Sunday, March 19, 2023

Abe Government's War on the Press

 Biased Pressure on Broadcasters

By Takuya Nishimura, Chief Editorial Writer, The Hokkaido Shimbun

The views expressed by the author are his own and are not associated with The Hokkaido Shimbun

March 12, 2023

It should be pointed out that the former administration led by Shinzo Abe did not fully understand what democracy was. Last week, a lawmaker from the main opposition party revealed a document that described attempts by Abe's colleagues to pressure broadcasters that they thought were biased against the administration. While the minister who was in charge of the issue argued that the document was fabricated, the ministry admitted it as authentic. It is highly strange that a minister denies the truthfulness of a ministry’s document. But the point is not about whether it was true or not, but whether the Abe administration tried to oppress the freedom of expression.

A member of the House of Councillors, Hiroyuki Konishi, exposed a document of the Ministry for Internal Affairs and Communications that indicated that the Abe administration tried to change the interpretation of the Broadcasting Act on political impartiality. Article 4 of the law requires every broadcaster to be politically impartial in producing the programs and the government had been interpreting the provision as applied to the broadcasting station's programs as a whole. According to the revealed document, an adviser to the prime minister, Yosuke Isozaki, in a meeting with the officials of the ministry in 2014, questioned that interpretation and argued that there were obviously inappropriate cases among actual broadcasting programs.

The meetings on the interpretation were consecutively held and some secretaries of the Prime Minister's Office often joined. In one meeting in 2015, a secretary warned Isozaki that if the government, which had the authority to stop the broadcasting wave, would assess political impartiality by only one program, it might be an oppression of freedom of speech. Not only Isozaki, however, then Prime Minister Abe was willing to review the interpretation to make things straight, arguing he would be right to say no to some extreme programs. Among the programs discussed in the series of meetings, there were Sunday Morning and News 23 of TBS or Hodo Station of TV Asahi.

"Is there any unbiased program in TV Asahi, anyway?" was the words of Sanae Takaichi, Minister for Internal Affairs and Communities at the time, in a meeting. She was willing to answer the questions on revising the interpretation in Diet discussion, expecting positive support from Prime Minister Abe. After the documents including those exchanges were revealed, Takaichi, the current Minister in charge of Economic Security, immediately denied the description and dismissed her conversation as fabricated. 

Asked whether she would resign as the minister and lawmaker if the documents were found not to be fabricated, she said "Very well." But, a few days later, the documents were acknowledged as made in the ministry. There appeared a great contradiction that the head of the ministry denied the credibility of documents made by the ministry officials, because every policy delivered by the minister would be based on such documents.

Takaichi still insists that the description in the documents was incorrect and refused to resign. It is possible that she hoped the ministry would protect her by admitting their fabrication, as the Ministry of Finance did for Abe by admitting manipulation of internal documents on the Moritomo scandal in 2018. Upon refusing to resignation, she apologized for the incorrectness of the documents under her leadership.

What we can see in the documents is an amazing fact that Abe's colleagues believed that they could, with the approval of Abe, pressure the broadcasters they didn't like. Abe had been a politician who had a tendency of intolerance of criticisms against him and showed little hesitation in blaming news organizations skeptical of him. That kind of approach reminds of the oppression of the Hong Kong media by the Xi Jinping administration of China or the strong grip on the media by Vladimir Putin in Russia. What is biased is such a kind of politics. It might be inappropriate for Japan to advise some foreign countries to share common values of freedom of speech, rule of law and human rights.

Monday, February 6, 2023

Asia History Events February 2023

KENNAN: A LIFE BETWEEN WORLDS. 2/6, 4:00-5:30pm (EST), ZOOM. Sponsor: Washington History Seminar, Wilson Center. Speaker: author, Frank Costigliola, University of Connecticut; Beverly Gage, Yale University; Barbara Keys, Durham University. 


PRISONERS OF THE ASIA-PACIFIC WAR: HISTORY, MEMORY, AND FORGETTING. 2/7, JAPAN 4:00-7:30pm (JST), 2/8, 9:00am-5:00pm (JST); US EAST COAST 2/7, 2:00-5:30am (EST), 2/7 7:00-10:30pm (EST).  ZOOM. Sponsor: Kyoto University and JSPS (Japan Society for the Promotion of Science). This symposium brings together scholars researching the histories, memorialization and forgetting of prisoners and prison camps of the Asia Pacific War. Speakers include: Robert Cribb, Australian National University; Sarah Kovner, Columbia University; Anoma Pieris, Melbourne University; Taeko Sasamoto, POW Research Network, Japan. Organizer: Daniel Milne, Kyoto University.  [THIS CONFERENCE WILL NOT BE RECORDED]

