive outcome.

But the threats carry dangers as well. If Trump were to slap tariffs indiscriminately on imports, as he has warned, it would trigger a downward spiral of trade retaliation that would harm American companies and workers. His decision to pull out of the TPP—which could give the U.S. a real edge in the competition for investment with China—rather than renegotiate to improve the deal, was short-sighted. And his tough talk has already led to a sharp decline in the Mexican peso, furthering Mexico’s cost advantage over the United States.

Trump has a chance to break the ideological gridlock that for too long has prevented the United States from developing a strategy for competing in global markets, and he has rightly insisted that American companies be part of that solution rather than part of the problem. But he will need to carry through and champion a real set of pro-competitive policies to turn his rhetoric into reality.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Monday in Washington, December 12, 2016

CHINA'S 15TH WTO ANNIVERSARY:ASSESSING THE RECORD AND CHARTING THE PATH FORWARD. 12/12, 9:00am-Noon. Sponsor: Freeman Chair in China Studies, CSIS. Speakers: Charlene Barshefsky, Senior International Partner, WilmerHale; and Former U.S. Trade Representative; Rufus Yerxa, President, National Foreign Trade Council; Claire Reade, Senior Counsel, Arnold & Porter; and Senior Associate, CSIS; Yang Guohua, Professor of Law, Tsinghua University; Matthew Yeo, Partner, Steptoe & Johnson; Chad P. Bown, Senior Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics, Yi Xiaozhun, Deputy Director-General, World Trade Organization; Scott Kennedy, Deputy Director, Freeman Chair in China Studies; and Director, Project on Chinese Business and Political Economy, CSIS; Wendy Cutler, Vice President and Managing Director, Washington Office, Asia Society Policy Institute.

U.S. SECURITY ASSISTANCE AND HUMAN RIGHTS. 12/12, 10:00-11:30am. Sponsor: Brookings, Project on International Order and Strategy. Speakers: Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski; Brookings Senior Fellows Daniel Byman and Ted Piccone.

U.S.-KOREA RELATIONS IN THE ERA OF TRUMP. 12/12, Noon-1:30pm. Sponsor: Korea Economic Institute (KEI). Speakers: David Pong, Hanmi Club Chairman, Former National Assembly Member; George Allen, Former U.S. Senator & Governor; Kang In-sun, Washington Bureau Chief, Chosun Ilbo; Lee Sang-seok, Vice Chairman, Hankook Ilbo & Korea Times; Donald Manzullo, President, CEO, KEI; Mark Tokola, Vice President, KEI.

FROM NORTH KOREAN PRISONER TO FREEDOM FIGHTER: A CONVERSATION WITH KANG CHEOL-HWAN. 12/12, Noon–1:30pm. Sponsor: The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. Speaker: Kang Cheol-Hwan, a North Korean defector and a former prisoner of North Korea’s prison camps.

THE NEW SECTARIANISM: THE ARAB SPRING AND THE REBIRTH OF THE SHI’A-SUNNI DIVIDE. 12/12, Noon-1:30pm. Sponsor: Atlantic Council. Speakers: Geneive Abdo, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, Atlantic Council; Joyce Karam, Washington Bureau Chief, Al-Hayat.

WHAT HAPPENS IN THE ARCTIC WILL NOT STAY IN THE ARCTIC: U.S. ARCTIC IMPERATIVES. 12/12, 12:15-1:45pm. Sponsor: Center for Canadian Studies and the International Relations Program, SAIS, Johns Hopkins. Speakers: Ambassador Mark F. Brzezinski, Executive Director of the U.S. Government's Arctic Executive Steering Committee (AESC); Charles F. Doran, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of International Relations.

