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The Fukushima Disaster and the Future of Nuclear Power in Japan

NOVANEWS
An Interview with Former Prime Minister Kan Naoto
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Introduction

For more than two decades, the global nuclear industry has attempted to frame the debate on nuclear power within the context of climate change: nuclear power is better than any of the alternatives. So the argument went. Ambitious nuclear expansion plans inthe United States and Japan, two of the largest existing markets, and the growth of nuclear power in China appeared to show—superficially at least—that the technology had a future. At least in terms of political rhetoric and media perception, it appeared to be a winning argument. Then came March 11, 2011. Those most determined to promote nuclear power even cited the Fukushima Daiichi accident as a reason for expanding nuclear power: impacts were low, no one died, radiation levels are not a risk. So claimeda handful of commentators in the international (particularly English-language) media.

However,from the start of the accident at Fukushima Daiichi on March 11 2011,the harsh reality of nuclear power was exposed to billions of people across the planet, and in particular to the population of Japan, including the more than 160,000 people displaced by the disaster, many of whom are still unable to return to their homes, and scores of millions more threatened had worst case scenarios occurred. One authoritative voice that has been central to exposing the myth-making of the nuclear industry and its supporters has been that of KanNaoto, Prime Minister in 2011. His conversion from promoter to stern critic may be simple to understand, but it is no less commendable for its bravery. When the survival of half the society you are elected to serve and protect is threatened by a technology that is essentially an expensive way to boil water, then something is clearly wrong. Japan avoided societal destruction thanks in large part to the dedication of workers at the crippled nuclear plant, but also to the intervention of Kan and his staff, and to luck. Had it not been for a leaking pipe into the cooling pool of Unit 4 that maintained sufficient water levels, the highly irradiated spent fuel in the pool, including the entire core only recently removed from the reactor core, would have been exposed, releasing an amount of radioactivity far in excess of that released from the other three reactors. The cascade of subsequent events would have meant total loss of control of the other reactors, including their spent fuel pools and requiring massive evacuation extending throughout metropolitan Tokyo, as Prime Minister Kan feared. That three former Prime Ministers of Japan are not just opposed to nuclear power but actively campaigning against it is unprecedented in global politics and is evidence of the scale of the threat that Fukushima posed to tens of millions ofJapanese.

The reality is thatin terms of electricity share and relative to renewable energy,nuclear power has been in decline globally for two decades.Since the FukushimaDaiichiaccident, this decline has only increased in pace. The nuclear industry knew full well that nuclear power could not be scaled up to the level required to make a serious impact on global emissions. But that was never the point. The industry adopted the climate-change argument as a survival strategy: to ensure extending the life of existing aging reactors and make possible the addition of some new nuclear capacity in the coming decades—sufficient at least to allow a core nuclear industrial infrastructure to survive to mid-century.The dream was to survive to mid-century, when limitless energy would be realized by the deployment of commercial plutonium fast-breeder reactors and other generation IV designs. It was always a myth, but it had a commercial and strategic rationale for the power companies, nuclear suppliers and their political allies.

The basis for the Fukushima Daiichi accident began long before March 11th 2011, when decisions were made to build and operate reactors in a nation almost uniquely vulnerable to major seismic events. More than five years on, the accident continues with a legacy that will stretch over the decades. Preventing the next catastrophic accident in Japan is now a passion of the former Prime Minister, joining as he has the majority of the people of Japan determined to transition to a society based on renewable energy. He is surely correct that the end of nuclear power in Japan is possible. The utilities remain in crisis, with only three reactors operating, and legal challenges have been launched across the nation. No matter what policy the government chooses, the basis for Japan’s entire nuclear fuel cycle policy, which is based on plutonium separation at Rokkasho-mura and its use in the Monju reactor and its fantasy successor reactors, is in a worse state than ever before. But as Kan Naoto knows better than most, this is an industry entrenched within the establishment and still wields enormous influence. Its end is not guaranteed. Determination and dedication will be needed to defeat it. Fortunately, the Japanese people have these in abundance. SB

The Interview 

Q: What is your central message?

Kan: Up until the accident at the Fukushima reactor, I too was confident that since Japanese technology is of high quality, no Chernobyl-like event was possible.

But in fact when I came face to face with Fukushima, I learned I was completely mistaken. I learned first and foremost that we stood on the brink of disaster: had the incident spread only slightly, half the territory of Japan, half the area of metropolitan Tokyo would have been irradiated and 50,000,000 people would have had to evacuate.

Half one’s country would be irradiated, nearly half of the population would have to flee: to the extent it’s conceivable, only defeat in major war is comparable.

That the risk was so enormous: that is what in the first place I want all of you, all the Japanese, all the world’s people to realize.

Q: You yourself are a physicist, yet you don’t believe in the first analysis that people can handle nuclear power? Don’t you believe that there are technical advances and that in the end it will be safe to use?

Kan: As a rule, all technologies involve risk. For example, automobiles have accidents; airplanes, too. But the scale of the risk if an accident happens affects the question whether or not to use that technology. You compare the plus of using it and on the other hand the minus of not using it. We learned that with nuclear reactors, the Fukushima nuclear reactors, the risk was such that 50,000,000 people nearly had to evacuate. Moreover, if we had not used nuclear reactors—in fact, after the incident, there was a period of about two years when we didn’t use nuclear power and there was no great impact on the public welfare, nor any economic impact either. So when you take these factors as a whole into account, in a broad sense there is no plus to using nuclear power. That is my judgment.

One more thing. In the matter of the difference between nuclear power and other technologies, controlling the radiation is in the final analysis extremely difficult.

For example, plutonium emits radiation for a long time. Its half-life is 24,000 years, so because nuclear waste contains plutonium—in its disposal, even if you let it sit and don’t use it—its half-life is 24,000 years, in effect forever. So it’s a very difficult technology to use—an additional point I want to make.

Q: It figured a bit ago in the lecture by Professor Prasser, that in third-generation reactors, risk can be avoided. What is your response?

Kan: It’s as Professor Khwostowa said: we’ve said that even with many nuclear reactors, an event inside a reactor like the Fukushima nuclear accident or a Chernobyl-sized event would occur only once in a million years; but in fact, in the past sixty years, we’ve had Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima. Professor Prasser says it’s getting gradually safer, but in fact accidents have happened with greater frequency and on a larger scale than was foreseen. So partial improvements are possible, as Professor Prasser says, but saying that doesn’t mean that accidents won’t happen. Equipment causes accidents, but so do humans.

Q: Today it’s five years after Fukushima. What is the situation in Japan today? We hear that there are plans beginning in 2018 to return the refugees to their homes. To what extent is the clean-up complete?

Kan: Let me describe conditions on site at Fukushima. Reactors #1, #2, #3 melted down, and the melted nuclear fuel still sits in the containment vessel; every day they introduce water to cool it. Radioactivity in the vessel of #2, they say, is 70 sieverts—not microsieverts or millisieverts, 70 sieverts. If humans approach a site that is radiating 70 sieverts, they die within five minutes. That situation has held ever since: that’s the current situation.

Moreover, the water they introduce leaves the containment vessel and is said to be recirculated, but in fact it mixes with groundwater, and some flows into the ocean. Prime Minister Abe used the words “under control,” but Japanese experts, including me, consider it not under control if part is flowing into the ocean. All the experts see it this way.

As for the area outside the site, more than 100,000 people have fled the Fukushima area.

So now the government is pushing residential decontamination and beyond that the decontamination of agricultural land.

Even if you decontaminate the soil, it’s only a temporary or partial reduction in radioactivity; in very many cases cesium comes down from the mountains, it returns.

The Fukushima prefectural government and the government say that certain of the areas where decontamination has been completed are habitable, so people have until 2018 to return; moreover, beyond that date, they won’t give aid to the people who have fled. But I and others think there’s still danger and that the support should be continued at the same level for people who conclude on their own that it’s still dangerous—that’s what we’re saying.

Given the conditions on site and the conditions of those who have fled, you simply can’t say that the clean-up is complete.

Q: Since the Fukushima accident, you have become a strong advocate of getting rid of nuclear reactors; yet in the end, the Abe regime came to power, and it is going in the opposite direction: three reactors are now in operation. As you see this happening, are you angry?

Kan: Clearly what Prime Minister Abe is trying to do—his nuclear reactor policy or energy policy—is mistaken. I am strongly opposed to current policy.

But are things moving steadily backward? Three reactors are indeed in operation. However, phrase it differently: only three are in operation. Why only three? Most—more than half the people—are still resisting strongly. From now on, if it should come to new nuclear plants, say, or to extending the licenses of existing nuclear plants, popular opposition is extremely strong, so that won’t be at all easy. In that sense, Japan’s situation today is a very harsh opposition—a tug of war—between the Abe government, intent on retrogression, and the people, who are heading toward abolishing nuclear reactors.

Two of Prime Minister Abe’s closest advisors are opposed to his policy on nuclear power.

One is his wife. The other is former Prime Minister Koizumi, who promoted him.

Q: Last question: please talk about the possibility that within ten years Japan will do away with nuclear power.

Kan: In the long run, it will disappear gradually. But if you ask whether it will disappear in the next ten years, I can’t say. For example, even in my own party opinion is divided; some hope to do away with it in the 2030s. So I can’t say whether it will disappear completely in the next ten years, but taking the long view, it will surely be gone, for example, by the year 2050 or 2070. The most important reason is economic. It has become clear that compared with other forms of energy, the cost of nuclear energy is high.

Q: Thank you.

Interview by Vincenzo Capodici

Introduction by Shaun Burnie

Translation by Richard Minear

Tages Anzeiger (Zurich), February 4, 2016

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Open Letter to the Japanese Prime Minister on Eve of Visit to Pearl Harbor

NOVANEWS

by Dr:Richard Falk

Image result for Shinzo Abe CARTOON

[Prefatory Note: The press release and open letter to the Japanese Prime Minister concern the complex issues surrounding the ethos and politics of apology. I would have liked the statement to include an acknowledgement of accountability by the U.S. Government. President Barack Obama, several months ago, took a step in that direction by his visit to Hiroshima, the first sitting American president to do so, but he deliberately avoided language that could be construed as an apology, representing the event as ‘a tragedy’ of warfare, which it was of course, but it was also a flagrant violation of the laws of war due to the indiscriminate nature of the weaponry and an act of war that defied the prohibition of customary international law on violence that cannot be justified by ‘military necessity. Yet the open letter as it reads is primarily an initiative emanating from Japan, in worried reaction to the moves of Prime Minister Abe to disvalue, and if politically possible, abandon the constitutional provisions adopted after World War II to ensure that Japan would not again victimize itself and its neighbors by a revival of militarism in the future. That assurance is now in jeopardy. I am proud to be among the signatories. The full list follows the Japanese original version of the open letter, issued on Christmas Day. The letter is preceded by a press release also released today.]

 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

An Open Letter to Prime Minister Abe Calls for Clarification of His Understanding of the Asia-Pacific War

Washington, DC/Tokyo, Japan (December 25, 2016) – 53 international scholars, artists, and activists sent an Open Letter to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the eve of his upcoming visit to Pearl Harbor.

The signers include Oliver Stone, an Academy Award-winning filmmaker, his co-author of “The Untold History of the United States” Peter Kuznick of American University, Richard Falk of Princeton University, Tetsuya Takahashi of the University of Tokyo, Lim Jie-Hyun of Sogang University (Korea), Shue Tuck Wong of Simon Fraser University (Canada), and Gavan McCormack of Australian National University.

Assessing the Prime Minister’s statements about the war, the signers ask whether he still doubts that Japan’s Asia-Pacific War was a war of aggression. They ask whether he has plans to visit China, Korea, other Asia-Pacific nations and other Allied nations to “mourn” the major victims of Japan’s war.

As Peter Kuznick comments, “Unlike Germany, Japan has never made a sincere effort to deal with or atone for its wartime atrocities that resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of people. Prime Minister Abe has been in the forefront of efforts to whitewash Japanese history. We hope he will take this opportunity to once and for all correct that shameful record.”

As Mark Selden of Cornell University observes, “The time has come to lay to rest the denial of wartime responsibility and war atrocities by Japan and other nations to reduce frictions in an Asia-Pacific region that is experiencing rising conflicts.”

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 Oliver Stone and internatonal scholars and activists send an Open Letter to Prime Minister Abe on the eve of his Pearl Harbor visit

53 international scholars, artists, and activists sent an Open Letter to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the eve of his upcoming visit to Pearl Harbor. See below English and Japanese versions, followed by the list of signers.

USS Arizona Memorial, which Mr. Abe plans to visit.

An Open Letter to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe 

On the Occasion of Your Visit to Pearl Harbor 

December 25, 2016

Dear Mr. Abe,

You recently announced plans to visit Pearl Harbor in Hawai’i at the end of December 2016 to “mourn the victims” of the Japanese Navy’s attack on the U.S. naval base on December 8, 1941 (Tokyo Time).

In fact, Pearl Harbor was not the only place Japan attacked that day. The Japanese Army had attacked the northeastern shore of the Malay Peninsula one hour earlier and would go on to attack several other British and U.S. colonies and bases in the Asia-Pacific region later that day. Japan launched these attacks in order to secure the oil and other resources of Southeast Asia essential to extend its war of aggression against China.

Since this will be your first official visit to the place where Japan’s war against the United States began, we would like to raise the following questions concerning your previous statements about the war.

