Thursday, August 09, 2007

Lake Take A Jump Thereinto

Predictably, U.S. Ambassador Thomas Schieffer wasted his time trying to talk Democratic Party leader Ozawa Ichirō into abandoning the DPJ's opposition to the renewal of the...

...[Deep Breath]...

"The Special Measures Law Concerning Measures Taken by Japan in Support of the Activities of Foreign Countries Aiming to Achieve the Purposes of the Charter of the United Nations in Response to the Terrorist Attacks Which Took Place on 11 September 2001 in the United States of America as well as Concerning Humanitarian Measures Based on Relevant Resolutions of the United Nations."

Or "Anti-Terrorism Law" for short:

Japan opposition chief says "No" to Afghan mission

Tuesday, August 7, 2007 - TOKYO - The head of Japan's main opposition party reiterated his opposition to extending support for U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan and said his party might submit a bill to scrap Tokyo's mission to help rebuild war-torn Iraq.

The policy put forward by Ichiro Ozawa, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, could sour Tokyo's security ties with Washington...
Over the past week several analysts have suggested that Ozawa's and the Democratic Party leadership's stance on the renewal of the legislation could prove a significant negative for the image of the DPJ or even a source of the fissioning of the party.

I am afraid that while such a view may conform to expectations built up in Washington, it does not hold much water in Tokyo.

First, there is basically no constituency for the renewal. True, North American and Security desks at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Defense Ministry think the renewal of the legislation is crucial to continuation of a smooth transformation of the security relationship with the United States. However, virtually no one else in Japan sees much value in having two Japanese destroyers and an oiler (Why two destroyers? Because regulations require that all destroyers have an escort) roundtripping between Diego Garcia and the waters off Pakistan. Putting aside all the borderline nonsense reasons Ozawa stated yesterday for ending the mission, the trails of Osama Bin Laden, Zawahiri and Mullah Omar have gone stone cold. Furthermore, the naval component of the ongoing NATO mission in Afghanistan is small. Finally, a continuing mission to refuel U.S. and other allied ships in the Arabian Sea puts the Japan Maritime Self Defense Forces in a position precariously close to one of a full participant in a potential sneak attack upon Iran.

Second, sticking it to the United States is far more popular than many persons are willing to believe. On the morning show I watched, one guest gushed that whatever the severity of the issue, it was refreshing to see someone tell the U.S. government to go take a hike. My sense is that this feeling runs across the political spectrum, from the ultra-left still chained to the barricades of set up in the 1960 Ampo demonstrations to the magic nationalist right, which is feeling more than a bit peeved at the United States after the vote on the House comfort resolution and the downgrading of the abductees issue in the Six Party Talks.

Several commentators have pointed to the presence within the DPJ of vocal opponents to the party's official position on the renewal. Before predicting a major brouhaha threatening the unity of the DPJ, I would point out that the leader of this dissatisfied group is Maehara Seiji, a favorite of U.S. think tanks who unfortunately fails to check facts and count heads.

Maehara has come out in favor of the renewal based on an assessment that the MSDF dispatch is crucial symbol for the United States of Japan's engagement in global security issues. While outsiders and security analysts might applaud Maehara's realism, his linking the Arabian Sea deployment to a continuing U.S. commitment to the overall security relationship is yesterday's quid pro quo. The current sense in the popular press and commentariat is that the Bush Administration is ready to stab Japan in the back over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs. One way to make onself particularly lonely at the present time is to advocate that Japan must extend its service to the United States in its wars "in order to maintain the U.S. promises to Japan as regards Japanese security."

In terms of internal party politics, Maehara has not led the DPJ to any recent electoral victories of note. Ozawa and the veteran leadership unit of Kan Naoto and Hatoyama Yukio just have.

To whom would the average DPJ Diet member, or even a DPJ hawk, entrust his future --the "Destroyer" -- or Mr. "I cannot tell a bogus email from a real one and even when I have the difference pointed out to me, I still stick to an absurd story told by a guy who folds official reports into paper cranes during Diet committee sessions"?

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