U.S. POLICY TOWARD NORTH KOREA: THE HUMAN RIGHTS AND SECURITY LINKAGE. 12/12, 1:30-3:00pm. Sponsor: Brookings. Speakers: Amb. Robert King, Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues, US Department of State; Jonathan D. Pollack, Interim SK-Korea Foundation Chair in Korea Studies, Center for East Asia Policy Studies, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, John L. Thornton China Center; Moderator: Richard C. Bush, Michael H. Armacost Chair, Chen-Fu and Cecilia Yen Koo Chair in Taiwan Studies, Director, Center for East Asia Policy Studies, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, John L. Thornton China Center.

THE NEW MYANMAR: AN ADDRESS BY AMB AUNG LYNN. 12/12, 1:30-3:30PM. Sponsor: George Washington University, Elliott School. Speaker: Amb. Aung Lynn of Myanmar.

UPDATE FROM THE MARRAKECH CLIMATE CHANGE SUMMIT. 12/12, 2:00-3:00pm. Sponsor: Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI). Speaker: Christo Artusio, Director, Office of Global Change, U.S. Department of State.

PRESIDENTIAL LEADERSHIP IN THE FIRST YEAR. 12/12, 3:00-6:00pm. Sponsors: Governance Studies at Brookings and the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. Speakers: Martin S. Indyk, Executive Vice President, Brookings Institution; William J. Antholis, Director and CEO - Miller Center; Barbara A. Perry, Director of Presidential Studies and Co-Chair of the Presidential Oral History Program - Miller Center, Project Director of the Edward M. Kennedy Oral History Project - Miller Center, White Burkett Miller Center Professor of Ethics and Institutions - Miller Center; Chris Lu, Deputy Secretary - Department of Labor; Josh Bolten, Managing Director - Rock Creek Global Advisors; Elaine Kamarck, Founding Director - Center for Effective Public Management, Senior Fellow - Governance Studies; Moderator: Nicole Hemmer, Assistant Professor - Miller Center, Columnist – Vox; Dan Crippen, Assistant to the President and Domestic Policy Advisor - President Reagan; Jen Psaki, Director of Communications - White House; Dan Meyer, Director of Legislative Affairs - George W. Bush Administration; Moderator: Martin S. Indyk, Executive Vice President, Brookings Institution; Bruce Jones, Vice President and Director - Foreign Policy, Senior Fellow - Foreign Policy, Project on International Order and Strategy; Philip Zelikow, White Burkett Miller Professor of History - University of Virginia; Eric S. Edelman, Former U.S. Under Secretary of Defense.

THE GOOD OCCUPATION: AMERICAN SOLDIERS AND THE HAZARDS OF PEACE. 12/12, 4:00-5:30pm. Sponsor: Wilson Center, History and Public Policy Program. Speaker: Susan L. Carruthers is Professor of History (US & the World) at Rutgers University-Newark, The Good Occupation: American Soldiers and the Hazards of Peace (Harvard University Press, 2016).

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Abe and Putin May Finally End World War II Next Week

Abe and Putin May Finally End World War II Next Week

A hot springs summit might solve the 70-year dispute over an isolated string of islands that Russian and Japanese nationalists both claim as their own.

Foreign Policy, December 8, 2016

If all goes according to plan, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will slip into a steaming bath next week with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a hot spring in Abe’s hometown of Nagato, which faces Russia across the Sea of Japan. Abe’s goal in hosting Putin at a traditional onsen, as such hot spring baths are known, is nothing less than making history — to persuade the Russian leader to finally sign a peace treaty that would formally settle World War II. This deal has eluded Russian and Japanese leaders many times since their first failed attempt in 1956, always foundering on a dispute over a string of islands that run within miles of Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido and were seized by the Red Army in the last days of that war.

For Abe, this onsen summit is both personal and strategic. He has invested an unprecedented amount of political capital and personal time building a rapport with Putin, holding more than a dozen meetings with the Russian leader since Abe took office some four years ago. His foreign and economic ministers have been shuttling back and forth to Russia to lay the groundwork for the summit, making a final visit this past weekend.