1) You were Deputy Executive Director of the “Diet Members’ League for the 50th Anniversary of the End of War,” which was established at the end of 1994 in order to counter parliamentary efforts to pass a resolution to critically reflect upon Japan’s aggressive war. Its Founding Statement asserts that Japan’s more than two million war-dead gave their lives for “Japan’s self-existence and self-defense, and peace of Asia.” The League’s Campaign Policy statement of April 13, 1995 rejected offering any apology or issuing the no-war pledge included in the parliamentary resolution to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of war. The League’s public statement of June 8, 1995 declared that the majority parties’ resolution draft was unacceptable because it admitted Japan’s “behaviors of aggression” and “colonial rule.” Mr. Abe, do you still hold such views about the war?

2) In the Diet questioning period of April 23, 2013, you as Prime Minister stated 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?

3) 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?

As Prime Minister, you have pressed for Constitutional revision including reinterpretation and revision of Article 9 to allow Japanese Self-Defense Forces to fight anywhere in the world. We ask that you reflect on the signal this sends to nations that suffered at Japan’s hands in the Asia-Pacific War.

(The list of signers follows the Japanese version.)

 

真珠湾訪問にあたっての安倍首相への公開質問状

 

2016年12月25日

親愛なる安倍首相、

安倍首相は先日、1941年12月8日(日本時間)に日本海軍が米国の海軍基地を攻撃した際の「犠牲者を慰霊する」目的で、12月末にハワイの真珠湾を訪問する計画を発表しました。

実際のところ、その日に日本が攻撃した場所は真珠湾だけではありませんでした。その約1時間前には日本陸軍はマレー半島の北東沿岸を攻撃、同日にはアジア太平洋地域の他の幾つかの英米の植民地や基地を攻撃しています。日本は、中国に対する侵略戦争を続行するために不可欠な石油や他の資源を東南アジアに求めてこれらの攻撃を開始したのです。

米日の開戦の場所をあなたが公式に訪問するのが初めてであることからも、私たちは以下の質問をしたく思います。

1) あなたは、1994年末に、日本の侵略戦争を反省する国会決議に対抗する目的で結成された「終戦五十周年議員連盟」の事務局長代理を務めていました。その結成趣意書には、日本の200万余の戦没者が「日本の自存自衛とアジアの平和」のために命を捧げたとあります。この連盟の1995年4月13日の運動方針では、終戦50周年を記念する国会決議に謝罪や不戦の誓いを入れることを拒否しています。1995年6月8日の声明では、与党の決議案が「侵略的行為」や「植民地支配」を認めていることから賛成できないと表明しています。安倍首相、あなたは今でもこの戦争についてこのような認識をお持ちですか。

2) 2013年4月23日の国会答弁では、首相として「侵略の定義は学界的にも国際的にも定まっていない」と答弁しています。ということは、あなたは、連合国およびアジア太平洋諸国に対する戦争と、すでに続行していた対中戦争を侵略戦争とは認めないということでしょうか。

3) あなたは、真珠湾攻撃で亡くなった約2400人の米国人の「慰霊」のために訪問するということです。それなら、中国や、朝鮮半島、他のアジア太平洋諸国、他の連合国における数千万にも上る戦争被害者の「慰霊」にも行く予定はありますか。

首相としてあなたは、憲法9条を再解釈あるいは改定して自衛隊に海外のどこでも戦争ができるようにすることを推進してきました。これがアジア太平洋戦争において日本に被害を受けた国々にどのような合図として映るのか、考えてみてください。

 

  1. [endif]Ikuro Anzai, Professor Emeritus, Ritsumeikan University 安斎育郎、立命館大学名誉教授
  1. [endif]Herbert P. Bix, emeritus professor of history and sociology, Binghamton University, SUNY ハーバート・P・ビックス、ニューヨーク州立大学ビンガムトン校歴史学・社会学名誉教授
  1. Peter van den Dungen, Formerly, Lecturer in Peace Studies, University of Bradford, UK, and general coordinator of the International Network of Museums for Peace ピーター・バン・デン・デュンゲン、元ブラッドフォード大学(英国)平和学教員、世界平和博物館ネットワーク総括コーディネーター
  1. Alexis Dudden, Professor of History, University of Connecticut アレクシス・ダディン、コネチカット大学歴史学教授
  1. Richard Falk, Albert G. Professor of International Law and Practice, Emeritus, Princeton University リチャード・フォーク、プリンストン大学国際法名誉教授
  1. John Feffer, Director, Foreign Policy In Focus, ジョン・フェッファー、「フォーリン・ポリシー・イン・フォーカス」ディレクター
  1. Norma Field, Professor emerita, University of Chicago ノーマ・フィールド、シカゴ大学名誉教授
  1. Kay Fischer, Instructor, Ethnic Studies, Chabot Collegeケイ・フィッシャー、シャボット・カレッジ(カリフォルニア州)講師
  1. Atsushi Fujioka, Emeritus Professor, Ritsumeikan University 藤岡惇、立命館大学名誉教授
  1. Joseph Gerson (PhD), Vice-President, International Peace Bureau ジョセフ・ガーソン、国際平和ビューロー副会長
  1. Geoffrey C. Gunn, Emeritus, Nagasaki University ジェフリー・C・ガン、長崎大学名誉教授
  1. Kyung Hee Ha, Assistant Professor, Meiji University 河庚希、明治大学特任講師
  1. 1Laura Hein, Professor, Northwestern University ローラ・ハイン、ノースウェスタン大学教授(米国シカゴ)

14.Hirofumi Hayashi, Professor, Kanto Gakuin University 林博史、関東学院大学教授

  1. Katsuya Hirano, Associate Professor of History, UCLA平野克弥、カリフォルニア大学ロスアンゼルス校准教授
  1. IKEDA Eriko, Chair of the Board, Women’s  Active  Museum on War  and  Peace(wam) 池田恵理子 アクティブ・ミュージアム「女たちの戦争と平和資料館」(wam)館長
  1. Masaie Ishihara, Professor Emeritus Okinawa International University 石原昌家、沖縄国際大学名誉教授
  1. Paul Jobin, Associate Research Fellow, Academia Sinica, Institute of Sociology

ポール・ジョバン 台湾国立中央研究院社会学研究所 アソシエート・リサーチ・フェロー

  1. John Junkerman, Documentary Filmmaker ジャン・ユンカーマン、ドキュメンタリー映画監督
  1. Nan Kim, Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee ナン・キム(金永蘭)、ウィスコンシン大学ミルウォーキー校准教授
  1. KIM Puja, Professor of Gender History, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies金 富子、ジェンダー史、東京外国語大学教授
  1. Akira Kimura, Professor, Kagoshima University 木村朗、鹿児島大学教授

23.Tomomi Kinukawa, Instructor, San Francisco State University絹川知美、サンフランシスコ州立大学講師

  1. Peter Kuznick, Professor of History, American University ピーター・カズニック、アメリカン大学歴史学教授
  1. Kwon, Heok-Tae, Professor, Sungkonghoe University, Korea 権赫泰(クォン・ヒョクテ)、韓国・聖公会大学教授
  1. Lee Kyeong-Ju, Professor, Inha University (Korea) 李京柱、仁荷大学教授
  1. Miho Kim Lee, Co-founder of Eclipse Rising ミホ・キム・リー、「エクリプス・ライジング」共同創立者
  1. Lim Jie-Hyun, Professor of transnational history, director of Critical Global Studies Institute, Sogang University 林志弦(イム・ジヒョン)、西江大学教授(韓国)
  1. Akira Maeda, Professor, Tokyo Zokei University 前田 朗、東京造形大学教授
  1. Janice Matsumura, Associate Professor of History, Simon Fraser University, Canada ジャニス・マツムラ、サイモンフレイザー大学(カナダ)歴史学准教授

31.Tanya Maus, PhD, Director, Wilmington College Peace Resource Center, Wilmington, Ohio タニア・マウス、ウィルミントン大学(オハイオ州)平和資料センターディレクター

  1. David McNeill, Adjunct Professor, Sophia University デイビッド・マクニール、上智大学非常勤講師
  1. Gavan McCormack, Emeritus Professor, Australian National University ガバン・マコーマック、オーストラリア国立大学名誉教授
  1. Katherine Muzik, Ph.D., marine biologist, Kauai Island キャサリン・ミュージック、海洋生物学者(ハワイ・カウアイ島)
  1. Koichi Nakano, Professor, Sophia University 中野晃一、上智大学教授
  1. NAKANO Toshio, Professor Emeritus, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies中野敏男、社会理論・社会思想、東京外国語大学名誉教授
  1. Narusawa Muneo, Editor, Weekly Kinyobi, 成澤宗男、『週刊金曜日』編集部
  1. Satoko Oka Norimatsu, Editor, Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus 乗松聡子、『アジア太平洋ジャーナル:ジャパンフォーカス』エディター
  1. John Price, Professor of History, University of Victoria, Canada ジョン・プライス、ビクトリア大学(カナダ)歴史学教授
  1. Steve Rabson, Professor Emeritus, Brown University (U.S.A.) Veteran, United States Armyスティーブ・ラブソン、ブラウン大学(米国)名誉教授 米国陸軍退役軍人
  1. Sonia Ryang, Director, Chao Center for Asian Studies, Rice University ソニア・リャン、ライス大学(テキサス州)チャオ・アジア研究センターディレクター
  1. Daiyo Sawada, Emeritus Professor, University of Alberta ダイヨウ・サワダ、アルバータ大学名誉教授
  1. Mark Selden, Senior Research Associate, East Asia Program, Cornell University マーク・セルダン、コーネル大学東アジア研究プログラム上級研究員
  1. Oliver Stone, Academy Award-Winning Filmmaker オリバー・ストーン、アカデミー賞受賞映画監督
  1. Tetsuya Takahashi, Professor, University of Tokyo 高橋哲哉、東京大学教授
  1. Nobuyoshi Takashima, Professor Emeritus, the University of Ryukyus 高嶋伸欣、琉球大学名誉教授
  1. Akiko Takenaka, Associate Professor of Japanese History, University of Kentucky竹中晶子、ケンタッキー大学准教授
  1. Wesley Ueunten, Associate Professor, Asian American Studies Department, San Francisco State University ウェスリー・ウエウンテン、サンフランシスコ州立大学アジア・アメリカ研究学部准教授
  1. Aiko Utsumi, Professor Emeritus, Keisen University内海愛子、恵泉女学園大学名誉教授
  1. Shue Tuck Wong, Professor Emeritus, Simon Fraser University シュエ・タク・ウォング、サイモンフレーザー大学(カナダ)名誉教授
  1. Yi Wu, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Clemson University イー・ウー、クレムゾン大学社会学・人類学部助教授
  1. Tomomi Yamaguchi, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Montana State University 山口智美、モンタナ州立大学人類学准教授
  1. Lisa Yoneyama, Professor, University of Toronto リサ・ヨネヤマ、トロント大学教授

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The World Should Remember the Nanjing Massacre (December 13 1937- January 1938)

NOVANEWS
Historical Justice and Morality: The World Should Remember the Nanjing Massacre (December 13 1937- January 1938)
Eternal_flame,_Nanjing_massacre_memorial
December 13 marks the 3rd national commemoration of the Nanjing Massacre. Through the commemoration, also known as Nanjing Ji, Chinese people hope to, together with the rest of the world, remember the estimated 300,000 Chinese massacred during a six-week period 79 years ago by the imperial Japanese Army.

The annual event aims to engrave the dark days in the memory of Asia and the rest of the world for sustained peace.

The world has had a deeper recognition of the Nanjing Massacre over the past few years, thanks to a series of events. Besides the National Memorial Day, the historical documents of the Nanjing Massacre have been listed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, and a series of exhibitions were also held around the world.

All those measures helped more people learn the truth about the Nanjing Massacre, one of the biggest massacres during World War II.

“World War II, indeed, started in China. The Chinese people, like all peoples in the war,  including the Japanese people, suffered terribly from this inhumanity,” Stephane Grimaldi, general director of the Caen Memorial, said at an exhibition on the Nanjing Massacre about a month ago.

The growing number of voices like Grimaldi’s shows that after people learn more about the Nanjing Massacre and the Chinese battleground, the world sees World War II with a new perspective.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Nanjing Massacre was a horrendous crime against humanity and a very dark page in the history of mankind. Though 79 years have passed, history should not be altered with the passing of time, and facts not erased by crafty denials.

Today’s people commemorate the Nanjing Massacre for the purpose of upholding international justice.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reportedly announced days earlier that he will visit Pearl Harbor to mourn the victims of the Japanese surprise attack 75 years ago. Japanese media then suggested he also visit the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall in Nanjing, China.

Media’s response can be better understood after taking Japan’s acts over historic issues into consideration. In recent years, Japan’s right-wing politicians, represented by the Abe government, have been attempting to revise history and turn back the clock.

They, for instance, paid multiple visits to the notorious war-linked Yasukuni Shrine, and even distorted history books, triggering doubts from its neighbors and the international community.

A few months ago, Japan’s education ministry revised some junior high school history textbook passages on Japan’s war atrocities, in which it whitewashed its war crimes by deleting its maleficence in the 1937 Nanjing Massacre.

It is difficult to comprehend Abe’s visit to Pearl Harbor as a true “historical trip.” Some said the Japanese government is using this friendly measure to relieve its historical burden from its alliance with the US, and serve its own strategic agenda.

