Monday, February 25, 2019

Monday in Washington, February 25, 2019

ADVANCING ENVIRONMENTAL GOVERNANCE ACROSS ASIA. 2/25, 9:30 – 11:00am. Sponsor: Asia Foundation. Speakers: Kim DeRidder, Director of Environment Programs, Asia Foundation; Moderator: Kim McQuay, Managing Director, Program Specialists Group, Asia Foundation.

COMPETING WITH RUSSIA "SHORT OF WAR": HOW THE US AND NATO HAVE COUNTERED RUSSIAN COERCION PANEL DISCUSSION. 2/25, 9:30-11:00am, Washington, DC. Sponsor: Stimson Center. Speakers: Thomas Wright, Director, Center on United States and Europe, and Senior Fellow, Project on International Order and Strategy, Brookings; Michael Kofman, Research Scientist, CNA Corporation, and Fellow, Kennan Institute, Wilson Center; Barry Blechman, Co-founder, Stimson Center, and Distinguished Fellow, Defense Strategy and Planning program, Stimson Center; James Siebens, Research Associate, Defense Strategy and Planning program, Stimson Center.

POLITICS, TALIBAN NEGOTIATIONS & NUCLEAR SECURITY IN PAKISTAN. 2/25, Noon-1:30pm, Washington, DC. Sponsor: Elliott School of International Affairs, GWU. Speaker: Hassan Abbas, Professor of International Security Studies, Chair of the Department of Regional and Analytical Studies, National Defense University's College of International Security Affairs.

DEFENDING RULE OF LAW NORMS: A CONVERSATION WITH ROD ROSENSTEIN. 2/25, Noon-1:30pm, Washington, DC. Sponsor: CSIS; Defending Democratic Institutions. Speakers: Rod Rosenstein, Deputy Attorney General; Suzanne Spaulding, Senior Adviser, Homeland Security, International Security Program, CSIS.

THE SECOND TRUMP-KIM SUMMIT: PERSPECTIVES FROM THE UNITED STATES, JAPAN, AND SOUTH KOREA. 2/25, 12:30-2:00pm, Lunch, Washington, DC. Sponsor: Center for American Progress (CAP). Speakers: Neera Tanden, President and CEO, CAP; Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Chairman, Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives; Taisuke Mibae, Visiting Senior Fellow, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, Atlantic Council; Jung H. Pak, Senior Fellow and SK-Korea Foundation Chair in Korea Studies, Brookings; Soojin Park, Public Policy Fellow, Wilson Center; Moderator: Michael Fuchs, Senior Fellow, CAP.

*EU STRATEGY IN AN AGE OF GREAT POWER COMPETITION. 2/25, 3:00-4:15pm, Washington, DC. Sponsor: Carnegie Endowment. Speakers: Sven Biscop, Professor, Ghent University, and Director, Europe in the World Program, Egmont-Royal Institute for International Relations; Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Senior Fellow and Director, Transatlantic Security Program, Center for a New American Security; Benjamin Haddad, Director, Future Europe Initiative, Atlantic Council; Moderator: Erik Brattberg, Director, Europe Program, and Fellow, Carnegie Endowment.

*MAKING THE DIGITAL ECONOMY WORK FOR EVERYONE. 2/25, 5:00–7:00pm, Washington, DC. Sponsor: Economic Policy Institute (EPI). Speakers: Hubertus Heil, German Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs; Liz Shuler, Secretary-Treasurer, AFL-CIO; Moderator: Thea M. Lee, President, EPI.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Media ethics betrayed in Japan

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by Jeff Kingston, Director of Asian Studies at Temple University Japan, a former columnist of The Japan Times and author of Japan (Polity 2019).

East Asia Forum, 12 February 2019

Imagine that the editorial page of The New York Times suddenly shifted dramatically rightward and columnists critical of US President Donald Trump were ousted and replaced by sycophantic pundits. Then a tape emerges of the editor justifying these changes as intended to counter accusations that the newspaper is anti-American and the sacking of Trump debunkers as designed to boost government ad revenue and snag an interview with Trump. This is essentially what recently happened at The Japan Times.

In June 2017, public relations firm News2u purchased The Japan Times, Japan’s oldest and most circulated English-language newspaper. The new management jettisoned the newspaper’s previous critical editorial stance in favour of lauding Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policies. The Japan Times now embraces Abe’s revisionist history, which promotes a vindicating and exonerating narrative of Japan’s wartime past.