Reportedly, Abe yearns to fulfill the dream of his father, Shintaro Abe, also a leading conservative politician for more than three decades going back to the late 1950s. In the 1980s, when he was foreign minister, the elder Abe spent years forging ties with then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in hopes that a peace deal would make him prime minister. His son also wants to drive a geopolitical wedge between Russia and China and assert Japan’s ability to forge its own foreign policy beyond the boundaries of the alliance with the United States.

Putin also has much at stake at the hot springs. He hopes to get Japan to break ranks with the West’s post-Crimea sanctions regime, attract a flow of Japanese investment, especially into the dilapidated Russian Far East, and, not incidentally, send a small message to Beijing that Russia has other benefactors in Asia.

Not in the bath, but bubbling beneath the surface, is a third actor in this drama: the newly elected U.S. president, Donald Trump. His seemingly benign view of Putin gives Abe much greater leeway to forge a settlement that Washington has actively blocked in the past, going back to the abortive talks in 1956. But Trump’s deal-making attitude may have a double-edged effect. If Putin has reason to believe that Western unity on Russian sanctions will soon crack on its own, he has less incentive to be conciliatory with Abe in the form of territorial concessions.

It could come down to that hot spring bath — and whether Putin and Abe enter it truly intending to strike a deal.

To understand this moment, you must first put yourself on the fog-shrouded island of Kunashir. Along with the islands of Iturup, Shikotan, and the Habomai group, this is territory claimed by both countries. For Russia, these are the “Southern Kurils,” a part of the Kuril island chain once taken by imperial Japan and “liberated” during World War II. Japan gained control of the islands in an 1855 treaty and expanded its hold in the region to include the southern half of Sakhalin as a result of the Russo-Japanese War of 1905. When World War II started, some 17,000 Japanese lived on the islands.

A red stone monument on Kunahsir pays tribute to the Red Army soldiers who fell in those final days of the war. Today, Russian border troops are stationed on the islands, which form a picket fence along one side of the Sea of Okhotsk, a bastion for Russian ballistic missile submarines. Hokkaido is visible across a narrow channel.

But for many Japanese, that channel doesn’t mark the boundary of their territory. The Russian-controlled islands, for them, are the “Northern Territories,” Japanese lands that the Soviets illegally seized. The failure to resolve this dispute has left the two countries, more than 70 years later, without a peace treaty to formally end their war.

If the islands are of great strategic significance, it was hardly evident during a visit to Kunashir in 1991 just before the collapse of the Soviet Union. The dreary port town of Yuzhno-Kurilsk was then home to just 7,000 fishermen and their families, bringing crab, salmon, and other seafood from the rich waters around the islands to a run-down canning factory. Aircraft landed on a strip surfaced in corrugated metal sheets, an airport originally built under Japanese rule, and visitors traveled on packed earth roads. Visitors to this remote corner of the Russian Empire were — and remain — rare, and the islanders privately complained about Moscow’s neglect.

In those days, the islanders were mainly interested in attracting Japanese tourists and investors and spent their evenings peering eagerly into the strange world of late-night Japanese television shows with scantily clad women — then an exciting novelty amid the tedium of Soviet programming. In recent years, the Russian government has made a show of interest in the islands, sending senior leaders and announcing new investment in housing and defense facilities. But the total population has not changed much — there are reportedly some 19,000 people on all four islands, including Kunashir — and the region remains underdeveloped.

As during the perestroika era, Russians have dangled a bargain on the territorial issue in exchange for an influx of Japanese investment. The reference point for a deal is a 1956 agreement in which the Japanese government accepted the position that the return of the two smaller islands — Shikotan and the uninhabited Habomai islets — would be sufficient to conclude a peace treaty.