Whether the strategic move succeeds or not, Abe’s opportunistic attitude to history is indeed risky. Historical facts cannot be distorted or forgotten since history is always there, even though some nations do not dare to touch it.

Americans will not forget the Pearl Harbor attack and the Pacific War, Southeast Asian nations will remember the ruin caused by Japanese invaders, and Chinese people will engrave the suffering brought about by Japanese militarists in their minds as well.

Japan has to be honest about its wartime aggression, which is a complete period of history, not a few sections for it to choose from. Recognizing history can neither be Japan’s strategic card nor diplomatic move.

History sheds light on the future. Remembering the Nanjing Massacre is about morality and historical justice. Will Japan shoulder its historic responsibility as war instigator and criminal? The world will be the judge.

Posted in China, Japan0 Comments

Contemporary Political Dynamics Of Japanese Nationalism

NOVANEWS
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This essay examines why nationalism seems to be on the rise in Asia and beyond at a time when globalization is also becoming more salient, by focusing on the political dynamics that propelled both changes in Japan in the post-Cold War era. The more open and liberal type of nationalism that appeared in Japan in the 1980s to the mid-1990s was followed by an abrupt revisionist backlash beginning in the late 1990s. This illiberal, authoritarian turn in contemporary nationalism was confirmed and accelerated during the premiership of Koizumi Jun’ichiro (2001-06), when further neoliberal reforms were simultaneously implemented. I argue that the New Right transformation of Japanese politics –the combined ascendancy of economic liberalism and political illiberalism—is the driving force of contemporary nationalism in Japan.

Jingoism and Revisionism

According to annual surveys conducted by the Cabinet Office, in recent years negative sentiments vis-à-vis China and South Korea have risen sharply in Japan. The 2014 survey revealed that 93% per cent of the Japanese respondents have negative sentiments towards China, as it appears to be a growing threat to Japan. The rise took place in two stages, first in the mid-2000s, during the government of Koizumi, when he made annual pilgrimages to Yasukuni Shrine that derailed bilateral relations, and then further in the early 2010s as tensions rose over the Senkaku/Diaoyu territorial dispute in the East China Sea.

Regarding Japanese sentiments vis-à-vis South Korea, there was a sharp drop in positive feelings in 2012 as bilateral relations deteriorated following President Lee Myung-bak’s visit to Takeshima/Dokdo islets also subject to competing claims of sovereignty similar to the standoff with China, allegedly out of frustration with the lack of progress in dealing with the “comfort women” (the women who were subjected to sexual slavery in wartime military brothels at the behest of Japanese military authorities) issue. The same 2014 Cabinet Office survey indicates that 66.4 per cent of Japanese harbor negative sentiments towards South Korea.

Considering the fact that negative sentiments against China were consistently around 20 per cent until the June 4th Incident in 1989, while those against South Korea less than 40 per cent until as recently as 2011, these are worrisome developments that raise concerns about the future of Northeast Asia.

Moreover, a study of influential conservative monthly magazines, Shokun! and Seiron, also confirms similar trends of growing antipathy in the media. Articles with titles that include such words as han-nichi (anti-Japan), invariably in relation to China and Korea, dramatically increased in the late 1990s, and continued to rise sharply through the 2000s (Jomaru, 2011, 390-392). The popular Manga Ken Kanryu (Hating the Korean Wave Manga) published in 2005 broke the hate-mongering taboo, and spawned a countless number of similar publications, whose principal message was hatred of Korea and China. Today, sensationalist books and magazines that fan anti-China and/or anti-Korea sentiments have become an alarmingly ubiquitous feature of Japanese bookstores, and indeed, commuter trains, where the adverts of populist weeklies persistently exhibit hate messages targeting these two nations.

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Zaitokukai Demonstrations Target ethnic Koreans in Japan

While there has been no violence or riots against the Chinese or the Koreans in Japan in recent years, hate demonstrations against the Zainichi Korean population have become a prominent social issue, particularly since the establishment of Zaitokukai (short hand for Zainichi Tokken o Yurusanai Shimin no Kai, Citizens’ Group Against Special Rights for Koreans in Japan in 2007. “Ordinary” Japanese, who previously were content to consume hate-mongering publications and spread jingoistic messages on the Internet against the Zainichi population subsequently took to the streets and spewed invective while terrorizing ethnic Korean permanent residents of Japan (Noma 2013; Sakamoto 2011). Zainichi are targeted based on groundless beliefs that they are accorded special privileges and because they are the collateral damage of worsening relations with South Korea over unresolved historical grievances and clashing territorial claims, anger over North Korea’s abduction of Japanese nationals, and anxieties generated by Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear weapons program.

Secondly, there has been a spectacular ascent of historical revisionism in mainstream politics and media. The sharp rise in hate-mongering articles in conservative media mentioned above was directly triggered by reports in 1996 that all Ministry of Education approved history textbooks for use in junior high schools from 1997 included references to “comfort women.” In a virulent reaction to this development, revisionist nationalists in politics and in the media launched an organized revisionist counterattack. Revisionists champion an exculpatory and valorizing narrative of Japan’s wartime actions and seek to revise the prevailing mainstream consensus that they condemn as ‘masochistic’ for being too critical of Japan’s conduct.

Thus, in January 1997, Tsukurukai (short hand name for Atarashii Rekishi Kyōkasho o Tsukurukai, Japan Society for History Textbook Reform) was launched by rightwing media figures and academics, while in February, the late Nakagawa Shoichi and Abe Shinzo led a group of junior revisionist politicians to launch the Young Parliamentarians Association that Consider Japan’s Future and History Education, and in May, Japan Conference (Nippon Kaigi) was established as a powerful lobby group that brought together neonationalist intellectuals and business leaders with the religious right (Shintoist groups as well as new religions). Nippon Kaigi also has a parliamentary arm with members mostly hailing from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the party that has dominated Japanese politics since it was established in 1955. This flowering of the revisionist movement on multiple fronts came to a head in 1997. From the very beginning, such rightwing/conservative media conglomerates as Fuji-Sankei group (that publishes Seiron as well as Sankei newspaper) and Bungei Shunju (that used to publish Shokun! among others) provided a media platform for these concerted efforts (Tawara 1997; Sasagase et al 2015; McNeill 2015).

Although serious scholars in the late 1990s dismissed revisionist claims as baseless, and in conflict with available evidence, by the time Abe succeeded Koizumi as Prime Minister in 2006, all reference to the “comfort women” disappeared from the main texts of the government-approved textbooks.

One key point that needs to be made at this juncture is that these two phenomena—jingoism and revisionism—are essentially elite-driven processes rather than reflecting grassroots sentiments or public opinion. Political and media elites took the lead in fanning negative sentiments against Japan’s neighbors, often, of course, in response to what they considered to be provocations by their Chinese and Korean counterparts. However, when we look at the chronology of these developments, it is evident that xenophobia among the Japanese people was instigated by the political and media elites

While it is entirely appropriate to ask in what sense the “top-down” xenophobia (anti-China and anti-Korea sentiments in particular) and historical revisionism discussed here constitute “nationalism,” these are clearly worrisome trends that stoke risings tension between Japan and its East Asian neighbors, where anti-Japanese sentiments are a touchstone of “nationalism.”

Neo/liberal Path to Nationalism

The rise of contemporary nationalism since the late 1990s is all the more curious once we consider how it all came about in the first place. After all, Japan was seemingly set on a steady path to neoliberal internationalism since the 1980s.

Image Revisionists seek to rehabilitate the inglorious wartime past

When the Basic Treaty with South Korea was signed in 1965, the Joint Communiqué noted the “regrets” (ikan) and “deep remorse” (fukaku hansei) expressed by the Japanese side and similarly, when diplomatic ties between the People’s Republic of China and Japan were established in 1972, the Joint Communiqué stated that, “The Japanese side is keenly conscious of the responsibility for the serious damage that Japan caused in the past to the Chinese people through war, and deeply reproaches itself” (sekinin wo tsukanshi, fukaku hansei suru) (Hattori 2015, 9-10; Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan 1972).

While leaders of the countries at the time considered these expressions sufficient and appropriate, the issue of war memory gained in salience and became a diplomatic issue in the shape of the history textbook controversy that erupted in 1982 over alleged changes in the wording of Japanese descriptions of its invasion of China (that turned out to be incorrect). In response, Japan issued the 1982 Miyazawa Statement on History Textbooks by Chief Cabinet Secretary Miyazawa Kiichi noting that the “spirit in the Japan-ROK Joint Communiqué and the Japan-China Joint Communiqué naturally should also be respected in Japan’s school education and government textbook authorization. Recently, however, the Republic of Korea, China, and others have been criticizing some descriptions in Japanese textbooks. From the perspective of building friendship and goodwill with neighboring countries, Japan will pay due attention to these criticisms and make corrections at the Government’s responsibility” (Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan 1982).

This led to the adoption of the so-called “neighboring countries” clause in the Ministry of Education criteria for textbook approval that stipulates that “due consideration should be made from the point of view of international understanding and international cooperation when dealing with modern history issues that involve neighboring Asian countries.” Improvements have since been made in history textbooks, but in contemporary Japan this clause is hotly contested by the revisionist right; by 2015 PM Abe has all but abandoned it.

On August 15, 1985, marking the 40th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, then Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro paid an official visit to the Yasukuni Shrine. The Chinese government protested his visit, noting that the Class-A war criminals that were found guilty of orchestrating Japan’s rampage in Asia are enshrined there. By 1986, Nakasone decided to suspend future visits to the shrine in consideration of the Chinese criticisms and subsequently admonished Prime Minister Koizumi not to visit, arguing that doing so undermines national interests.

What is crucial to understand here is that Northeast Asia, and indeed, the whole world, was going through a period of liberal opening in the 1980s as the Cold War was nearing its end. China embarked on its extensive economic reforms in 1978, and they were further accelerated by the mid-1980s. This led to a somewhat more pluralistic society and political leadership—a country that was now rather different from the time when Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai held power. Similarly, the democratization movement was flaring up in Korea throughout the 1980s, resulting in the June 29 Declaration of democratization in 1987, as the military dictators lost their grip on power. Even in the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in 1985 and began the process of perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (opening, transparency) that ushered in the dissolution of the Soviet Union. China, however, crushed the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement in 1989 as its leaders resorted to violence in a bid to prevent a Soviet-type scenario, deny popular demands for representative government and preserve the communist party’s monopoly of power. These developments indicate that even in authoritarian regimes, the government was no longer able to fully control popular demands and address public concerns, and that their polities were becoming more pluralistic, and thus, less stable.

It was in this context that Japan under Nakasone was also pushing through neoliberal reforms with the professed ambition to play a stronger leadership role in the liberal economic order. Japan was part of the 1985 Plaza Accord that triggered the rapid appreciation of the yen (which in turn unleashed the bubble economy in Japan), and a key participant in the Uruguay Round of multinational trade negotiations since 1986. Following the June 4th Incident, Japan joined the western sanctions against China, but it also became the first country to lift them, with Prime Minister Kaifu Toshiki visiting Beijing in 1991, followed by the Emperor’s visit in 1992.

Beyond the economy, the 1990-91 Persian Gulf Crisis tested Japan’s liberal internationalist orientation as Iraq invaded Kuwait. Japan’s “checkbook diplomacy,” contributing $13 billion towards the coalition campaign but committing no troops, drew U.S. criticism for ducking the risks of combat due to constitutional constraints on its military forces. As the Cold War was coming to an end, there was growing pressure from the U.S. and its European allies for Japan to play a leadership role not merely in the global economy, but also in the security arena. Overcoming strong political opposition, the government succeeded in enacting the Peacekeeping Operation Law in 1992 allowing the dispatch of military forces in UN-sanctioned peacekeeping efforts.

Japanese political leaders at the time, including the nationalist Nakasone, thought that Japan’s prestige would benefit significantly from military normalization. They also understood that reconciliation with the former victims of Japan’s militarist past, most particularly, China and South Korea, was an absolute prerequisite to realize those ambitions. This is why they were prepared to go a long way in trying to come to grips with the past. It is possible to say that even ardent nationalist sentiments during this period displayed distinctly liberal characteristics.

Thus, when the first victim of Japan’s comfort women system appeared in front of the TV cameras in 1991 calling for the Japanese state to assume its responsibility, the government conducted an investigation including interviews with former comfort women that led to the 1993 Kono Statement (Kono Yohei was Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan in 1993) and subsequently established the Asian Women’s Fund in 1995 to provide redress to these aging victims. Also in 1993, Prime Minister Hosokawa Morihiro became the first Japanese prime minister to publicly acknowledge that Japan was engaged in a “war of aggression” in the Second World War (Hosokawa 2010, pp. 30-31). This liberal trends regarding war responsibility culminated in the Murayama Statement of 1995 acknowledging and apologizing for Japanese wartime aggression (Murayama Tomiichi was the socialist Prime Minister in 1995 in a coalition government with the LDP).

Illiberal, Revisionist Turn

The liberal opening up of societies around the world continued in the post-Cold War era, and it seemed as if the vexing history issues that emerged were going to be resolved by the same liberal political elites. Liberalization of political systems, however, also meant that liberal elites were no longer in full control of social demands, or in fact, even of government policies. The quest for international reconciliation over history issues turned into an unpredictable process involving multiple actors that are not neatly divided across national lines. As mentioned in section 1 above, certain political and media elites manipulated anti-China/anti-Korea sentiments and historical revisionism for their own purposes from the late 1990s. Indeed, nationalists’ grandstanding in the late 1990s onward has intensified tensions across borders, reinforcing nationalist discourse in their respective countries at the expense of moderates.

