Sunday, March 31, 2013

B2 Or Not B2

The United States practice bombing runs by a pair of B-2 Spirit stealth bombers (Link) have sent the rhetoric of the government of the Democratic Republic of Korea soaring into the stratosphere (Link). If the U.S. government goal had been a warning to the DPRK government to calm down or else, sending the B-2s on their expensive (Link) and roundabout training flights was a big flop.

However, as Max Fisher, blogging at the Washington post suggests, the flight by the B-2s most likely had the simultaneous purpose of demonstrating to South Korea the reliability of U.S. extended nuclear deterrence. (Link)

There has been a lot of talk in South Korea of late regarding the desirability of restarting a program toward an independent nuclear deterrent (Link), talk that the U.S. government would prefer to be too wacky for polite society in the best of times.

These are not the best of times -- and not just because the Kim regime in Pyongyang is going through a prolonged period of internal strife due to a premature transition of power.

The U.S. and South Korea are trying to nail down a renewal of the “123 agreement” on U.S. nuclear power generation technology. Without a 123 agreement South will find itself in a tough spot as regards its ambitious civilian nuclear power program. (Link)

What is holding up the agreement's renewal is the South Korean government insistence that South Korea have the right to use the U.S. technology it has licensed to reprocess its spent nuclear fuel and enrich uranium.

South Korea has 23 operating reactors and 4 more under construction (Link). It has another 7 nuclear power stations on the drawing board. Long term storage of spent fuel is a critical problem, as it is in Japan.

South Korea corporations also want to construct nuclear power stations in third countries. Having U.S. permission to enrich uranium -- another pathway to nuclear weapons status – would enable South Korean bids to be one of a full nuclear power package, rather than just a building with no fuel in it. (Link)

It must be galling for the South Korean government officials and possibly the public at large to know that their country, a staunch U.S. military ally, has been denied the use of U.S. technology for reprocessing and enrichment, when an ambiguous ally like Japan and non-allies like India are allowed them, with the international community clapping (unhappily, most of the time) at the scene.

The Obama Administration is highly reticent to approve either reprocessing or enrichment in the new 123 agreement. It has very little to show for its supposed rock hard commitment (Hello, Nobel Prize Committee!) to global nuclear disarmament. Permitting South Korean reprocessing and/or enrichment would seem like the utmost hypocrisy.

(Which is why it is not surprising that U.S. Republicans and U.S. Republicans-associated think tanks would be tilting in favor of a U.S.-South Korea agreement allowing reprocessing and enrichment.)

Sending the B-2s would be a decent preamble for a U.S. announcement that the new 123 agreement will not allow South Korean reprocessing or enrichment. The message to South Korea would be long but simple: "Look, you are doing fine in terms of access to fuel, you have sold reactors overseas without fuel enrichment, reprocessing spent nuclear fuel for civilian use is a hopeless nightmare (Link) and there is no doubting our extended nuclear deterrent. So what do you need?"

The B-2 flights have an ancillary benefit, of course, of reinforcing the U.S. extended deterrent promised to other non-NATO allies – most particularly in this instance, Japan. Seeking reassurance of the U.S. capability to deliver nuclear weapons in way that does not light up Russian and Chinese early warning radars – the problem with a strategic-missiles-only-deterrent-for-East-Asia-allies -- has led Japanese officials to take trips down some back alleys they later had to recant in convoluted fashion.

So the B-2 flights are not as stupid as they seem – and given the boost they have provided to the DPRK government's already histrionic war paranoia, they sure do seem stupid. The flights have provided a new, truly threatening subject for DPRK propagandists to harp on. They have also transmitted to the governments of South Korea and Japan messages those two governments probably needed to hear.

Tips of the hat to Our Man in Abiko and Robert Koehler for directions.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Not A Tree Again

In a repeat of the low profile he maintained in 2006-7, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo will not be attending the Spring Festival at Yasukuni Shrine (Link). As in 2007, he will pay his respects solely via sponsoring a masakaki (真榊) display.
Abe to make offering at Yasukuni
Jiji Press

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will make an offering of masakaki tree stands for an annual spring festival set to be held at Yasukuni Shrine from April 21 to 23, informed sources said Friday.