THE 30 ANNIVERSARY OF WASHINGTON COALITION FOR COMFORT WOMEN ISSUES: CELEBRATING THE LEGACY OF COMFORT WOMEN. 2/7, 11:00am–1:00pm (EST). IN PERSON ONLY, 2168 Rayburn House Office Building (The Gold the Room). Speakers: Margaret Stetz, Professor of Humanities at the University of Delaware; Yangmo Ku, Associate Director of the
Peace and War Center at Norwich University; Bonnie Oh, Georgetown University Emeritus; Dennis Halpin, former staff member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Screening of a clip from the documentary: Cry Out: The 30 Years of Comfort Women Redress Movement, Written and Directed by Professor Jungsil Lee, George Washington University. 

THE GHOST AT THE FEAST: AMERICA AND THE COLLAPSE OF THE WORLD ORDER, 1900-1941. 2/8, Noon (EST), ONLINE. Sponsor: Alexander Hamilton Society. Speaker: Author Robert Kagan, Stephen & Barbara Friedman Senior Fellow in the Foreign Policy program at Brookings Institution. 

2/14, 5:00-6:00pm (JST), 3:00-4:00am (EST), 12:00-1:00am (PST). IN PERSON ONLY. Sponsor: Temple University Japan. SPEAKERS AND POW PROFILES. [THIS CONFERENCE MIGHT NOT BE RECORDED]

MILITARY HISTORY FOR THE MODERN STRATEGIST: AMERICA’S MAJOR WARS SINCE 1861. 2/15, 6:30-7:30pm (EST), IN-PERSON AND ONLINE. Sponsor: New-York Historical Society. Speakers: Author Michael E. O’Hanlon, Phil Knight Chair in Defense and Strategy at Brookings; Moderator: General David H. Petraeus (U.S. Army, Ret.), Commander of coalition forces during the Surges in both Iraq and Afghanistan and Former Director of the CIA. 

THE GENERAL VS. THE PRESIDENT: MACARTHUR AND TRUMAN AT THE BRINK OF NUCLEAR WAR. 2/16, Noon (EST), LIVE WEBCAST. Sponsor: Korea Society. Speaker: author, Dr. Henry W. Brands, Professor and Jack S. Blanton Sr. Chair in History at the University of Texas at Austin. 

IMPERIAL GATEWAY: COLONIAL TAIWAN AND JAPAN’S EXPANSION IN SOUTH CHINA AND SOUTHEAST ASIA, 1895-1945. 2/24, 4:30PM (EST), IN PERSON ONLY. Sponsor: Sigur Center, GW. Speaker: author, Seiji Shirane, Assistant Professor of Japanese History, City College of New York. 

Monday, January 30, 2023

Monday January 30, 2023 Event on Asia

. 1/30, 10:00am (EST), ONLINE. Sponsor: Washington Post Live. Speaker: Gen. David H. Petraeus (U.S. Army, Ret.), Partner, KKR & Chair, KKR Global Institute. 

BEFORE THE WEST. 1/30, Noon-1:30pm (EST), IN-PERSON AND ZOOM. Sponsor: American University School of International Service (SIS). Speakers: Author Dr. Ayse Zarakol, Professor of International Relations at the University of Cambridge, Before the West: The Rise and Fall of Eastern World Orders; Amitav Acharya, SIS; Yang Zhang, SIS; Moderator: Ji-young Lee, SIS.

BLINKEN’S TRIP TO BEIJING: U.S.–CHINA RELATIONS AT A CROSSROADS. 1/30, Noon-1:00pm (EST), ZOOM WEBINAR. Sponsor: Quincy Institute. Speakers: Michael Swaine, Senior Fellow, Quincy Institute’s East Asia Program; Kendra Schaefer, Head of Tech Policy Research at Trivium China; and Michael Davidson, Assistant Professor, UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy and Jacobs School of Engineering; Moderator: Jake Werner, Research Fellow in the Quincy Institute’s East Asia Program. 

BUCHA AFTER RUSSIAN OCCUPATION: BUCHA’S MAYOR ON THE DESTRUCTION OF HIS CITY AND HOPES FOR THE FUTURE. 1/30, 12:30-1:30pm (EST), IN-PERSON AND ONLINE. Sponsors: Kennan Institute, Wilson Center; Global Europe Program, Wilson Center. Speakers: Anatolii Fedoruk, Mayor of Bucha, Ukraine; Ambassador Mark Green, President, Director, & CEO, Wilson Center; Mykhailyna Skoryk-Shkarivska, Deputy Mayor, Bucha City Council; Robin S. Quinville, Director, Global Europe Program; Moderator: Brock Bierman, CEO, Ukraine Friends.