Several different factors coalesced to further the illiberal, revisionist turn. First, after more than fifty years since WWII, the late 1990s saw a rapid generational turnover among political elites, with those with direct personal experience of the war replaced by younger politicians with no such experience who were building political careers in the post-Cold War era in which there was no apparent rival ideology to neoliberalism. In many cases, they were also born and raised in privilege as hereditary scions of political dynasties. These new elites often opposed expressions of war guilt and contrition, and disavowed the reconciliation initiatives of previous generations. They are also prone to exhibit a rather more cynical, neoliberal worldview, according to which self-interested actors vie to get ahead at the expense of each other in domestic politics as well as international relations.

Tellingly, while Miyazawa in 1991 was the first postwar prime minister to hail from a political dynasty (he had also served as an elite bureaucrat like many of his predecessors), since 1996 to date no less than seven of the ten prime ministers came from political dynasties.2 The oligarchic tendency becomes even more striking when one considers the fact that of these hereditary prime ministers, Abe, Fukuda Yasuo, Asō Tarō, and Hatoyama Yukio are, in fact, sons or grandsons of postwar prime ministers. While not all of the hereditary politicians share a revisionist outlook, their predominance, particularly at the very top, does point to the emergence of a privileged ruling class. In fact, it is highly ironic that in Northeast Asia, where “nationalism” has raised regional tensions to unprecedented levels, Japan and its neighbors, China, South Korea, and North Korea, are all currently led by hereditary politicians.

Significantly, the rightward political shift in Japan in the 21st century coincides with economic decline, creating a volatile context for a rising tide of nationalism. Japan faces prolonged economic stagnation, relative decline, and mushrooming public debt, in addition to growing disparities between rich and poor that undermine the norms and values that have been a foundation of postwar national cohesion. In other words, the oligarchic political tendency is also evident in the economic sphere, in a country known for, and proud of, its egalitarian society. Insecurity and precarity hit the lower strata of society and youth especially hard, leading to increased suicide, divorce, non-marriage, deflation and lower productivity because firms no longer invest in training disposable workers. In this acute social crisis, political leaders sought to divert attention to “external enemies.”

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poster for the Rally Against Precarity

Again, on this front Japan was not alone or unique, as the predominance of neoliberal economic policies everywhere meant that the social fabric was torn apart as oligarchic governments often lacked the fiscal resources, or indeed political will, to ensure minimum standards of national wellbeing. “Nationalism” or xenophobic campaigns provided a “no-cost” alternative to provision of adequate social security, enabling the ruling elites to dodge their responsibilities and offer a false sense of national unity that elided the marginalization and expansion of the “have-nots.” As Dr. Samuel Johnson famously remarked as early as 1775, patriotism is ‘the last refuge of a scoundrel’ while in contemporary Japan it constitutes conservatives’ palliative for what ails the nation.

Last, but not least, these processes were accelerated by neoliberal internationalist policy orientation that we noted earlier. There are four key elements in this process. First, since the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) electoral system was introduced in 1994, the LDP became a much more centralized party. Diversity of internal opinions that used to moderate (or dilute, depending on one’s point of view) the overall party stance, and thus, offered a thriving environment for consensus-seeking moderates, was replaced by the predominance of uncompromising conservatives with extreme views. Second, electoral system reform was soon followed by administrative reform that centralized power in the prime minister’s office. This confluence of developments facilitated the emergence of a “top-down” style of governance that was inspired by the neoliberal, corporate model. Third, electoral system reform and the party realignment that ensued brought about the demise of the Left, namely the Japan Socialist Party, that used to provide effective opposition and served as a check on the reactionary inclinations of LDP governments. When Murayama, the Socialist prime minister, stepped down in 1996, moderates in the LDP also lost their pivotal position in the evolving coalition politics. Fourth, by 1998, it became evident that the new main rival for the LDP-led government was the neoliberal Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ); overall, these rivals for power occupy the same ideological niche. After Prime Minister Obuchi Keizō failed to spend his way out of economic stagnation, a new neoliberal consensus emerged between the DPJ and Koizumi’s LDP that signaled the beginning of an era of ideational politics. This marked the end of the era of interest politics in Japan, when the government had ample resources to satisfy its supporters and silence opponents. The ideas, ideologies, and identities that the LDP would effectively mobilize in the new era were nationalistic, revisionist, and even xenophobic to a degree.

The late 1990s thus served as a transition period when these changes in the illiberal, revisionist direction were emerging, but it was not until the 2000s under Koizumi that these changes accelerated.

Xenophobia, Revisionism, and Authoritarianism under Koizumi and Abe

While there is no denying Koizumi’s strong charisma and mastery of political theatrics, it would be a mistake to overlook the institutional underpinning that was put into place by his predecessors in analyzing the sources of his effectiveness as a political leader. Koizumi was fortunate in being able to make use of the newly concentrated power afforded him as the leader of the LDP and as prime minister to marginalize critics, promote loyal followers, and propel his agenda. His neoliberal agenda of “structural reform with no sacred cows” was not always popular within the party, but he shrewdly made up for it by fanning and exploiting “nationalistic” sentiments. His annual visits to the Yasukuni Shrine were a case in point. There is no record of interest on his part in Yasukuni before or after he served as prime minister (unlike Abe, who deeply cares about it). Koizumi nevertheless claimed that the visits were a matter of his “heart” and dismissed Chinese and Korean criticisms as domestic interference. He thus shrewdly invoked nationalist symbols to appear as a resolute leader and advance his economic program, a marked contrast to PM Abe who invokes economic reform to divert criticism from his revisionist agenda targeting wartime history and the constitution along with ramping up Japan’s security profile.

Koizumi’s “Children”-1st time elected politicians-obediently follow him to Yasukuni Shrine

The hardcore nationalists, who disliked Koizumi’s privatization and deregulation reforms that they viewed as a sellout to U.S. corporate interests, nevertheless cheered him as he stubbornly refused to cave in to Chinese and Korean criticisms and continued to visit Yasukuni (Nakano 2006, 403). The New Right technique Koizumi employed replicates Margaret Thatcher’s mobilization of nationalist support for the Falklands War when her monetarist economic policies were proving deeply unpopular in the early 1980s. Ultimately, as Koizumi’s signature reform project of postal privatization encountered stiff opposition from within the LDP, he took the unusually authoritarian route of firing uncooperative ministers from the cabinet, expelling from the party Diet members opposed to his scheme, and called a snap election for the lower house to counter the upper house’s rejection of his bill. Such a move on his part would not have been possible without the centralized power conferred on him by the political and administrative reforms of the 1990s.

One should note here also that under Koizumi there was a decisive shift away from the internationalist foreign policy orientation that Japan adopted since the 1980s. The Koizumi premiership in Japan overlapped with the presidency of George W. Bush in the U.S. In a striking departure from prevailing assumptions that Japan needs to reconcile with China and Korea as a pre-condition for military normalization, Koizumi even went so far as to claim that “There is no such thing as U.S.-Japan relationship that is too close. Some people maintain that maybe we should pay more attention to other issues and that it would probably be better to strengthen relations with other countries. I do not share such views. The U.S.-Japan relationship, the closer, more intimate it is, the easier it is for us to establish better relations with China, with South Korea, and other nations in Asia” (Prime Minister of Japan 2005). The Bush Administration perceived Koizumi’s instrumental use of revisionism as “healthy nationalism” allowing Japan to assume a greater, if subordinate, military role in the alliance framework, damaging the prospects for reconciliation with its former victims.

Given the loss of economic opportunities, however, the Japanese business community ensured that when Koizumi finally stepped down, his successor, Abe, would work to rebuild Japan’s ties with China by refraining from visiting Yasukuni Shrine. Abe duly acted pragmatically at the time (though he later said that he regretted not having visited Yasukuni as prime minister), and in any case, his first stint at the premiership lasted only for a year as he suffered a humiliating upper house election defeat in 2007 at the hands of the then ascendant DPJ. Within that year, however, Abe changed the Basic Law on Education to include “love of country” as a goal of education, upgraded the Defense Agency to a full-fledged ministry, and set the rules for conducting an eventual referendum for constitutional revision.

When Abe returned to power in December 2012, he faced a rather different set of political conditions. The rival DPJ suffered a catastrophic defeat, while there were a couple of new parties that were positioning themselves even further to the right of the LDP on many issues and were indeed willing to collaborate to advance this agenda. Abe also successfully silenced potential dissent from big business by giving a boost to stock prices with the reflationary policies of “Abenomics,” devaluing the yen to make Japanese exports more competitive, and advocating restarts of Japan’s idled nuclear reactors.

Abe also gained the enthusiastic backing of the Sankei and Yomiuri newspapers, which acted as media cheerleaders for his policies and pit bulls for his critics. Having suffered from negative media coverage in his first premiership, Abe sought to tighten his grip on the media, placing a trusted henchman with no media experience as the head of Japan’s flagship public broadcaster, NHK.

Once the upper house election of summer 2013 was out of the way, with a handsome victory for Abe’s ruling coalition, he revealed his true colors by setting up the National Security Council, pushing through the highly controversial Designated Secrets Law that gave largely unchecked discretionary power to government officials to designate documents as state secrets, and visiting Yasukuni Shrine on the first year anniversary of his second premiership. In July 2014, he further revised the official government interpretation of the constitution to enable Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense by a mere cabinet decision – something that successive postwar LDP governments had repeatedly acknowledged would require constitutional amendment.

The prospects for revision have been strengthened by Abe’s 2016 electoral victory, but there are no longer doubts about Abe’s real agenda as Abenomics increasingly seems to have promised more than it has delivered and, because its main success is boosting stock market prices, critics dismiss it as welfare for the wealthy. Abe has also tried to position himself as an advocate for womenomics, but here again the rhetoric exceeds the reality. He reshuffled his cabinet in September 2014 with his media spin masters emphasizing the record number of five women ministers (plus a woman policy chief for the LDP)3, but nearly all of these women politicians were better known for their far-right revisionist views than for their feminist policy orientation. Indeed, Yamatani Eriko (National Police and Disaster Management Minister), Takaichi Sanae (Internal Affairs and Communications Minister), and Inada Tomomi (LDP Policy Chief), in particular, were notorious for their anti-feminist and extreme revisionist views, in addition to dubious ties to Neo-Nazi and/or xenophobic activists.

The revisionists launched orchestrated, vitriolic attacks in 2014 against the liberal-leaning Asahi newspaper after it retracted a handful of articles on the “comfort women” from the 1990s that were based in part on false testimony. Abe also seized the opportunity to attack the critical newspaper and served as cheerleader-in-chief even as emboldened extremists issued death threats against a university that employed one of the former Asahi journalists who wrote some of the “comfort women” stories that were not in fact based on the false testimony. This McCarthyism-style campaign by reactionary nationalists threatens press and academic freedoms in Japan while intimidating moderates. (Uemura with Yamaguchi 2015).

When Abe called a snap election in December 2014 to consolidate his hold on power, the LDP’s official campaign pledge included a passage that said, “We shall act to restore Japan’s honor and national interest by presenting firm counterarguments against groundless accusations based on falsehood through external communication to the international community,” a thinly veiled reference to its plan to use the Asahi retraction to challenge the consensus that the “comfort women” were sex slaves (Liberal Democratic Party 2014). This revisionist campaign aims to convey the misleading impression that the whole of the sex slave system was an Asahi fabrication, and rewrite Japan’s shared history with Asia in ways that imperil Japan’s regional interests.

Moreover, Abe pursues this revisionist agenda internationally, as Japanese diplomats in New York sought unsuccessfully to have McGraw-Hill revise its description of the comfort women in an American history textbook (Fackler 2015). This provoked a public relations disaster for Japan and publication of a letter by a group of US-based historians (including eminent scholars such as Carol Gluck and Sheldon Garon) expressing “dismay at recent attempts by the Japanese government to suppress statements in history textbooks both in Japan and elsewhere about the euphemistically named ‘comfort women’ who suffered under a brutal system of sexual exploitation in the service of the Japanese imperial army during World War II” in the newsmagazine of the American Historical Association (Dudden et al. 2015, 33). Since the U.S. government remains firmly opposed to revision of the Kono Statement, Abe and his supporters have conducted hit-and-run attacks against it in the Diet to discredit this mea culpa while denouncing the 1996 UN Coomaraswamy Report on “comfort women” (UN Commission of Human Rights 1996). Revisionists are thus waging a campaign to deny that Japan was responsible for forced recruitment of young women and that the “comfort women” system constituted sexual slavery, again tarnishing the dignity of the nation and its victims.

Choreographing Closer US-Japan Security Ties 2015

Abe’s self-righteous nationalism and strong revisionist streak has alienated neighbors and made Washington increasingly abashed. Even if the Pentagon thinks of Abe as their man in Japan because he has delivered more on America’s longstanding security requests than the rest of Japan’s post-WWII prime minsters combined, he is making himself an awkward partner because nobody can pretend that shirking the burdens of the past is anything but narrow-minded and counterproductive nationalism.

This article is adapted from Nakano Koichi, “Political Dynamics of Contemporary Japanese Nationalism” in Jeff Kingston, ed., Asian Nationalisms Reconsidered (Routledge, 2016).