The last serious negotiation effort took place in 2000-2001, early in Putin’s rule. According to Kazuhiko Togo, who headed the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s negotiating team in 2000, the Japanese side pushed the idea of delayed sovereignty — suggesting that the Japanese would regain control of the two larger islands at an undetermined future point. The Russians rejected that idea, but they did put back on the table the possibility of returning to the 1956 offer of the two smaller islands. Since then, Japanese and Russians have talked about a “two plus alpha” deal, with “alpha” meaning something beyond the 1956 terms but not necessarily the entire territory. The quid pro quo always has involved Japanese investment in Russia. When Putin, a judo aficionado, returned to the presidency in 2012, after serving one term as prime minister, he famously declared that he was prepared to accept a hikiwake, a judo term for a draw — and a seeming reference to the territorial offer from the previous decade.

Abe also returned to power as prime minister in 2012, after a brief, failed stint in 2006-2007. He has a well-deserved reputation as the standard-bearer of conservative nationalists, for whom returning the islands is a potent symbol of the restoration of pride and dignity lost at the end of the war.

Abe immediately embarked on a concerted campaign to woo Putin, responding to his talk of a “draw.” In April 2013, Abe brought a large economic delegation to Moscow, and in February 2014, he was pointedly among the few world leaders to attend the Sochi Olympics and sit by Putin’s side. The efforts foundered after Russia’s seizure of Crimea and the outbreak of war in eastern Ukraine — Japan formally joined ranks with the West in imposing sanctions on Russia (though the Japanese measures were much softer than others). But Abe returned to the suitor’s role this year, heading to Sochi in May for a visit that included a closed-door meeting without aides.

For Japan, Russia in itself is no longer a direct security threat, observes Tokyo-based professor James Brown, who has closely studied the Russo-Japanese relationship. “However, a quasi-alliance between Russia and China is a strategic concern for Japan, especially if it is accompanied by a reduced U.S. commitment to East Asia,” says Brown. The goal is not to form close ties with Moscow but rather to prevent it from being drawn totally into Beijing’s aims in the region. Japanese officials have continued to insist that they will accept nothing less than the return of all the islands. But, says Togo, the former Japanese diplomat, “now there is a new strategic logic for Japan — a response to the rise of China. Abe understands this logic.” A territorial deal “will force China to take Japan more seriously,” adds Togo, who is among the most prominent advocates of a compromise.

The U.S. election opened more space for a possible deal. Abe believed that he could use the possibility of Japan making a de facto break from the Western sanctions regime as leverage for a better deal, Japanese analysts say. The election of Trump would seem to offer an even greater opportunity, with a distracting transition and an administration friendly to Putin.

But in recent weeks, at least on an official level, there has been an effort to dampen expectations. “It is widely believed in Japan that Putin simply wants to wait and see how Trump approaches Moscow after coming to office, and that’s why he lost his appetite to craft a deal with Tokyo for the time being,” says Junji Tachino, a veteran foreign-policy writer at the leading Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun. “If Trump moves to fix the relationship with Moscow, then Putin’s motivation to use Japan as a potential crack in the sanctions regime will diminish.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov sounded a pessimistic note after the final pre-summit talks with his Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida, in Moscow on Saturday. “It’s not easy to bridge the gap in the principal positions of both sides,” Lavrov said. By the time Kishida had returned home, even Abe’s optimism seemed deflated. “This is not an issue that can be resolved in just one meeting,” Abe told Japanese officials on Monday.

In the run-up to the summit, Russia made its inflexible stance on the territorial issue clear. At the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Putin told Bloomberg that Russia does not “trade territories.” In late November, Russian armed forces moved anti-ship missiles onto the Kurils, a demonstrative step that drew rebukes from Tokyo. In Moscow, the scales are weighted heavily against compromise: For the Russian elite, “there’s not a clear answer to why Russia needs Japan,” says Alexander Panov, a former Russian ambassador to Japan, who notes that Putin is personally more inclined toward a deal than his advisors.

Russian analysts say the only possible formula lies in the 1956 agreements. But even if Abe were to concede to accepting the two smaller islands (a step few Russians expect), Russia still may not budge. “The biggest intrigue is what Russia would do if Japan agrees to the ’56 conditions,” says Dmitry Streltsov of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. “It would be a moment of truth.”