Based on information from an insider’s tape, on 25 January 2019 Reuters reported that Executive Editor Hiroyasu Mizuno insinuated during a staff meeting that criticising Abe’s policies and revisionist views on history conveyed an anti-Japanese bias. He said, ‘I want to get rid of criticism that Japan Times is anti-Japanese’ — akin to arguing that criticising Trump makes The New York Times anti-American. According to that logic, much of the Japanese population must be anti-Japanese since polls suggest support for Abe’s signature policies hovers between 25–30 per cent.

At the same meeting, a senior manager clearly stated on tape that termination of my own column (which was often critical of the Abe administration) had already produced an upside, boosting revenues from government-sponsored content and scoring an interview with Abe.

Reuters drew attention to Mizuno’s unsuccessful efforts in mid-2018 to convince his editorial team to soften its criticism of Japan’s wartime misconduct, annotating several articles to make his point. According to copies of his notes, he ‘objected to calling comfort women “victims” or mentioning that they included girls; questioned referring to Japan’s occupation of Korea as “brutal”; and criticized the paper’s reporting and stories by wire services, including Reuters, as generally “pro-Korea” and not adequately reflecting Japan’s view’.

The latter is a misleading claim, as there is no monolithic Japanese view of history as it varies across the political spectrum. The Japan Times has shifted from the Asahi newspaper’s left-of-centre stance to the deep right at the Sankei end of the spectrum.

Having failed to sway his team, Mizuno proceeded to ignore their objections, inserting a note at the end of an article on 30 November 2018 about the Seoul–Tokyo fracas over forced labour. The note announced that The Japan Times would no longer use the terms ‘comfort women’ and ‘forced labour’. In doing so, Mizuno overturned the terminology long used at the newspaper and most English-language media, including The New York Times, Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian.

Mizuno’s brief note explains that the newspaper will now refer to comfort women as ‘women who worked in wartime brothels, including those who did so against their will’. And Korean workers will be referred to simply as ‘wartime labourers’, omitting any reference to coercion.

The note angered many Japan Times reporters and staff, forcing Mizuno to hold a meeting to clear the air (at which the tape featuring his controversial remarks was made). After the meeting on, 6 December 2018, Mizuno acknowledged and expressed his regret that the note ‘damaged the relationship of trust that we have developed with our readers, our writers and our staff’.

Mizuno told Reuters that he is not opposed to ‘appropriate’ criticism. But the editorial shift seems to exclude hard-hitting commentary. New columnists act as cheerleaders for Abe, while an acerbic political reporter who asked awkward questions at press conferences was shifted from the Prime Minister’s beat. Blogosphere reactionaries are triumphant, claiming victory now that The Japan Times has capitulated and is endorsing euphemisms about the comfort women system of sexual slavery and forced labour.

The bombshell Mizuno tape has tarnished The Japan Times’ brand. The tape suggests that the newspaper’s editor lacks integrity and journalistic ethics, having traded both for government ad money and access to Abe. The Japanese media has also picked up the story, amplifying the reputational damage. Transactional journalism of this sort overshadows the excellent reporting and features that make The Japan Times so valuable. Whether or not one agrees with the new terminology on comfort women and forced labour, the revelations are devastating public relations for a venerable newspaper now owned by a PR firm.

Although the newspaper’s physical circulation is just 45,000 copies,The Japan Times plays an outsized role in global perceptions of Japan because of the internet. This is precisely why a cabinet minister reportedly asserted at a late-2016 meeting that something had to be done about The Japan Times’ critical coverage, which was undermining the government’s pro-Abe public diplomacy.

After the ownership change, The Japan Times began fawning over Abenomics and the Prime Minister’s right-wing agenda. The evident willingness to kowtow to power, rather than speak to it, highlights the larger problem of self-censorship in Japan and a beholden media reliant on access journalism.

Japan Times staff have been in damage control mode since the Reuters story broke. It appears unlikely that there will be any reversal of the new editorial direction despite internal discord and the embarrassing revelations. Management is likely hoping to brazen out the scandal and continue milking the government for sponsored content and crumbs of access as it rides the lucrative 2020 Olympic wave

In memoriam

Ruth Muroff Kotler March 10, 1919-February 19, 1984

Monday, February 18, 2019


a measure of a man
Both the Asahi Shimbun, a left-leaning daily newspaper, and the Yomiuri Shimbun, a right-leaning paper, cited anonymous Japanese government sources who said that Mr. Abe had nominated Mr. Trump for the prize last fall at the behest of the White House. According to a U.S.-Japan diplomatic source cited by Mainichi on February 19th, President Trump himself reportedly asked Abe to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize during a teleconference on Aug. 22 last year.