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McNeill, David. (2015) “Nippon Kaigi and the Radical Conservative Project to Take Back Japan”, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 13, Issue 48, No. 4, December 14, 2015.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (1972). “Joint Communiqué of the Government of Japan and the Government of the People’s Republic of China.” September 29, 1972.http://www.mofa.go.jp/region/asia-paci/china/joint72.html (Last retrieved on February 9, 2015).

Nakano, Koichi (2006). “Yasukuni Mondai to Mukiau (Facing Up to Yasukuni Issue)” in Nakano, Koichi et al. (2006), Yasukuni to Mukiau (Facing Up to Yasukuni) (Tokyo: Mekong Publishing).

Noma, Yasumichi (2013). “Zainichi Tokken” no Kyoko (Lies about “Zainichi Privileges”) (Tokyo: Kawade Shobo Shinsha).

Prime Minister of Japan (1995). “Statement by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama ‘On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the war’s end.’” August 15, 1995.http://www.mofa.go.jp/announce/press/pm/murayama/9508.html (Last retrieved on February 9, 2015).

Prime Minister of Japan (2005), “The President’s News Conference With Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan in Kyoto, Japan.” November 16, 2005.http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=63396 (Last retrieved on February 9, 2015).

Sakamoto Rumi (2011),‘Koreans, Go Home!’ Internet Nationalism in Contemporary Japan as a Digitally Mediated Subculture,The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 10 No 2, March 7.

Sasagase Yuji, Hayashi Keita and Sato Kei (2015) Introduction to Nippon Kaigi, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 13, Issue 48, No. 5, Dec 14. (translated by J. Victor Koschmann)

Tawara, Yoshifumi (1997). Dokyumento “Ianfu” Mondai to Kyokasho Kogeki (Document “Comfort Women” Issue and Textbook Offensives) (Tokyo: Kobunken).

Uemura, Takashi with Tomomi Yamaguchi (2015). “Labeled the reporter who ‘fabricated’ the comfort woman issue: A Rebuttal,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, vol. 13, issue 2, no. 1, January 12, 2015.http://www.japanfocus.org/-Uemura-Takashi/4249 (Last retrieved on February 9, 2015).

UN Commission on Human Rights (1996). “Addendum Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, in accordance with Commission on Human Rights resolution 1994/45 Report on the mission to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea and Japan on the issue of military sexual slavery in wartime.” January 4, 1996. http://www.awf.or.jp/pdf/h0004.pdf (Last retrieved on February 9, 2015).

Notes:

1  Neoliberalism refers to a set of “small government” policies, including privatization, deregulation, elimination of trade barriers, and cuts in public expenditure, that generally result in a widening gap between the rich and the poor.

Only Mori Yoshirō (who comes from a family of local politicians) in the LDP, and Kan Naoto and Noda Yoshihiko from the Democratic Party of Japan served as prime ministers despite lacking family connections in national politics. Abe is counted once even though he served on two separate occasions, 2006-07 and 2012- present.

Koizumi’s first cabinet also had five women ministers.

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Fukushima Backlash Hits Japan Prime Minister. Fukushima is NOT under Control

NOVANEWS
 
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Nuclear power may never recover its cachet as a clean energy source, irrespective of safety concerns, because of the ongoing saga of meltdown 3/11/11 at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Over time, the story only grows more horrific, painful, deceitful. It’s a story that will continue for generations to come.

Here’s why it holds pertinence: As a result of total 100% meltdown, TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) cannot locate or remove the radioactive molten core or corium from the reactors. Nobody knows where it is. It is missing. If it is missing from within the reactor structures, has it burrowed into the ground? There are no ready answers.

And, the destroyed nuclear plants are way too radioactive for humans to get close enough for inspection. And, robotic cameras get zapped! Corium is highly radioactive material, begging the question: If it has burrowed thru the containment vessel, does it spread underground, contaminating farmland and water resources and if so, how far away? Nobody knows?

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According to TEPCO, removing the melted cores from reactors 1,2 and 3 will take upwards of 20 years, or more, again who knows.

But still, Japan will hold Olympic events in Fukushima in 2020 whilst out-of-control radioactive masses of goo are nowhere to be found. TEPCO expects decades before the cleanup is complete, if ever. Fortunately, for Tokyo 2020 (the Olympic designation) radiation’s impact has a latency effect, i.e., it takes a few years to show up as cancer in the human body.

A week ago on September 7th, Former PM Junichiro Koizumi, one of Japan’s most revered former prime ministers, lambasted the current Abe administration, as well as recovery efforts by TEPCO. At a news conference he said PM Shinzō Abe lied to the Olympic committee in 2013 in order to host the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan.

“That was a lie,” Mr Koizumi told reporters when asked about Mr Abe’s remark that Fukushima was “under control,” Abe Lied to IOC About Nuke Plant, ex-PM Says, The Straits Times, Sep 8, 2016. The former PM also went on to explain TEPCO, after 5 years of struggling, still has not been able to effectively control contaminated water at the plant.

According to The Straits Times article: “Speaking to the IOC in September 2013, before the Olympic vote, PM Abe acknowledged concerns but stressed there was no need to worry: “Let me assure you, the situation is under control.”

PM Abe’s irresponsible statement before the world community essentially puts a dagger into the heart of nuclear advocacy and former PM Koizumi deepens the insertion. After all, who can be truthfully trusted? Mr Koizumi was a supporter of nuclear power while in office from 2001-2006, but he has since turned into a vocal opponent.

Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in Tokyo, Mr Koizumi said: “The nuclear power industry says safety is their top priority, but profit is in fact what comes first… Japan can grow if the country relies on more renewable energy,” (Ayako Mie, staff writer, Despite Dwindling Momentum, Koizumi Pursues Anti-Nuclear Goals, The Japan Times, Sept. 7, 2016).

Mr Koizumi makes a good point. There have been no blackouts in Japan sans nuclear power. The country functioned well without nuclear.

Further to the point of nuclear versus nonnuclear, Katsunobu Sakurai, mayor of Minamisoma, a city of 70,000 located 25 km north of Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, at a news conference in Tokyo, said: “As a citizen and as a resident of an area affected by the nuclear power plant disaster, I must express great anger at this act… it is necessary for all of Japan to change its way of thinking, and its way of life too – to move to become a society like Germany, which is no longer reliant on nuclear power,” (Sarai Flores, Minamisoma Mayor Sees Future for Fukushima ‘Nonnuclear’ City in Energy Independence, The Japan Times, March 9, 2016).

In March of 2015, Minamisoma declared as a Nonnuclear City, turning to solar and wind power in tandem with energy-saving measures.

Meanwhile, at the insistence of the Abe administration, seven nuclear reactors could restart by the end of FY2016 followed by a total of 19 units over the next 12 months (Source: Japanese Institute Sees 19 Reactor Restarts by March 2018, World Nuclear News, July 28, 2016).

Greenpeace/Japan Discovers Widespread Radioactivity

One of the issues surrounding the Fukushima incident and the upcoming Olympics is whom to trust. Already TEPCO has admitted to misleading the public about reports on the status of the nuclear meltdown, and PM Abe has been caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar, but even much worse, lying to a major international sports tribunal. His credibility is down the drain.

As such, maybe third party sources can be trusted to tell the truth. In that regard, Greenpeace/Japan, which does not have a vested interest in nuclear power, may be one of the only reliable sources, especially since it has boots on the ground, testing for radiation. Since 2011, Greenpeace has conducted over 25 extensive surveys for radiation throughout Fukushima Prefecture.

In which case, the Japanese people should take heed because PM Abe is pushing hard to reopen nuclear plants and pushing hard to repopulate Fukushima, of course, well ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics since there will be events held in Fukushima Prefecture. After all, how can one expect Olympians to populate Fukushima if Japan’s own citizens do not? But, as of now to a certain extent citizens are pushing back. Maybe they instinctively do not trust their own government’s assurances.

But, more chilling yet, after extensive boots-on-the-ground analyses, Greenpeace issued the following statement in March 2016: “Unfortunately, the crux of the nuclear contamination issue – from Kyshtym to Chernobyl to Fukushima- is this: When a major radiological disaster happens and impacts vast tracts of land, it cannot be ‘cleaned up’ or ‘fixed’.” (Source: Hanis Maketab, Environmental Impacts of Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Will Last ‘decades to centuries’ – Greenpeace, Asia Correspondent, March 4, 2016).

That is a blunt way of saying sayonara to habitation on radioactive contaminated land. That’s why Chernobyl is a permanently closed restricted zone for the past 30 years.

As far as “returning home” goes, if Greenpeace/Japan ran the show rather than PM Abe, it appears they would say ‘no’. Greenpeace does not believe it is safe. Greenpeace International issued a press release a little over one month ago with the headline: Radiation Along Fukushima Rivers up to 200 Times Higher Than Pacific Ocean Seabed – Greenpeace Press Release, July 21, 2016.

Here’s what they discovered: “The extremely high levels of radioactivity we found along the river systems highlights the enormity and longevity of both the environmental contamination and the public health risks resulting from the Fukushima disaster,” says Ai Kashiwagi, Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace Japan.

“These river samples were taken in areas where the Abe government is stating it is safe for people to live. But the results show there is no return to normal after this nuclear catastrophe,” claims Kashiwagi.

Riverbank sediment samples taken along the Niida River in Minami Soma, measured as high as 29,800 Bq/kg for radiocaesium (Cs-134 and 137). The Niida samples were taken where there are no restrictions on people living, as were other river samples. At the estuary of the Abukuma River in Miyagi prefecture, which lies more than 90km north of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, levels measured in sediment samples were as high as 6,500 Bq/kg” (Greenpeace)

The prescribed safe limit of radioactive cesium for drinking water is 200 Bq/kg. A Becquerel (“Bq”) is a gauge of strength of radioactivity in materials such as Iodine-131 and Cesium-137 (Source: Safe Limits for Consuming Radiation-Contaminated Food, Bloomberg, March 20, 2011).

The lifting of evacuation orders in March 2017 for areas that remain highly contaminated is a looming human rights crisis and cannot be permitted to stand. The vast expanses of contaminated forests and freshwater systems will remain a perennial source of radioactivity for the foreseeable future, as these ecosystems cannot simply be decontaminated.  (Greenpeace).

Still, the Abe administration is to be commended for its herculean effort to try to clean up radioactivity throughout Fukushima Prefecture, but at the end of the day, it may be for naught. A massive cleanup effort is impossible in the hills, in the mountains, in the valleys, in the vast forests, along riverbeds and lakes, across extensive meadows in the wild where radiation levels remain deadly dangerous. Over time, it leaches back into decontaminated areas.

And as significantly, if not more so, what happens to the out-of-control radioactive blobs of corium? Nobody knows where those are, or what to do about it. It’s kinda like the mystery surrounding black holes in outer space, but nobody dares go there.

Fukushima is a story for the ages because radiation doesn’t quit. Still, the Olympics must go on, but where?

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The Link Between Uranium From the Congo and Hiroshima: A Story of Twin Tragedies

NOVANEWS

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On August 6 — Hiroshima Day — I participated in a groundbreaking event at the South African Museum in Cape Town entitled The Missing Link: Peace and Security Surrounding Uranium.

The event had been organised by the Congolese Civil Society of South Africa to put a spotlight on the link between Japan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): that the uranium used to build the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima came from the Shinkolobwe mine in the province of Katanga.

This was the richest uranium in the world. Its ore had an average of 65% uranium oxide compared with American or Canadian ore, which contained less than 1%.

The mine is now closed, but its existence put it at the centre of the Manhattan Project in the second world war. The Congo was a Belgian colony at the time and the Congolese suffered from the harsh colonial reality of racism, segregation and extreme inequities.

Following the war, the mine became a focus for the Cold War conflict between the superpowers. Today, freelance miners, desperate to earn a living and at severe risk to their health, still go to the site to dig out uranium and cobalt.

US Efforts to Secure All the Uranium

The Congolese Civil Society of South Africa seeks to bring together the DRC community living in the Cape Town area.

In February this year it presented a memorandum to the South African parliament, asking for support for human rights and democracy in DRC. The organisers believe the uniqueness of Shinkolobwe’s ore has had a destructive impact on their history.

It held its first Missing Link event last year at the University of Cape Town. The second event was much more ambitious. The lecture hall at the museum was packed with Congolese, including families with children, and other members of the public. A number of people hailed from the area around Likasi, the nearest town to Shinkolobwe. Posters were put on the walls, including the flags of Japan and DRC, next to each other.

I had been invited to the event because my new book, Spies in the Congo, centres on America’s efforts to secure all the uranium in the Belgian Congo. This followed Einstein’s warning of the risk that Nazi Germany was building an atomic bomb.

The US arranged for its wartime intelligence agency, the Office of Strategic Services, to send agents to the Congo to protect the transit of the ore and to prevent smuggling to Germany.

The story of these courageous agents — and the dangers they encountered from Nazi sympathisers in the mining multinationals and the Belgian colonial administration — has been secret until now.

Haunted by the Ghost of Hiroshima

Also secret, for many long years, was the reliance of the American atomic project on Congolese ore. Following Hiroshima, a statement by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill drew attention to the “indispensable raw material for the project” provided by Canada. He made no mention of the Congo.

The impact on DRC has been largely invisible to the wider world. But in the local community, it was fully apparent. Oliver Tshinyoka, a journalist in the Congolese Civil Society of South Africa, grew up close to Shinkolobwe.

