Monday, February 18, 2019

THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE AFFAIR IN TOKYO

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
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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."

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