From Dan Sneider, Stanford University and APP Member

TOKYO REPORT, For The Nelson Repor

President Donald Trump has somehow managed, without a moment's thought, to engineer a new political uproar in Japan - the Nobel Prize Affair. Last Friday, in the stream of (un)consciousness that took place in the Rose Garden, the President was being pressed to defend the lack of any visible progress since his past summit with Kim Jong Un. In reply, he revealed that Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo had given him a copy of a letter nominating him for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In classic humble fashion, Trump told the reporters:
So Prime Minister Abe gave me - I mean, it's the most beautiful five letter - five-page letter. Nobel Prize. He sent it to them. You know why? Because he had rocket ships and he had missiles flying over Japan. And they had alarms going off; you know that. Now, all of a sudden, they feel good; they feel safe. I did that.
This revelation went off like a small bomb in the Prime Minister's Office and the Japanese Foreign Ministry where they were under the mistaken impression that there is anything resembling a secret in the Trump White House. Of course, it is no secret that Prime Minister Abe has taught a master class to other world leaders in how to use flattery and abject servitude towards President Trump to keep the America First wolf from the door.

But this display of servility went well beyond previous limits. And it had the added twist of undermining the desire of Abe and the Japanese government to warn Trump against further concessions to North Korea at the second summit in Hanoi. It also hardly jibes with Japanese unhappiness with the empty results of the first meeting in Singapore and the constant warnings about the ongoing threat from North Korea.

So, it was not a surprise that opposition party members of the Diet jumped all over this Nobel Prize Affair and tried to pin down the PM on what actually happened. The leader of the Democratic Party for the People, the second largest opposition party, peppered him questions [at the Monday, February 19th Budget Hearing] about Trump's statement.

Abe could not lie - that option may exist for Trump but not for a Japanese leader - so he gave the artful non-answer, non-denial.
I would like to refrain from commenting on the matter based on the Nobel Committee' policy of not identifying nominators and nominees for at least 50 years," Abe told a House of Representatives Budget Committee session on the morning of Feb. 18. But he added, covering his posterior, "I'm not saying it's not true [that I nominated Trump for the prize].
Democratic party leader Tamaki Yuichiro immediately drew the obvious conclusion that Abe in fact had nominated Trump and went after that decision with clear purpose. "If you believe the current situation in Northeast Asia is peaceful, I think it's a problem," Tamaki said. "Nothing has been resolved. None of the abduction, nuclear and missile issues were resolved," including those involving short- to medium-range ballistic missiles that are capable of directly hitting Japan, Tamaki said. "We cannot help but say you are looking at the situation too optimistically. On top of that, it would send a terribly inaccurate message to the world," Tamaki argued.

The opposition leader then pointed to the rather obvious contradiction between Abe's nomination of Trump and the government's push to purchase multi-billion-dollar missile defense systems from the U.S. on the grounds that Japan is facing an "imminent threat" from North Korean missiles. 

Constitutional Democratic Party Diet member Ogawa Junya laid out the list of Trump's retreat from international agreements, from the Paris climate agreement to the abrogation of the Iran nuclear deal and the INF treaty. "It's shameful for Japan" to nominate such a person for the Nobel Peace Prize, Ogawa said in the Diet.

Japanese officials were scrambling to carry out damage control. Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga claimed this was only a recognition that Trump's leadership led to the talks on "denuclearization." Behind the scenes, officials leaked to Japanese media the idea that they were only responding to informal requests from the White House to nominate Trump. Some have linked this to the meeting last September in New York when Abe was trying to hold off pressure for a trade deal.

Even veteran Japanese journalists are not sure what the truth is in this matter. "It might have been a case that someone in the White House or someone close to POTUS might have mentioned the idea during the preparation with Tokyo for the Trump Tower summit in September, but nobody can tell whether or not it was authorized in the administration," one senior journalist at a major Japanese daily told me. But the idea that this came from the Americans might just be a case of the Japanese trying to "diffuse the humiliation" of the Trump revelation.