He describes as a deserted place where vegetation blankets empty homes. His profound words end my book:

Shinkolobwe has never been commemorated. The town is dead and is haunted by the ghost of Hiroshima.

There was little in the way of health and safety precautions. Speakers at the Missing Link event told of the deformities and illness caused by working in the mine and living near it. Sylvie Bambemba Mwela spoke with pain of her grandfather, who had been poisoned by radiation and had a piece of brain coming out of his mouth.

People nodded in vigorous assent to the statement that when a miner went near a television, he caused severe interference with reception. There were sad references to genetically inherited malformations.

Poems had been written for the event, including Shinkolobwe’s Tear by 14-year-old Benina Mombilo. She quietly told a spellbound audience:

When the predator took Africa’s mines, he left behind death, poverty, conflict and war.

Christian Sita Mampuya observed thoughtfully that none of the people living in the Likasi area had been consulted on why the uranium was mined. Nor, he added, are there any records available about the impact on DRC of the exposure to radiation over the last seven decades.

The Power of Knowing the Past

Léonard Mulunda, a trenchant political analyst, insisted firmly that the Congolese must take responsibility for themselves, for their own welfare and government. But he noted that DRC’s lack of information about its past makes it difficult for the Congolese to plan for the present and the future. For this reason, he emphasised the significance and value of the Missing Link event.

Its importance was also highlighted this month in the US by Akiko Mikamo, the author of Rising from the Ashes, whose father Shinji Mikamo is one of the Hibakusha, who are the survivors of Hiroshima.

Last year, the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and the United Nations Association Westminster Branch invited Akiko Mikamo to give a keynote speech at a conference at the School of Advanced Study on nuclear politics and the historical record. Here she learned about the Congo-Hiroshima link for the first time. She explained:

None of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors I was in contact with had any knowledge of it.

Mikamo contends that it is very important:

… that we learn also about the people and regions that are not widely known or “big players” in history textbooks. But those people’s lives have been significantly affected, and it has serious implications for our global society’s future.

This global connection came full circle at Cape Town’s Missing Link event, where warm and appreciative references were made to Mikamo’s work.

The sufferings generated from Congo’s uranium featured in the singing and dancing during the interval. One song was entitled La peine et la generation suivante de Shinkolobwe.

A deeply moving contribution was a poem entitled “A Bomb Fashioned out of Dirt,” which was delivered with great power by Beauty Gloria Kalenga and brought tears to many of our eyes. This dirt, she said, using another name for the mine and playing on its meaning, was “a fruit that scalds known as Shikolombwe”.

The question period was a time of dignified and respectful dialogue, when many engaged with the issues faced by DRC at this moment, especially in relation to the presidency of Joseph Kabila.

Some argued Shinkolobwe’s miners and their families should be compensated by the Belgian and US governments. There was consensus, however, that compensation should be postponed until there are mechanisms to ensure it is received by the victims.

The Missing Link event was a searching and constructive examination of the past and its relationship to the present. It seemed to me to exemplify the value of public engagement at its best, where everyone listens and interacts and benefits together.

Isaiah Mombilo, speaking on behalf of the Congolese Civil Society of South Africa, said he was proud that DRC’s role in the history of the world was witnessed so successfully on Hiroshima Day in Cape Town this month. It was a way, he believed, of “claiming Shinkolobwe’s tears”. But this, he added, was only the beginning:

There is more to say.

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Okinawa Is Still Being Exploited by the US

NOVANEWS

By Cindy Beringer

A peace activist holds a sign that says "Get out! Marines" as vehicles pass Camp Schwab near Naga, Okinawa, Japan, May 30, 2016. (Photo: Adam Dean / The New York Times)A peace activist holds a sign that says “Get out! Marines” as vehicles pass Camp Schwab near Naga, Okinawa, Japan, May 30, 2016. (Photo: Adam Dean / The New York Times)

A crowd numbering in the tens of thousands gathered June 19 in a stadium on the small island of Okinawa in Japan to demand the removal of US military forces. The other demand of the rally was to end plans by the US and Japanese governments to move a major US Marine base from the crowded center of Okinawa to the pristine Northern coast.

On the same day as the Okinawa protest, similar demonstrations were planned in 41 of 47 prefectures in Japan, including a rally of 7,000 outside the parliament building in Tokyo.

The protest were in response to the rape and murder of a 20-year-old Okinawa woman, Rina Shimabukuro, whose body was found in a forest a month after she disappeared. Kenneth Shinzato, an ex-Marine who worked as a contractor for a private firm at a local Air Force base, has confessed to the crime.

Shinzato took the last name of the Okinawa woman he married and recently became a father. The couple personifies the type of relationship between US military personnel and locals that the Pentagon points to as positive.

***

Okinawa is a tropical island only 70 miles long and seven miles wide at its widest point. Its natural beauty, autonomy and history have been marred by numerous US military bases that cover over 20 percent of Okinawa’s total land area and 40 percent of its arable land.

Okinawa was part of an independent Ryukyu kingdom until Japan took it over in 1879, and Okinawans have always felt treated as second-class citizens.

During the Second World War, the Battle of Okinawa was the only land battle to take place on Japanese territory. The Okinawan people were forced to care for injured Japanese soldiers while their homes and many lives were sacrificed, often at the hands of Japanese soldiers. Between 40,000 and 100,000 Okinawans were killed in the battle, many of whom the Japanese forced to commit suicide.

Then came the US occupation. The US-dictated terms of the peace treaty that ended the war barred Japan from having armed forces and stated that the US would maintain its own security forces in Japan. The surrendering Japanese conceded with the understanding that the vast majority of the bases would be on Okinawa.

Tiny Okinawa is home to 75 percent of US bases in Japan. In the 1950s, under the perceived threat from the former USSR, the US built 39 bases in Okinawa, displacing many landowners. Plans to give lump-sum payments for land drew massive protest rallies, and eventually a rental plan was established. Much of Okinawa-owned land was conceded at the end of a bayonet or bulldozer. To this day, not one piece of land has been returned to any landowner.

The Pentagon’s city-sized Kadena Air Base, called the “Keystone of the Pacific,” hosts the biggest combat wing in the US Air Force and has served as a launching pad for wars in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. The base, like many others on the island, places military equipment and landing strips next to the tropical green of farmers’ fields.

In 1972, the US government “gave back” control of Okinawa to Japan, but other than switching from dollars to yen, the US still controls the island with a soft glove over a very heavy fist.

Throughout these years, there were constant and peaceful protests against the US occupation, the theft of land, pollution and environmental degradation caused by the bases, and crimes against Japanese citizens committed by military personnel and US civilians associated with the military.

Other recent incidents involving US soldiers in Okinawa include the rape and murder of a Japanese tourist by a Navy sailor and injuries to two Okinawans injured when a drunken sailor drove down the wrong side of the highway and crashed into oncoming cars.

The murder of Rina Shimabukuro invoked painful memories of the 1995 murder of a 12-year-old schoolgirl by three American soldiers. It was because of massive protests around that crime that the US agreed to move operations from the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to another location.

***

Futenma has been called the most dangerous air station in the world due to its location in a densely populated urban area. More than 3,000 people live in what should be a clear zone around the base.

After much wrangling, lawsuits and contractor shenanigans, the noisy, polluting base still hasn’t been moved. With the rise of real or imagined threats from China in the East China Sea, the decision was made to move the base to Camp Schwab in Henoko, a much less populated area in the Northern part of the island, where it would be best positioned to challenge China.

The move goes against the will of the majority of the Okinawan people. It would involve expanding the current base by doing construction on a delicate coral reef and sea grass beds inhabited by dugong, an endangered marine mammal beloved by the Okinawans and protected under Japanese and US law.

Okinawan’s anti-base governor, Takeshi Onaga, wants the Futenma Air Station to be moved off the island. In terms of military bases, of course, “moving” means rebuilding the base somewhere else. According to the terms of the ever-evolving agreement, the new base must be built before the other base can be closed and returned to civilian use–which, of course, might never happen.

The Japanese central government began work on the new base on October 29, 2015, despite the Okinawans’ strong opposition and political and legal action undertaken by the governor. Onaga has the constitutional right to reject the project under the country’s environmental laws, but that right is being ignored.

The work on the base has not gone smoothly because of large and occasionally violent protests–the violence always being unleashed by the state. On the day construction began, approximately 300 mostly elderly protesters laid down on the ground in front of the gate of Camp Schwab to prevent construction workers from entering. Police dragged away the elderly demonstrators.

Katsuhiro Yoshida, a 70-year-old Okinawan prefectural assembly member, said, “Don’t the people of Okinawa have sovereignty?…This reminds me of the scenes of rioting against the US military before Okinawa was retuned to Japan.”

***

For more than a year and a half, Okinawa demonstrators have maintained a 24-hour sit-in to try to block construction of the new base at Henoko by preventing government construction trucks from entering the gates. Sometimes they succeed, and sometimes the police are able to remove them, often causing injuries in the process.

Peaceful rallies have been the Okinawans’ only weapons against the brutal US occupation as their homes have been stolen, their lands polluted and their citizens beset by crimes perpetrated by the occupiers.

A 2015 article about how the US war in Vietnam was carried out from Okinawa does much to explain the island residents’ complicated relationship with US forces. Okinawa was the largest launching pad for US soldiers going to Vietnam, and the islands and its people were major players in the war, not always willingly.

It was during the Vietnam War that Japan began to negotiate with the US for the return of Okinawa. Reversion in 1972 turned out to be a betrayal for the Okinawans and a great deal for the Americans.

Today, construction on two bases that were vital to the Vietnam War effort is being fought by the Okinawans who fear the US will once again make them complicit in further wars against their neighbors. In the Northern Training Area, where Okinawans helped US soldiers train for jungle warfare, the Okinawans are fighting the construction of new helipads that they feel threaten their safety.

Camp Schwab, the site of the continuous sit-in, was used during the Vietnam War as a secret storage site for nuclear warheads and Agent Orange, a chemical that sickened many US veterans and civilian workers, and left a toxic legacy for the Vietnamese people, while the US denied its existence.

At a recent ceremony commemorating the 71st anniversary of the end of the Battle of Okinawa, Governor Onaga called on the US and Japan to revise the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) to grant to the Okinawan people the same democratic rights guaranteed to the citizens of both countries.

The rally on June 19 contained contradictory demands to remove all US forces from the island, while making plans to relocate a Marine Air Base. Later, demands were changed to include the removal of all Marines and the hope for a reduced US military footprint.

Today, Okinawans are fighting the expansion and building of US bases because they remember how they were used in the Vietnam War, and they fear being exploited in other US wars in the future. Like photographer Ishikawa Bunyo, the Okinawans believe that “Nothing has changed since the Vietnam War — Okinawa is still being used by the US.”

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A Moral Revolution? Reflections on President Obama’s Visit to Hiroshima

NOVANEWS

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by Dr: Richard Falk

There is no doubt that President Barack Obama’s visit to Hiroshima this May crossed some thresholds hitherto taboo. Above all the visit was properly heralded as the first time a sitting American president has dared such a pilgrimage, which has already been critically commented upon by patrioteers in America who still think that the Japanese deserved such a punishment for initiating the war or believed that only such ‘shock and awe’ could induce the Japenese to surrender without a costly invasion of the mainland. As well many in Asia believe that Obama by the visit is unwittingly letting Japan off the accountability hook for its seemingly unrepentant record of atrocities throughout Asia, especially given the perception that the current Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, is doing his conservative best to reinvigorate Japanese nationalism, and even revive imperial ambitions.

Obama is a gifted orator who excels in finding the right words for the occasion, and in Hiroshima his rhetoric soared once more. There he noted “[t]echnological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of the atom requires a moral revolution as well.” Such stirring words would seem to be a call to action, especially when reinforced by a direct challenge: “..among nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.” Obama at Prague in 2009, shortly after being sworn in as president, set forth an inspiring vision along the same lines, yet the small print there and now makes us wonder whether his heart and head are truly aligned. The words flow with grace and even passion, but where are the deeds?

As in Prague, Obama expressed the cautionary sentiment in Hiroshima that “[w]e may not realize this goal in my lifetime.” At which point Obama associates himself with the stabilizing agenda of arms control, reducing the size of the stockpile, making the weapons less obtainable by ‘fanatics,’ and implementing nonproliferation goals. Apparently, neither Obama nor the media take note of the tension between eliminating the weaponry and these proposals designed to stabilize the nuclear weapons environment by making it more reliably subject to prudent and rational policies of control. Yet at the same time making proposals to eliminate the weaponry seem less needed, and even at risk of threatening the stability so carefully constructed over the course of decades.

The real reason for skepticism about Obama’s approach is his unexplained reasons to defer the abolition of nuclear weaponry to the distant future. When Obama declares that a world without nuclear weapons is not likely to happen in his lifetime without telling us why he is changing his role from an advocate of the needed ‘moral revolution’ so as to achieve the desired political transformation to that of being a subtle endorser of the nuclear status quo. Of course, Obama may be right that negotiating nuclear disarmament will not be easy or quick, but what is the argument against trying, why defer indefinitely?

