Wednesday, November 15, 2006

What's Up with That?

From the screaming headlines of today's morning papers, one would think that the habit of speaking very freely in English language interviews had infected the top of the political classes:


Sadly, the quote is a manufactured one. Here is the actual passage from The Washington Post article:
Japanese Premier Plans to Fortify U.S. Ties in Meeting With Bush
Washington Post

By Anthony Faiola -- TOKYO, Nov. 14 -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday outlined a vision for a stronger Japan and vowed to fortify the U.S.-Japan security alliance during his first official meeting with President Bush in Hanoi this weekend.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Washington Post, Abe, who succeeded Junichiro Koizumi in September, also said he would push to redraft Japan's pacifist constitution.

In the current charter, which was drafted by the United States during its occupation of Japan following World War II, Tokyo effectively renounces the use of virtually any form of aggression. Abe, saying he hoped to foster a "new spirit" in Japan, said he would seek a new constitution within six years -- referring to the maximum time a prime minister can serve in office.

Few postwar Japanese leaders have secured such long terms. Given new threats facing Japan -- most notably a nuclear North Korea -- Abe suggested that his administration could take the interim step of reinterpreting the existing constitution to increase defensive capabilities.

Abe noted that it is unclear whether Tokyo is permitted under its own constitution to shoot down a ballistic missile flying over Japanese territory en route to the United States. Rules of engagement for Japanese troops on overseas peacekeeping missions are also severely limited by the constitution. Under current interpretations, for instance, Japanese troops are not permitted to defend themselves -- or U.S. or other allied troops -- unless directly fired upon.

But leading Japanese scholars have said policy changes to address such issues may not require the adoption of a new constitution, and could instead be made through official clarifications issued by the cabinet. While declining to provide a timetable for declaring new security protocols, Abe called for options to be analyzed on a case-by-case basis.

"We need to take up each individual example and study whether they . . . infringe upon the constitution," he said.

Neat how the ellipsis in the English matches up with the parenthesis in the Japanese.

Even though this looks like a false alarm, last week I recall one of the dailies chiding a government official for saying to The Financial Times things he would never say in the Diet or in an interview with a Japanese news source.

Ever since Abe became Prime Minister, an atypical commensal relationship seems to have developed between the worthies of Japanese politics and the British stalwarts of business reporting (the FT and The Economist). The worthies say something straddling the border between pedestrian and self-evident. The papers use their reputation of probity and rigor to amplify the utterance from statement to revelation.

What's atypical is the reliance on the British papers, rather than the NYT, the Wall Street Journal or the Washington Post.

What's up with that?

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