Friday, June 18, 2010

Commercial Whaling Deal In Peril

On the verge of the most important meeting of the International Whaling Commission in decades, when the body will be considered the possibility of revising its easily evaded moratorium on the hunting of large baleen whales and sperm whales in favor of a strictly limited and regulated commercial hunt, the key actors in the drama are going to be absent due to illness. IWC chairman Christian Maquieira, whose plan to bring all commercial whaling back under IWC control from out of the metastasizing exceptions that have been undermining the moratorium, namely

1) Japan's scientific whale hunts

2) Iceland's and Norway's self-exemptions from the moratorium on principle, and

3) South Korea's and Japan's increasing by-catch numbers, both legitimate and not-so

will not attend due to a personal illness. Japan's nominal top gun on whaling issues, newly-appointed Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Yamada Masahiko, will likely skip the meeting because his every waking moment tied up with the consequences of the still-not contained Miyazaki Prefecture outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

With all the leg work that has gone into preparing for the Morocco conference and all the recent acrimony over Japan's scientific whaling program -- not to mention the unnecessarily petty and hopeless International Court of Justice suit filed against Japan's Southern Ocean scientific whaling hunt by the government of Australia -- that it all might come to naught over of the unfortunate absences of a small number of key decision makers is distressing

It is unfortunate that in the political turmoil that has taken place over these past few weeks (remember three weeks ago? Back when Prime Minister Hatoyama was receiving the Chinese premier and the Liberal Democratic Party was polling ahead of the Democratic Party of Japan in the proportional vote for the House of Councillors?) the important opportunity provided by the June 21 Agadir, Morocco IWC conference to quarantine the lingering and debilitating debate over Japan's whaling has been lost from view. Japan needs a high powered individual at the Agadir meeting, a dealmaker and strategic thinker, rather than a pinch hitter sent by the MAFF. Right now, both the meeting's maestro and the crucial main actor will be absent from the scene.

Considering the depth of the wound the scientific whaling program inflicts upon Japan and the unique opportunity presented by the Maquieira proposal for Japan to wriggle is way out of it, all whilst retaining its international dignity -- cries out for some bold, even whacky improvisation. Prime Minister Kan should send a special ambassador, extraordinary and plenipotentiary, to the Agadir meeting to negotiate in Japan's behalf. This person would need to be of extremely high rank, considered an advocate of the MAFF yet also with a clear vision of japan's overall strategic position and the imperative sometimes, in order to improve that position, of radical shifts in emphasis.

The ideal candidate: Ishiba Shigeru.

Yes, the idea the idea is daft: the gentlemen is a member of the opposition. The idea that one could convince the policy research council chairman of the LDP to depart on a government mission on the eve of an election that is crucial to his party's very survival is...nuts.

Nevertheless, who else could one send? The man is the former MAFF Minister of the most recent LDP Cabinet. He knows the MAFF bureaucrats, their strengths and their weak points. He is also the acknowledged of grand poobah of the security affairs wonks, able to discern the strategic long-term interest of Japan in the slightest shift in the winds of international opinion. He could never, ever, despite whatever concession he might accede to, ever be tarred with the brush of having "sold out Japan" on the issue.

Ishiba's party would gag, but why not reciprocate? Send Democratic Party of Japan Policy Research Council Chairman Genba Koichiro and House of Councillors member for Tottori Kawakawi Yoshihiro as his deputies? Kawakami has experience as the head of the DPJ's Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Committee, and his attendance at the meeting, along with Genba's, would blunt the impact of Ishiba's not being able to campaign in his home prefecture on behalf of the LDP's candidate there or LDP candidates around the country.

Just a thought. Actually more of a wild, flailing gesture desperately trying to save the limited, shore-based commercial whaling proposal, which I have written about earlier here and here.


John Mock said...

whoops, should be Isiba-san, not Ishida. Gomen

John Mock said...

My original comment didn't post, apparently.

I wanted to agree with almost all of the blog, and actually correctly name and spell "Ishiba", but take a slight issue with the point about Australia's legal action against Japan's whaling in the Southern Ocean.

In legal terms, it is pretty much a non-starter and so, as such, it can be dismissed. However, in PR terms, it is a very powerful weapon Australia is using. IT is getting a lot of press (almost all outside of Japan) and almost all against Japan's whaling. Since Japan's whaling is extremely hard to justify, this is not surprising. As far as I can tell, the only way that one can argue for Japan's "Tradition" is to define "Japan" as, essentially, the Kii Peninsula.

However, I think that there are better ways for Australia and Japan to work things out. The question I would raise, however, is Japan willing, at all, to work things out. As far as I can see, Japan has backed itself into a corner with no politically and psychologically acceptable way out. Further, the current situation, including the prosecution of the New Zealander, simply continues to hurt Japan on the world stage with no effective gain.

So, I think you overstate how "pathetic" the Australian legal maneuver is.

Sorry about the non-posting of my first version of this.