The global setting seems as favorable as it is likely to get. We live at a time when there are no fundamental cleavages among leading sovereign states, all of whom seek to benefit from a robust world economy and to live together without international wars. It would seem to be an overall situation in which dramatic innovations of benefit to the entire world would seem politically attractive. In such an atmosphere why could not Obama have said at Hiroshima, or seven years earlier at Prague, “that during the Cold War people dreamed of a world without nuclear weapons, but the tensions, distrust, and rivalry precluded a reliable disarming process, but now conditions are different. There are no good reasons not to convert dreams of a world without nuclear weapons into a carefully monitored and verified disarmament process, and there are many important reasons to try to do so.” What holds Obama back? Why does he not table a proposal or work with other nuclear governments to produce a realistic timetable to reach nuclear zero?

Worse than the seeming absence of what the great theologian, Paul Tillich, called ‘the courage to be’ is the worrisome evidence of double dealing—eloquent words spoken to warn us of the menace of nuclearism coupled with deeds that actually strengthen the hold of nuclearism on the human future. How else should we interpret by plans of the U.S. Government to spend $1 trillion over the next 30 years for the modernization and further development of the existing nuclear weapons arsenal, including provocative plans to develop nuclear weapons with potential battlefield, as opposed to deterrent, missions? Such plans are provocative because they weaken inhibitions on use and tempt other governments to emulate the United States so as offset feared new vulnerabilities to threat and attack. What stands out is the concreteness of the deeds reinforcing the nuclear established order and the abstractness of the words challenging that same order.

Beyond this, while calling for a moral revolution, Obama seems at the same time to give his blessings to nuclear energy despite its profound moral shortcomings. Obama views nuclear energy as a contribution to reducing carbon emissions in relation to global warming concerns and as a way to sell nuclear technology abroad and at the same time satisfy the energy goals of countries, such as India, in the global South. What is not acknowledged by Obama is that this nuclear energy technology is extremely dangerous and on balance detrimental in many of the same ways as nuclear weapons, prone to accidents of the sort associated with the incidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima, subject to the hazards of accumulating and disposing of nuclear wastes, vulnerable to nuclear terrorism, and creating the technological capacity for the development of the weapons in a series of additional states.

Obama made a point of announcing before visiting Hiroshima that there would be no apology for the attacks by the United States. Clearly, Obama was unwilling to enter a domain that in America remains inflamed by antagonistic beliefs, interpretations, and priorities. There is a scholarly consensus that the war would have soon ended without an invasion or the atomic bomb, but this thesis continues to be challenged by veterans and others who think that the bomb saved American lives, or at minimum, ended the captivity of captured soldiers far sooner than would have been the case without the attacks.

In fairness, Obama did acknowledge the unspeakable tragedy for Japanese civilians that experienced the Hiroshima bomb, and he showed real empathy for survivors (hibakusha) who were there in the front rows when he spoke in Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park, but he held back from saying the use of the bomb was wrong, even the second bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Obama’s emphasis, instead, was on working together to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. In this sense, Obama was indirectly legitimating the impunity that was accorded to the victors after World War II, which contrasted with the punitive measures of accountability used to deal with the crimes committed by the surviving leaders of defeated Japan and Germany. The main value of an apology is to bring a degree of closure to those directly and indirectly victimized by those terrible, events that took place more than 70 years ago. By so doing the United States would have moved a bit closer to suspending its self-serving insistence on impunity and this would have withdrawn geopolitical legitimacy from the weaponry.

There is something disturbing about America’s unwillingness to live up to the full horror of its past actions even while making a never again pledge. In another recent development that is freighted with similar moral ambiguities, former Senator Bob Kerrey was named the first Chair of the Board of the new Fulbright Vietnam University, a laudable joint educational project of the two countries partly funded by the U.S. Congress, despite his apparent involvement in a shameful atrocity committed during the war. The incident occurred on February 25, 1969 in the village of Thang Phong where a unit of Navy SEALS was assigned the task of assassinating a Viet Cong leader believed to be in the vicinity. Instead of a military encounter, 20 civilians were killed, some brutally. 13 were children and one a pregnant woman.

Kerrey contends that the carnage was a result of mistakes, while both a fellow member of the SEALS squad and village residents say that the killing of the civilians was a result of deliberate actions, and not an accident in the darkness. Kerrey received a Bronze Star for the mission, which was reported falsely to his military superiors as resulted in killing 21 Viet Cong militants. What is almost worse, Kerrey kept silent about the incident for more than 30 years, and only spoke about it in public after learning there was about to be a published piece highly critical of his role. Kerrey now says “I have been haunted for 32 years” and explains, “It was not a military victory, it was a tragedy, and I had ordered it.” The weight of the evidence suggests that Kerrey participated as well as ordered the killings, and that although certainly a tragedy it is more properly acknowledged as a severe war crime amounting to an atrocity.

We can only imagine what would be the American or Chinese reaction if Japan sent to the United States or China a comparable person to provide an honorific link between the two countries. For instance, sending a Japanese officer to the U.S. who had cruelly administered a POW camp where Americans were held captive and tortured or sending to China a Japanese commander who had participated in some of the grisly happenings associated with ‘the rape of Nanking.’ It is good that Kerrey is finally contrite about his past role and appears to have been genuinely involved in promoting this goodwill encouragement of quality education in Vietnam, yet it seems unacceptably insensitive that he would be chosen to occupy such a position in an educational institution in Vietnam that is named after a prominent American senator who is particularly remembered for his efforts to bringing the Vietnam War to an end.

What connects these two seemingly distinct concerns is the steadfast refusal of the United States Government to take responsibility for its past crimes, which ensures that when future political pressures push toward immoral and unlawful behavior a similar disregard for minimal decency will be papered over. Obama’s refusal to consider accountability for the unabashed reliance on torture during the presidency of George W. Bush similarly whitewashes the past while unconvincingly promising to do better in the future. Such a pattern makes a mockery of claims made by Obama on behalf of the United States that unlike its adversaries this is a country that reveres the rule of law whenever it acts at home or abroad. From the pragmatic standpoint of governing America, in fairness, Obama never really had a choice. The political culture would have rebelled against holding the Bush administration accountable for its crime, which brings us closer to the truth of a double standard of suspending the applicability of international criminal law with respect to the policies and practices of the United States while championing individual legal responsibility for its adversaries as an expression of the evolution of moral standards in international life.

I believe that double standards has led Obama to put himself forward both as a visionary who seeks a transformed peaceful and just world and also as a geopolitical manager that accepts the job description of the presidency as upholding American global dominance by force as necessary. Now that Obama’s time in the White House is nearing its end we are better able to grasp the incompatibility of his embrace of these two roles, which sadly, and likely tragically, leads to the conclusion that the vision of a world without nuclear weapons was never meant to be more than empty words. What the peoples of the world need to discover over and over again is that the promising words flow easily from the lips of leaders have little significance unless supplemented by a robust movement from below that challenges those who are governing from above. As activists in the 1960s began to understand is that only when the body pushes against the machine will policies incline toward peace and justice, and we in the 21st century will have to rediscover this bit of political wisdom if hope for a nuclear free world is to become a genuine political project.

If more than rhetoric is attached to the call for a “moral revolution,” then the place to start would be to question, prior to abandoning, the mentality that is comfortable with double standards when it come to war making and criminal accountability. The whole idea of impunity for the victors and capital punishment for the losers is morally regressive. Both the Obama visit to Hiroshima, as significant as it was, and the Kerrey relationship to the Fulbright Vietnam University, show that American society, even at its best, is far from prepared to take part in the necessary moral revolution.

Posted in USA, Japan0 Comments

Fukushima and Nuclear Power: Does the Advertising Giant Dentsu Pull the Strings of Japan’s Media?

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French journalist Mathieu Gaulène describes the business practices of Dentsu and its competitor Hakuhodo, the biggest and the second biggest advertising companies of Japan respectively. Specifically, it examines how their close relations to the media and the nuclear industry play out in the wake of the 3.11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. Focusing Dentsu, Gaulène discusses how the marketing and public relations (PR) giant has dominated major media which large advertising contracts from the nuclear industry. The article is particularly timely as Dentsu unveils its deep ties to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic bid and the Panama Papers. Regrettably, however, with rare exceptions, there is little media coverage of the influence of Dentsu in mainstream Japanese newspapers and magazines.

According to the author, a partial translation of the French original was made by Kazparis (username), and quickly received more than 70,000 views on Twitter. Then, Uchida Tatsuru, a specialist in French literature, and HACK & SOCIETAS published two other Japanese translations. Soon after, Tokyo Shimbun and Mainichi Shimbun published long articles about Dentsu. SN

Dentsu, the fifth largest communication group in the world, holds a large share of the Japanese advertising market, which impacts media freedom in Japan. This is particularly true in relation to the nuclear power industry.

– Dentsu and information on nuclear power

– Indirect pressures on press journalists

– The 2016 comeback of nuclear advertisements and the resignations of TV journalists

The moment remains famous. On the eve of Japan’s Upper House elections, former actor Yamamoto Taro, an anti-nuclear power candidate supported by no party, campaigned on Twitter to win an upper house seat in the Diet. Censored by the media, the young candidate, famous for his verve, had mainly campaigned against nuclear power, but he also called out the big media, accusing it of being in the pay of sponsors and thus of electric companies and of systematically censoring critical information on nuclear power.

A television channel granted him an interview at the end of a program, but only after presenting a journalist to defend his profession. On screen, the young senator was given only one minute to respond. “I will take a simple example. Food can now hold up to 100 becquerels per kilogram; that means even just via eating we are irradiated. It is never said on television… ” Yamamoto had to stop. The ending jingle started, and the presenter at the studio announced, bantering, that the show was over, before launching an advertising page.

The video, which was available online for 3 years, was removed on May 16, 2016 shortly after the publication of this article.

Yamamoto Taro on NHK, 21 July 2013

Advertisements in Japan are literally everywhere: a veritable hell of posters or screens in trains and stations, giant posters on buildings, bearers of advertising placards or lorries with huge posters and loud PA systems in the streets: even advertising displays mounted atop urinals in some restaurants. In this advertising empire, the media are no exception. In the press, naturally, as in France, major companies pay for full page advertisements. But, above all in television. An entertainment show generally starts with the announcement of sponsors, and is interrupted every five minutes by numerous short advertising spots, where we often find the same sponsors. There is virtually no time for thinking, most TV channels offer programs close to the world of pachinko: garish colors, constant noise, and frat humor even of the most vulgar kind.

In this immense television arena, advertising is orchestrated by one of the global giants, Dentsu, the 5th communication group in the world and the number one ad agency. With its rival Hakuhodo, 2nd in the archipelago, the two agencies nicknamed “Denpaku,” combine advertising, public relations, media monitoring, crisis management for the largest Japanese and foreign companies, the local authorities, political parties or the government. Together they hold nearly 70% of the market. A true empire that some accuse of ruling the roost in the Japanese media.

A figure allows sizing up Dentsu’s reach: in 2015, the group secured nearly 7 billion euros in revenue, second only to the French Publicis with 9.6 billion euros during the same period. Most of its business is in TV advertisements. For example, Dentsu has created a commercial series for Softbank for almost ten years: the famous “Shirato” family characterized by a white dog as the father; an American black actor as the older brother; and Tommy Lee Jones as a housekeeper.

In July 2013, the group expanded internationally by acquiring the British Aegis for 3.7 billion euros to establish the Dentsu Aegis Network in London. This international network, consisting of ten advertising agencies in more than 140 countries, allowed the Japanese to beef up their activities, particularly in digital marketing, and to secure a position in the international market which accounts for more than half of its total global business (54.3% in 2015). Dentsu employs 47,000 people worldwide, including 7,000 in Japan.

Dentsu and information on nuclear power

Dentsu headquarters, Shiodome

Located in the business district of Shiodome, not far from Nippon TV, Fuji TV and the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, the Dentsu tower dominates the skyline with its imposing beauty. Designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel, its gentle curves and perfect glass walls soothe the eye. Inside the building, Mr. Kannan Shusaku, communications director of the group, receives us, all smiles for a visit of the site. The ground floor is filled with contemporary art, like a white chessboard by Yoko Ono. From there, a noria of lifts takes employees towards different floors and rigorously separates departments. The group’s customers are the top 5 in each industry, and “everything is done so that employees working for competing enterprises never meet each other.” Mr. Kannan assures us. Dentsu obviously prizes transparency, but is its image that stainless?

In a book published in 2012, Honma Ryu looked into some of Dentsu’s backstage, and its tight control over the media, especially on behalf of one of its major clients: Tokyo Electric Power Company, Tepco. Honma is not alien to advertising circles; he worked for 18 years at number 2, Hakuhodo, then after one year imprisonment for fraud, he began writing, first about his prison experience, then about his years of advertising and the methods he used to coax the media. In 2012, his book Dentsu and Nuclear Coverage became a bestseller within a few months, despite almost universal media blackout.

Honma meticulously described the mechanisms by which Dentsu, the inevitable intermediary, implicitly imposes on media what can or cannot be written on nuclear power, and under what conditions. “Dentsu occupies a special position since the agency holds 80% of the market for nuclear advertising in Japan,” he reminded us during an interview in a coffee shop at Ueno Station. In 2010, in this huge advertising market, Tepco, a regional firm, indeed ranked 10th in terms of advertising expenses, next to power plant manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. That year, on the eve of the Fukushima accident, Tepco had spent more than 2 million euros on advertising. The overall advertising expenses of the 10 regional electrical power companies amounted to 7 million euros.

Honma Ryu, Dentsu and Nuclear Coverage

For decades, especially since the 1990s when public opinion began to become critical of nuclear power following several accidents, Tepco and other power companies stepped up commercials and advertorials in the press.