Abe made a similar offering for the 2007 spring festival at the Shinto shrine for the war dead when he was last prime minister. However, he did not visit the shrine during his previous 12-month term in office...

This decision represents the best of all possible worlds to Abe. He can check off a box with his nationalist or ultra-nationalist supporters whilst doing nothing the Chinese or South Korean leaderships can plausibly criticize.

Crunch time will come in August, though. I cannot see him foregoing a visit to Yasukuni this time around. Then again, if he pays a visit, it is hard to imagine him preventing Cabinet ministers Shindo, Furuya, Inada and Shimomura from paying visits as well. In reponse to which Chinese and South Koreans would go bananas.

Decisions, decisions...

Then again, a sudden private visit to Yasukuni now would provide sharp shock jolting the public's eye away from the stunning court decisions this past month regarding the constitutionality of the December 2012 election.

Later -As for the title of this post, it is a reference to the confused media reports five years ago.

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Gift For The Nuclear Village

The restart of nuclear reactors in this blessed land has run up against a number of hurdles. One is the possibly intentional slow pace at which local communities around the nation's nuclear plants are drawing up evacuation plans (Link – J). Another has been the unwillingness of commissions of experts to declare inactive the seismic faults that run through nation's reactor sites.

Those wanting to throw doubt on the assessments of these seismic experts received a huge gift yesterday:
Fault researcher admits error / Team analyzing Tachikawa geology misidentified material
The Yomiuri Shimbun

Researchers who surveyed the Tachikawa fault reiterated apologies at a press conference Thursday for errors they made in their analysis.

"We're very sorry for having caused confusion," one researcher said. The team was found to have made such mistakes as erroneously identifying man-made material as rock.

Local governments concerned accepted the development in a coolheaded manner, but told residents to continue preparing for earthquakes that could be caused by the fault.

Prof. Hiroshi Sato of the University of Tokyo's Earthquake Research Institute, who wrongly judged the geological structure of the Tachikawa fault, repeatedly apologized for the mistake.

Tatsuya Ishiyama, an assistant professor of the institute who conducted the analysis with Sato, said, "I'm very sorry for causing confusion among local residents and communities."

Regarding the factors that lead to the erroneous judgment, Sato said, "There were artificial materials at a site where I assumed I'd find the fault."

Sato also has engaged in the examination of faults on the grounds of Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Higashidori nuclear power plant, on which a team of examiners compiled a report in February that said it is highly likely they are active faults.

Asked whether he will resign from the research team, Sato said: "If I'm urged to resign for being unqualified, I will quit. But once I accept an appointment, I want to fulfill my responsibilities as a researcher."

As geological experts have predicted that a 7.4-magnitude could strike the Tachikawa fault, killing as many as 2,600 people, residents are highly interested in the research. When the research site opened to the public in February, more than 10,000 people visited.

The central government provided about 100 million yen a year in subsidies for the research, with about 23 million yen already spent on drilling and other work.

The research team said it will restart the analysis using other data such as older geological charts…

Professor Sato did himself no favors at the press conference. From the clips shown on television, his attitude was of bemusement at his misidenfication of the concrete foundations of the former Nissan assembly plant as a natural rock feature demonstrating the likely active state of the Tachikawa Fault.

Shame? OK. Defiance? OK. Bemusement? Probably not so OK.

What would have been Professor Sato's reaction to one of his undergrads presenting a paper misidentifying concrete as a natural formation? An "A" for effort?

The pro-nuclear Sankei newspaper has quite reasonably jumped all over the news of Sato's blunder. By the dastardly and utterly fair tactic of reprinting Sato's definitive statements on the activity of faults, including the incredible claim yesterday that the fault under the Totsu Higashidori Nuclear Power Station is "active without any doubt" –- and noting that Sato is a rotating member of the team of experts investigating the seismic faults underlying the nation's nuclear power plants -- it pretty much detonates the credibility of the team's assessments. (Link – J)

Science is about a willingness to make mistakes, with compensatory measures to catch and identify them. As one earthquake fault researcher points out in the Sankei article, "It often happens that there are differences of opinion over whether, at a given location, a fault is there or not. That is why verification from a number of experts is necessary before a judgment can be delivered."