LESSONS FROM THE RUSSO-UKRAINE WAR AND ITS U.S.-CHINA CONFLICT APPLICATION. 1/30, 5:00-6:00pm (EST), IN-PERSON ONLY. Sponsor: Institute of World Politics. Speaker: Mr. Robert Roseberry, IWP M.A. Candidate for Strategic Intelligence Studies. 

EUROMISSILES: THE NUCLEAR WEAPONS THAT NEARLY DESTROYED NATO. 1/30, 4:00pm (EST), ONLINE. Sponsors: American Historical Association; Wilson Center. Speakers: Author Susan Colbourn, Associate Director, Program in American Grand Strategy, Duke University; Giordana Pulcini, Global Fellow, Wilson Center's Nuclear Proliferation International History Project; Aaron Bateman, Assistant professor of history and international affairs, George Washington University.

1/30, 5:30-7:00pm (AEDT), IN-PERSON AND ONLINE. Sponsor: Australian Centre on China in the World, Australian National University. Speakers: Rogier Creemers, Assistant Professor, Leiden University.

A SOUTH KOREAN NUCLEAR PROGRAM? ASSESSING THE RISKS. 1/30, 7:00-8:30pm (EST), ONLINE. Sponsor: 38 North Program, Stimson. Speakers: Siegfried S. Hecker, Distinguished Professor of Practice, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies; Robert Gallucci, Distinguished Professor, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service; Jamie Kwong, Fellow, Nuclear Policy Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Moderator: Jenny Town, Senior Fellow, Stimson Center and Director, 38 North. 

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Kishida's audience with Biden

No Big Deal, but Small Progress

By Takuya Nishimura, Chief Editorial Writer, The Hokkaido Shimbun
The views expressed by the author are his own and are not associated with The Hokkaido Shimbun
January 23, 2023

The headlines of newspapers covering Prime Minister Kishida’s meeting with President Biden on January 13th mainly focused on enhancement of the deterrence capability of the Japan-US alliance, but the outcome of the meeting lacked substantial deals. During the meeting, Kishida appealed for U.S. support of Japan’s security buildup. Biden had no reason to be unhappy with Japan’s positive stance on the security in East Asian region. However, the Joint Statement issued after the meeting was mainly filled with the predictable words. While the agreement leaned toward military measures against actual or potential threats, diplomatic solutions received little attention, which has caused public uneasiness in Japan. It is too early to say that bolstering the alliance has achieved broad consensus in Japan.

Both leaders celebrated the bilateral relationship noting that it had “never been closer.” Kishida told Biden that the Japanese government had renewed major security documents and would expand the security budget in coming five years. Biden praised Japan’s effort, saying “We are modernizing our military alliance.”

While the joint statement stressed that the bilateral cooperation was unprecedented, rooted in the shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific and a peaceful and prosperous world, there was no significant news in it. The two leaders “reaffirmed” that the alliance remains the cornerstone of peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific. Biden “reiterated” the unwavering commitment of US to the defense of Japan under Article V of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, and “reaffirmed” the application of the article to the Senkaku Islands. These are reconfirmations of the agreements of former leaders of both nations.

Biden commended Japan’s security reinforcement through the new National Security Strategy and the new National Defense Strategy and Defense Buildup Program, which actually are the renewals of earlier documents. One of the selling points of the new NSS is the capability to strike enemy bases, that is described as “counterstrike” capability in the joint statement. But it does not necessarily mean preemptive attack. Kishida has been insisting that the capability to strike back against an attacker would not violate Japan’s traditional security principle of exclusively defense-oriented policy. Japan’s expansion of its security budget, which Biden called an “historic increase,” is still a matter of planning. Kishida failed to include it in last month’s budget, however.

Both leaders had the reasons for making the outcome dramatic. Kishida needs to persuade the Japanese people that the US is firmly committed to the security of East Asia, where Chinese advances have been growing as seen in the missile launch at Japan’s exclusive economic zone. Biden answered Kishida’s request by saying: “Let me be crystal clear: The United States is fully, thoroughly, completely committed to the alliance.” Biden needs to assure the US people that the Japanese are ready to make enough effort to defend themselves.

Japan’s new NSS and defense budget may be the preferable tools for his Kishida’s domestic politics. However, their political boost has not been seen. In addition, Biden's controversy involving classified documents precluded a joint press conference with Kishida. Meanwhile, there remains certain unpopularity in Japan about Kishida’s handling of important policies, including tackling infectious diseases and inflation. Some even argue that Group 7 summit meeting this May may result in an exit for Kishida administration.