On television, the advertisements can be enough in themselves to overwhelm criticism. Big groups often sponsor TV programs, talk shows or series for an entire season. Sometimes, entire documentaries are produced by Denjiren, [the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPC)], a key player in the nuclear lobby, to promote the industry. Any dissenting voice is unwelcome for fear of losing sponsors. After Fukushima, Yamamoto Taro paid the price; appearing regularly on TV as a tarento [talent] until then when he suddenly became persona non grata on TV and even in cinema for having expressed opposition to nuclear power. This is hardly new since the great figures of the anti-nuclear movement, best-selling authors such as Hirose Takashi or Koide Hiroaki are almost never invited to appear on TV, especially after the Fukushima accident. This “control by media” denounced by Honma Ryu obviously is not limited to the nuclear power industry. Thus, he reminds us of the case of the millions of Toyota vehicle recalls due to a defective accelerator pedal. It was necessary to wait until the Toyota CEO apologized to the U.S. Congress before that affair really appeared in the Japanese press. “No doubt the advertising agency had succeeded until then in preserving the image of its client, but when the scandal became too big and was in the public eye abroad, the media had no choice but to reveal the affair” he states. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that apart from some programs such as “Hodo Station” on TV Asahi, which provide good quality information, sometimes being critical of the government, most TV news in Japan rarely address subjects that can offend one or another group, relaying communications from the government without critically stepping back, and not introducing international news except when the subject involves Japanese citizens.

Momii Katsuto apologizing at Lower House Budget Committee session, 13 January 2016

Amid all these private media groups, only NHK escapes this advertising empire and can claim to be independent, receiving its funding directly from viewers. Alas, the situation at NHK is even more disastrous, its president Momii Katsuto having said without embarrassment on several occasions that the chain had to be the spokesman for the Abe government. In a recent statement before 200 retired NHK employees, he even seemingly acknowledged having ordered NHK journalists to confine broadcasts to reassuring communiqués from the authorities about Kyushu earthquakes and potential risks they pose to nuclear plants and instructing them not to interview independent experts.

Indirect pressures on the press

What about the press? Dentsu has long had a special relationship with the two news agencies Kyodo News and Jiji Press: the three entities formed a single information group before the war. If information in the press is more difficult to control, Dentsu not only advertises, but provides after-sales customer service — media monitoring, advice on crisis management, and indirect pressure on newspapers.

Whereas in France, the acquisition of media companies by large industrial groups is the prelude to direct pressure, in Japan pressure comes via advertising agencies that act as true ambassadors for the groups. “I know very well how this happens, as Honma Ryu amusingly relates, I did the same thing when I was at Hakuhodo. If an incident occurs in a factory or a plant and the press reports it, Dentsu directly intervenes and visits the business department of the newspaper in question.” Things are done in the “Japanese” way. “We ask them politely to try to speak less about the case, not to put the article on the front page, or to publish it in the evening paper which is less read.” Such messages are directly transmitted by the business staff of the journal to top management.

Journalists will never know, but the next day their article will be relegated to the inside pages, or sometimes simply not published, or, for example, claiming lack of space. But, suspicions are numerous, and, Honma reports, after the publication of his book, many journalists came to see him confirming cases of censorship. Advertisements of nuclear power are mainly distributed in weekly and daily newspapers. Since the accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant, they stopped; but for Dentsu, a profitable new business emerged: promoting agricultural products from Fukushima. Since 2011, with the participation of star singers, Fukushima Prefecture has never skimped on promoting its peaches, rice, or tomatoes, with slogans like “Fukushima Pride” or “Fukushima is well!”

 “Fukushima Pride”

All this thanks to the help of Dentsu and Dentsu Public Relations (PR). “Dentsu PR also works for the METI [Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry],” explains Ms. Fujii Kyoko, Director of communications at Dentsu PR. “We organized free tours of Tohoku for foreign journalists, such as Thai and Malaysian journalists, to show that the region is recovering from the disaster.” And to expunge the surrounding radioactivity?

Dentsu thus occupies a very special position in the promotion of nuclear power, beside Tepco but also the powerful Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), both clients of the advertising company. Under these conditions, can Dentsu not be considered to actively underwrite the “nuclear village”? To this question, Mr. Kannan Shusaku, who received us in his office at the top of the Dentsu tower, answered without beating around the bush. “We have no power to influence the media and we do not practice politics.” Yet when asked why Dentsu is a member of the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF), the main organization of nuclear lobbying, along with Japanese electric utility companies and EDF [Electricity of France, Électricité de France], Mr. Kannan became more circumspect. “I do not know this association… Really, are you sure?” he replied, slightly annoyed, before reaching for his smartphone. “Oh, yes, we are members. But, you know we are members of many associations. People ask us to send someone and sign, that’s all.” Apparently unconvinced by his own argument, he finally found a getaway and suddenly exclaimed: “You see, Hakuhodo is also a member!” obviously happy about not being the only one enlisted in the lobby.

The 2016 comeback of nuclear advertisements and resignations of TV journalists

For Honma Ryu, this is a sign of a resumption of promotion activities of nuclear power. “Hakuhodo has actually been a member of the JAIF for two years,” he explained, after the Fukushima accident. Obviously, having been sidelined for several decades from this gold mine of nuclear advertisements, the rival agency wants to restore its share in the promotion of nuclear power in the post-Fukushima era. These ads had, however, completely disappeared since the accident on March 11, 2011. After a final full page apology in the press and broadcast on television by Tepco, the plant operators and manufacturers had chosen to keep a low profile, not broadcasting advertisements on nuclear power for five years.

But, although plant restarts have been hindered by dozens of lawsuits, some victorious as in Takahama, and the general population has generally been reluctant to see resumption of reactors, promoting nuclear power has again become intense. After restarting one plant in 2015, 2016 is the year of a discreet comeback for nuclear advertisements. These appear in the press and on local television of the prefectures with power stations. Honma Ryu reports that since February 2016, full-page advertisements have been published inFukui Shimbun by the Kansai Electric Power Company, where the Takahama plant was closed a month after its restart due to a lawsuit filed by citizens. Tepco advertisements for restarting Kashiwazaki-Kariwa have also appeared in the Niigata Nippo and on local television in a particular context: the current governor is firmly anti-nuclear and opposes any restart, but elections will be held by the end of this year when his term ends. This resurgence of Tepco nuclear advertising, however, has raised the ire of Niigata citizens, especially refugees from Fukushima who have launched a petition to stop them.

The message of all of these advertisements is identical, revealing the hand of Dentsu behind the scenes. Electric companies promise to make every effort to ensure the safety of power plants, while photographs highlight the plight of nuclear workers who are often poor and sometimes dependent on jobs in the nuclear industry. According to Honma Ryu, these advertisements are certainly only the tip of the iceberg. They are part of a campaign to closely monitor all information published on nuclear power, as well as the quasi-guarantee that local newspapers will limit the voice of opponents.

Furutachi Ichiro on “Hodo Station”

In a report on press freedom released in April 2016, Reporters Without Borders ranked Japan 72nd, behind Hungary and Tanzania. Six years ago, it ranked 11th. Visiting Tokyo, a United Nations rapporteur alerted the country to the growing pressures on Japanese journalists who work for private media or NHK. This is because of increasing government pressure, exacerbated by the entry into force in the past year of a law on state secrets, including nuclear related matters. A law with vague outlines threatens journalists with imprisonment for disclosing “secret” information. A sign of the times is that three television journalists known for their independence announced their resignation at the beginning of the year. Among them is Furutachi Ichiro, presenter of “Hodo Station,” which, according to Honma Ryu, was targeted by Dentsu for several years because of his critical views on nuclear power and the Abe administration. No doubt Dentsu, privileged ambassador of the largest industrial groups, will continue to play its role in the great media lockdown ongoing in Japan.

 

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Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Attack: “A Hole in American History”

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Hiroshima Series, Part 1
Boeing_B-29A-45-BN_Superfortress_44-61784_6_BG_24_BS_-_Incendiary_Journey

President Barack Obama will finish up his current Asia trip by becoming the first sitting US president to visit Hiroshima, Japan — site of the fateful atomic bombing attack on Aug. 6, 1945, that killed tens of thousands of Japanese citizens.

The people of Hiroshima and (three days later) Nagasaki suffered unspeakable horrors. Some in the US government didn’t want Americans to see what really happened. Today, WhoWhatWhy revisits our past coverage of that painful final chapter of World War II, whose long shadow still haunts the world today

What follows is the first in a three-part series that first ran on March 16, 2014:

“A Hole in American History”

Dozens of hours of film footage shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the fall and winter of 1945-1946 by an elite US military unit was hidden for decades and almost no one could see it. The raw footage, in striking color, languished in obscurity. As the writer Mary McCarthy observed, the atomic bombing of Japan nearly fell into “a hole in human history.”

US Navy photographer captures Hiroshima atomic bomb victim.  Photo credit: NARA / Wikimedia

As our nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union escalated, all that most Americans saw of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the same black-and-white images: a mushroom cloud, a panorama of emptiness, a battered building topped with the skeleton of a dome — mainly devoid of people.

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Once top secret, the shocking images now carry an “unrestricted” label. You have, quite possibly, seen a few seconds of clips on television or in film documentaries. If so, those images may be burned into your mind. Yet no one was allowed to view them when the horror they captured might have prevented more horror by slowing down or even halting the nuclear arms race.

Compounding the cover-up, the American military seized all of the black-and-white footage of the cities shot by the Japanese in the immediate aftermath of the bombings. They hid the film away for many years. It was known in Japan as the maboroshi, or “phantom,” film. It, too, rests in the National Archives today.

“Never again.” At least not with outmoded bombs

To find out how and why all of this historic footage was suppressed for so long, I tracked down the man who oversaw the handling of both the Japanese and American film. His name is Lt. Col. (Ret.) Daniel A. McGovern. He told me that high officials in the Pentagon didn’t want those images out because,

“…they showed effects on man, woman and child. … They didn’t want the general public to know what their weapons had done — at a time they were planning on more bomb tests.”

Not incidentally, those planned tests were designed to help the US military build bigger and better nuclear bombs.

McGovern also said, “We didn’t want the material out because … we were sorry for our sins.”

* * *

The secret color footage was finally shown to the public, however limited, on June 2, 1982. The New York City screening coincided with the high point of the antinuclear movement.

In response to an escalating arms race stoked by a new president, Ronald Reagan, who said a nuclear war with the Soviets was “winnable” — a “nuclear freeze” campaign had been organized in hundreds of cities and towns. It captured the imagination of the media and a massive anti-nuclear march in Manhattan was set for June 12.

Despite this campaign, few in America challenged the view that dropping the bomb had been necessary. When Hiroshima and Nagasaki were invoked, even within the antinuclear movement, it was usually not to condemn, but merely to make the declaration: never again.

No matter what one thought of Truman’s decision in 1945, this much was clear: Endorsing the bombings and saying “never again” did not fit together comfortably. Washington, after all, maintained its “first-use” nuclear option, and still embraces it today.

According to this policy, under certain circumstances the United States can strike first with nuclear weapons — and ask questions later. In other words, there is no real taboo against using the bomb.

Ten days before the June 12 march, a few dozen Americans first saw some of the historic color footage shot by the American military — but not in an American film.

It was the Japanese who put together the film, and only because of a chance meeting in New York between Herbert Sussan — who, as a young soldier, helped shoot some of the 1946 footage — and a Japanese activist. When the activist learned of the secret film from Sussan, he lead a mass movement in Japan to raise enough money to copy 90,000 feet of it. (They also purchased a copy of the suppressed, black-and-white film shot by the Japanese newsreel team.) The film was shown at the Japan Society in Manhattan.  It was called “Prophecy.”

Herbert Sussan

Photo caption: Herbert Sussan

At the Japan Society, the now-elderly Sussan, who had become a pioneering TV director at CBS, told the audience,

“I have waited so long for this moment. For years, all of my own efforts to obtain this unique footage to show the American people have been frustrated. This film has been locked in vaults, declared classified and held away from the public. I am pleased that the world will finally see a small bit of what the true reality of the nuclear age really is…

“I felt that if we did not capture this horror on film, no one would ever really understand the dimensions of what had happened.”

Then they rolled the film. The footage revealed miles of devastation dotted by rubble and twisted girders, close-ups of artifacts — blackened statues, a collapsed church or school — and victims displaying their inflamed scars. Doctors in shattered hospitals bandaged gruesome wounds.

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The distinctive, rubbery keloid scars left by burns on faces and arms looked all the more painful in blazing color.

Patients, most of them women and children, exposed to the camera their scarred faces and seared trunks. They acted stoic, dignified, yet their intense gaze suggested deep wells of bitterness at the US for dropping the bomb — or perhaps at Sussan for subjecting them to this further humiliation. Or was it both?

A Film That Flopped?

Despite a good turnout that day, there was very little, if any, coverage about “Prophecy” or Herbert Sussan in the days that followed, despite its announcement inThe New York Times’ “Going Out Guide” the day it was to be shown, along with other Japanese films on the bombing.

Weeks passed. The nuclear freeze campaign continued to grow, and that October, I was named editor of the leading antinuclear magazine in the country, Nuclear Times. When I took over, the first major story I assigned was a profile of Herbert Sussan.

When I reached Sussan by telephone, he sounded edgy, maybe a little scared. He had recently retired and was ill, he said, with a form of lymphoma “they are finding in soldiers exposed to radiation.”

 

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