However, lay understanding of science is that years of training and the scientific method winnow out the possibility of making mistakes, especially boneheaded ones like mistaking concrete for rock.

In this instance, it is hard to fault (pun unintended) the lay understanding of how science should work.

As to the decision to make the fully funded Tachikawa Fault investigation into a public spectacle ("When the research site opened to the public in February, more than 10,000 people visited.") -- that just redefines idiocy downward.

Later - Via the offices of The Japan Times comes the Kyodo News version of the debacle. (Link)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Horie Is Set Free And We Are Not

Internet entrepreneur turned target of prosecutors Horie Takafumi was released from prison yesterday after serving nearly three quarters of his sentence.
Fallen tycoon Horie freed from jail
The Japan Times
by Reiji Yoshida and Kazuaki Nagata, Staff Writers

Takafumi Horie, former president of the Internet firm Livedoor Co. and an entrepreneurial hero for young generations, was paroled Wednesday after spending 21 months behind bars.

In a news conference Wednesday night, an apologetic Horie, who lost 30 kg while incarcerated, expressed his intention to contribute to society by helping ex-prisoners get back on their feet. He also said he wants to reunite with his space rocket project and launch a website to critique how news is reported.

Horie walked out of a prison in Nagano Prefecture at around 7:40 a.m. He soon appeared live in video streamed by Nico Nico Douga, Japan’s leading online video service operator, while he was in a car headed for Tokyo to hold a news conference.

"I thank everybody who took care of me while in prison. Thank you very much. I received parole after serving 74 percent of my prison term," Horie said on Twitter.

In his later press conference, he said, "I caused trouble to many people in society and (Livedoor) shareholders over the Livedoor case and am deeply sorry."

That Horie is now apologetic should not be read as his being accepting of his guilt. He is out on parole. He will, for as long as he is out on parole, keep quiet about the case brought against him.

We should not be surprised if Horie remains quiet about the actions of the judicial system even after his parole period ends. Horie fought hard against the law -- refusing to confess, even after his subordinates agreed to testify against him; asserting his innocence on all charges: appealing his guilty verdicts all the way to the Supreme Court.

Incarceration, however, brings a change in values. The primary one -- and it is particularly forgivable in those who never actually did anything wrong -- is the desire to never be incarcerated again. That Horie would never again want to be seen as challenging the status quo powers is understandable.

Rather than dwelling upon the injustice of his incarceration, Horie seems to have found a private liberty in serving as a caregiver to his fellow inmates. Whilst no substitute for real freedom, the right to care for others liberates the spirit, no matter the condition of the body. That Horie has expressed the desire that other inmates might enjoy the privilege of freedom he is enjoying indicates he has understood that behind the bars and the funny clothes, the imprisoned are human beings -- something he would have never known had himself not become one of them.

That Horie may no longer have the fire to fight for a more just judicial system does not let any of us off the hook. With recent reversals of false convictions and the of challenging of the Diet over the constitutionality of elections, it may seem that judges are waking up to their latent power to mete out justice, rather just impose penalties for supposed violations of the law. Unfortunately, none of the blatantly political cases of the 2000s -- the false accounting cases against Horie and his Livedoor subordinates, Murakami Yoshiaki's insider trading conviction (Link) and the cases against Ozawa Ichiro and his secretaries -- has been reversed on appeal (Ozawa managed to avoid all convictions in the cases brought against him by the controversial Committees for the Inquest of the Prosecution)

For all who dwell in this blessed land, doing anything, we must assume we are still at the mercy of the prosecutors, who need only to suddenly be told not to like us any more to go all Lavrenti Beria ("You bring me the man, I'll find you the crime.") on us.

The fight is not over.

Later - For a less morose take on events, see the Wall Street Journal's coverage of Horie's release. (Link)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pronouncing Patriotism

In a post of a few days back -- which lost me the readership of an old friend but won me thanks from one of three Japan political scientists whose opinions I care about -- I reported on the national broadcaster NHK and its seeming struggles with the pronunciation of the name of the country, whether it is "Nihon" or "Nippon."