Even if a deal can be struck, it may be hard to sell to the Russian public.Even if a deal can be struck, it may be hard to sell to the Russian public. The islands have symbolic weight as part of the country’s victory in the “Great Patriotic War” (as Russia calls World War II), a sacred pillar of national identity that is central to Putin’s ideology. Hard-liners argue that the islands’ rich fishing grounds are too economically valuable to give up and that handing over any of the territory would threaten the Sea of Okhotsk’s use as a staging ground for Russian nuclear submarines. Plus, argues Anatoly Koshkin of Moscow’s Oriental University, a hawkish opponent of compromise: “No one can promise that American military infrastructure won’t appear on the islands.”

The optics also present a significant obstacle for Putin. Despite viewing Japan positively, an overwhelming 78 percent of Russians are against giving the islands to Japan, while only 7 percent favor doing so, according to a May survey by the Levada Center, an independent pollster. Seventy-one percent was also against a compromise deal involving the transfer of the two smaller islands. A concentrated propaganda campaign on state television could help shift views, notes Streltsov. But even then, it would be a tough sell for a leader who has staked his authority on being the protector of the Russian people. “Especially after Crimea, Putin has an image as the collector of Russian lands,” says Koshkin.

Putin may have been more willing to take that risk when he met Abe in Sochi in May and faced a stagnating economy, a surprisingly resilient sanctions regime, and the prospect of a hostile Hillary Clinton administration. But seven months later, he is looking less like the pariah of world affairs and more like the vanguard of ascendant populist and nationalist movements across the globe.

France’s presidential elections next year will feature a roster of Moscow-friendly candidates open to lifting sanctions. Trump’s praise for Putin, while no guarantee of better relations once he takes office, at the very least offers Moscow a tantalizing opportunity. Now Abe is the one worrying about his relationship with Washington, as evidenced by his recent short-notice visit to the president-elect’s gilded tower in New York.

Abe will face his own nationalist backlash if he concedes too much to Putin. “Accepting a deal that could have been had in 1956 would be tantamount to recognizing that the last 60 years of efforts had been entirely meaningless,” says Brown, the Tokyo-based professor. “A Japanese leader adopting this brave stance would be ravaged by the right-wing and much of the press.”

Even without an immediate breakthrough on the island dispute, both sides will be keen to demonstrate progress. Turning the tide on trade — down 30 percent in dollar terms in 2015 after the oil price collapse and another 28 percent through September of this year — is the obvious place to start. Panov, the former ambassador, expects some 10 deals to be signed at the summit. Japan has already made a string of early overtures, with the state-run Japan Bank for International Cooperation announcing a planned $211 million loan to a major liquefied natural gas project in the northern Yamal region led by Russia’s Novatek. Two major Japanese banks are also reportedly discussing an $845 million loan package with Russian state-owned gas giant Gazprom, and the prospect of a pipeline project from Russia’s Sakhalin to Tokyo has resurfaced. “Both sides used to talk about [the islands] because there was no other agenda,” says Igor Dyachenko, the executive director of the Russian-Japanese Business Council. “Now business is forming a positive agenda.”

With both Putin and Abe eyeing terms that could extend well past 2020, there is plenty of time for a slow courtship. Abe hopes his gestures, and his yen, will eventually earn Putin’s trust. He has taken care to craft his economic proposals to address Russian needs beyond traditional energy interests, including health care, urban development, industrial production, and technology. Dyachenko touts a pilot project for improving city planning and housing will launch next year in Voronezh, some 290 miles south of Moscow. Putin will certainly not turn away the investment or the geopolitical returns. “Putin is in no rush,” says Alexander Gabuev, the chair of the Carnegie Moscow Center’s Russia in the Asia-Pacific program. “He thinks he can use the Japanese fear of China.” The onsen may prove to be merely a prelude. Perhaps next year Putin will summon Abe for a summit in the banya.