Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Of The Financial Times And Japan

I love the Japan team of the Financial Times. Mure Dickie, Jonathan Soble and Michiyo Nakamoto (and former Tokyo bureau chief David Pilling, when he takes a flyer at writing about his former home base) deserve nothing but the most effusive of praise for presenting the country as it is, without only-in-Japan dross or a misguided/lazy rephrasing of what appears in the less-than-reflective, scandal-fluffing domestic news media.

I just wish they would stop one-on-one interviews with Japanese figures. It causes their interview subjects nothing but trouble.

The latest victim of the curse of the FT interview is ambassador to China Niwa Uichiro (J). In an interview with the FT, he was asked about Tokyo Metropolitan District Governor and agent provocateur emeritus Ishihara Shintaro's plan to have the TMD purchase three of the Senkaku Islands from their private owner (if you are Chinese, Taiwanese or from Hong Kong, p-r-iv-a-t-e o-w-n-e-r is of course pronounced "färs-kl ˈkleɪmənt").

According to the FT, Niwa responded:
“If Mr Ishihara's plans are acted upon, then it will result in an extremely grave crisis in relations between Japan and China.”

True, or at least possibly true. It depends on how the Chinese view Ishihara's making Kurihara Kunioki (E) a very rich man in the one-hop transfer, thanks to the quick thinking of Vice and Actual TMD Governor Inose Naoki, of private donations to Mr. Kunioka's account (E). If the Chinese government, which has been very circumspect and withdrawn of late, shrugs the sale off as bunch of self-described patriots throwing their money away, all will be well.

Trigger the deluge of condemnation, nevertheless, from the usual suspects: Ishihara (no surprise here), the anti-government press (E) and the Noda government, obsessed as it is with the concept that nothing -- NOTHING -- can get in the way of the passage of the bills raising the consumption tax.

As for the Financial Times, it landed a two-for-one deal out of the interview, publishing the interview, then publishing the government's response to the interview. (E)

It has been six years since I dashed off my ever-more-seriously-in-need-of-an-update-and-revision Rules of Japanese News. Despite the list's intemperate origins, Rule #2 still seems to have some juice left in it:
"If an exclusive interview produces a scoop for the Financial Times, the interviewee probably did not understand the question."

Later - Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko was waded in the Niwa controversy. In testimony to the House of Representatives, the PM stated he will not be asking for Niwa's resignation, saying that Foreign Minister Gemba Ko'ichiro delivered a warning to Niwa, and that Niwa had reflected deeply upon his actions. (J)

Of course, this was the same vote of confidence that Noda expressed in Minister of Defense Tanaka Naoki and Minister of Infrastructure, Land, Transport and Tourism Maeda Takeshi...and we all know how well that turned out for those two men.

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