For the opposition, this affair takes definite second place to the larger scandal in Japanese politics of the falsification of government labor statistics (don't ask me to explain this one). But this is by no means over in Tokyo. The Diet will be debating foreign and security policy more fully in the budget committee on Wednesday and the press will keep digging into this. Of course, the man who kicked it all off last Friday not only has no idea what he did - he probably couldn't care less.

One footnote - not to be outdone by the Japanese, South Korean President Moon Jae-in's spokesman jumped on the bandwagon. Trump, he told reporters "is more than eligible for the Nobel Peace Prize."

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Monday in Washington, February 11, 2019

INDIA'S INTER-STATE WATER WARS: CAUSES, CONSEQUENCES, AND CURES. 2/11, 10:00-11:30am. Sponsor: CSIS. Speakers: Scott Moore, Senior Fellow, Penn Water Center; Kartikeya Singh, Deputy Director & Senior Fellow, Wadhwani Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies.

JAPAN’S ROLE IN ASIA’S CONNECTIVITY: INFRASTRUCTURE FINANCE AND DIGITAL GOVERNANCE. 2/11, 2:00-4:00pm. Sponsor: Brookings. Speakers: Kohei Toyoda, Director for International Coordination, Trade Policy Bureau, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan; Nancy Lee, Senior Policy Fellow, Center for Global Development; Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, Director, European Centre for International Political Economy, and Senior Fellow, London School of Economics; Joshua P. Meltzer, Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development, Brookings; Shin Oya, Senior Consulting Fellow, Asia Pacific Initiative, and Chief Representative for Strategic Research, Japan Bank for International Cooperation; Moderator: Mireya Solís, Philip Knight Chair in Japan Studies, Senior Fellow and Director, Center for East Asia Policy Studies, Brookings.

IS BIGGER BETTER? CONCENTRATION, COMPETITION, AND DEFENSE CONTRACTING OUTCOMES. 2/11, 3:00-4:30pm. Sponsor: International Security Program, CSIS. Speakers: Frank Kendall, Former Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics; Barry Lynn, Executive Director, Open Markets Institute; Marjorie Censer, Editor, Inside Defense; Pierre Chao, Founding Partner, Renaissance Strategic Advisors; Andrew Philip Hunter, Director, Defense-Industrial Initiatives Group and Senior Fellow, International Security Program, CSIS.

CONFRONTING AUTHORITARIANISM. 2/11, 6:00-8:30pm. Sponsors: Embassy of Canada; National Endowment for Democracy. Speaker: Anwar Ibrahim, President, People's Justice Party of Malaysia.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Monday in Washington, February 4, 2019

DMGS-KENNAN DISTINGUISHED SPEAKERS SERIES: THE IMPACT OF SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA'S ELITES. 2/4, 10:00-11:30am. Sponsors: Wilson Center; Daniel Morgan Graduate School of National Security. Speakers: Nigel Gould-Davies, Associate Fellow, Chatham House; Daniel Ahn, Senior Consulting Economist, U.S. Federal Reserve Board of Governors, Professorial Lecturer, Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, Senior Advisor, Rapidan Energy Group.

AMERICA'S BORDER WARS. 2/4, 1:00-3:00pm. Sponsor: Cato. Speakers: Vicki Gaubeca, Director, Southern Border Communities Coalition; Terry Bressi, Chief Engineer of the Spacewatch Project, University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Lab; Chris Montoya, 21-year Customs and Border Patrol veteran; moderated by Patrick Eddington, Policy Analyst in Homeland Security and Civil Liberties, Cato.

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SOFTWARE SECURITY INITIATIVES FOR THE US. 2/4, 1:00-3:00pm. Sponsor: Technology Policy Program, CSIS. Speakers: William Stephens, Director, Counterintelligence, Defense Security Service, Department of Defense; Tommy Ross, Senior Director, Privacy, BSA | The Software Alliance; Roberta Stempfley, Director, CERT Division, Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute; Allan Friedman, Director of Cybersecurity Initiatives, National Telecommunications Information Administration; Derek Weeks, Vice President, Sonatype Inc.; Chris Nissen, Director, Asymmetric Threat Response, MITRE Corporation; Moderator: Harvey Rishikof, Visiting Professor of Law, Temple University

BANKERS, BAILOUTS, AND THE STRUGGLE TO TAME WALL STREET. 2/4, 4:00-5:30pm. Sponsor: Wilson Center. Speakers: Kathleen Day, author, Professor of financial crises, Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, business journalist, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today. P