Thursday, July 06, 2006

Ticked off am I

Sigh...what are we going to do about David Pilling?

I do not want to skewer him in a letter to editors in London. He is an occasional guest in our offices. He seems a decent enough chap, though I could hardly say I know him. I have his card, having been introduced to him in our entranceway. So it is not as though I can ring him up and have a little conversation.

Still, I have had it up to here with the FT's misrepresentations.

Hawkish Abe first to vow tough response
Financial Times

David Pilling in Tokyo - Although the seven missiles lauched by North Korea splashed harmlessly in the sea, they could have an impact on domestic Japanese politics.

Abe Shinzo, the chief cabinet secretary who forged his political career by being tough on Pyongyang, stood the most to gain.

It was Mr. Abe, the frontrunner to become prime minister when Junichiro Koizumi stands down in September, who was first to the microphone after the first early-morning missile tests. His 6am emergency press conference ensured that the nation awoke to his face sternly warning Pyongyang that its actions would not be tolerated and that Japan was working on a tough response.

Abe was first to the microphone....dammit because that is his job!

He is Chief Cabinet Secretary, the official spokesman for the government. His political ambitions and past associations with anti-DPRK politics are irrelevant to his being "first to the microphone".

I would not care so much were the Financial Times not one of the increasingly lonely outposts of sanity in the English language printed news with a global audience. Having misleading assertions in the FT makes the whole world dark.

Later -

All right, I can calm down, I guess. Mr. Pilling is not the only one offering this overenthusiastic interpretation:

N. Korean missile launch 'huge bad news' in Asia
USA Today

By Paul Wiseman and Naoko Nishiwaki - SEOUL — North Korea's defiant launch of missiles Wednesday rattled its neighbors in northeast Asia, dismayed sympathetic governments in China and South Korea and strengthened the hand of a hard-liner seeking to become Japan's next prime minister.

"Obviously, this is huge bad news here," says regional analyst Jeff Kingston at Temple University Japan in Tokyo. The multiple missile tests were a vivid reminder that Japan and the thousands of U.S. troops stationed there are within range of North Korea's arsenal — even though the missiles apparently fell harmlessly into the Sea of Japan.

North Korea's provocation boosted the prospects of Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, who is the front-runner in the race to replace Junichiro Koizumi as prime minister in September. Abe, vying for the job against politician Yasuo Fukuda and several long-shot candidates, built his political reputation in recent years by bashing North Korea for abducting Japanese citizens in the 1970s and '80s.

"He's out in front on this issue. His popularity stems from demonizing North Korea," Kingston says. "Six o'clock in the morning (Wednesday), and he's giving a press conference. He looks like a take-charge leader."
Does the crisis help Abe's image? Sure it does. Any time a politician can get in front of the cameras and not be apologizing for something he did, or drooling, he gets a feather in his cap.

Will the crisis affect the LDP election? Sure it will. Even LDP members with skullcaps of stone understand that having Abe's face on the television day and night makes him the party's representative in the public eye. While those voting in the September election may have their own private agendas, they still have to conform to the public's impressions of what constitutes reality.

Of course, relying on crises to boost one's image can be treacherous. If something untoward happens, the "take-charge leader" is--surprise--expected to really be in charge. If he is not, public perceptions can do a bold about-face.

Call me an idiot (Editor - "MTC, you are an idiot.") but I have a problem with those saying that Abe's morning performance projected a muscular, pro-active image in response to the missile firings.

(I know, I know--how can anything "pro-active" be "in response"? Patience, patience, I'm getting there).

The Manyongbyong moratorium was automatic, almost autonomic. As for other actions the Japanese government might make, all that Abe could say yesterday morning was the Security Council and the Cabinet were going to "study" (kentō) other measures.

If I had 10 yen for every time a government official made a promise using the word kentō, well, my second home would be on Moorea...

Uh, how long was the Taepodong on the launch pad? Why did the government not have, like you know, a set list of measures to be taken in case A, B or C occurred? How about a set press release for Abe to read?

Since we live in a supposedly more assertive era in Japanese security affairs, why did Abe not request someone from the JDA to be present as co-participant in the briefing?

Folks it has been eight years since Taepodong should have looked a lot less ad hoc.

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