I noted in the post that former DPJ House of Representatives member Iwakuni Tetsundo had gone so far as to put the question of the pronunciation of the country's name to the government, to which the Aso Cabinet responded, officially, that "Nihon" and "Nippon" are equally correct. I promised at the time that I would try to find out from Iwakuni-sensei himself the reasons why he asked for a government assertion of the correct pronunciation of the country's name.

Yesterday, in an email, Iwakuni-sensei responded. His response was much longer and detailed than I anticipated. As a consequence I will post the gist of it here, rather that merely insert a few words into the earlier post, as I promised.

Iwakuni-sensei starts out by saying that the question he submitted to the Cabinet on June 19, 2009 (Link - J) speaks for itself. However, his interest in the pronunciation question was piqued by discussions going on within the House of Representatives Education Committee. Members from the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling coalition would say "Nihon." The Socialists would say "Nippon." The Communists would say "Nihon." Moreover, looking at what children were being taught in school, the first year elementary school textbooks introduced the country as "Nihon." However, by the third year, readings of the Chinese characters for the country name expanded to "Nippon" without explanation.

Looking around, Iwakuni-sensei found inconsistencies in the speech of government officials. Prime Minister Koizumi Jun'ichiro, when he announced the dispatch of Self Defense Forces personnel to Iraq, peppered his speech with various iterations of "Nippon" -- but when discussing the dispatch at other times referred to the country as "Nihon." Bank of Japan Governor Hayami Masaru, a Protestant Christian, introduced himself as "Nihon Ginko no Hayami desu" ("I'm Hayami of the Bank of Japan") even though on the nation's currency (pull out a bill if you have one on you) the name of the issuing authority is "Nippon Ginko."

More interesting still is the choice of the members of the Imperial Family: they never say "Nippon."

In part this is due to tradition. The "pa-pi-pu-pe-po" sounds do not appear in speech before the late Edo Period. They are nowhere to be found in the Manyoshu. They cannot be found in any of the reign or imperial names.

However, more important to the Imperial Family of today is the association between the undemocratic Meiji Constitution Imperial State -- the Dai Nippon Teikoku -- and usage of the plosive consonant version of the country name. As Iwakuni-sensei told a Chicago audience in October last year, during the war years persons who used "Nihon" for the country name put themselves at risk of having their status as citizens challenged.

If the current Heisei Emperor -- an opponent of all coerced expressions of patriotism, as was illustrated by his famous flambeing of the nationalist Tokyo Board of Education member Yonenaga Kunio* -- never says "Nippon" nor allows his sons to say it , one would not be far wrong in guessing the plosive consonant country name carries too much historical baggage for safe daily use.


* At the Emperor's Autumn Garden Party in 2004, Yonenaga introduced himself with a preening "It my job to see to it that in all the middle schools of Japan, everyone is made to raise the flag and sing the national anthem." The emperor replied, with deadly wistful understatement and indirection, "You know, it would desirable that it were done in a way that could not be called forcible" ("Yahari, kyosei ni naru to iu koto de wa nai koto ga tomoshii nozomashii desu ne.").

Two Can Play At This Game

Chosen Soren, the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, the de facto embassy of North Korea in Japan, had its headquarters seized by the government last year. The court-ordered seizure represented what was nominally an attempt to wrench out of the organization, which at its height controlled 38 banks and credit unions, the public funds used to bail out these financial institutions after they went belly up post-Bubble.

The actual goal, and it is not an ignoble one, was to bankrupt, defenestrate and extirpate Chosen Soren. Like the national government it unofficially represents, Chosen Soren is a front for an extortion racket, prying donations out of the hands of North Korean residents of Japan in return for DPRK regime promises to spare the lives and livelihoods of relatives still stuck inside North Korea.

Bidding on the building and the attached land, situated north of the Imperial Palace in Chiyoda Ward, began on March 13, with Chosen Soren banned from participating in the auction. (Link)

That's the way to drive an evil organization out of the nation's heart!

Not exactly.

The winning bidder in the Chosen Soren headquarters auction? The Shingon School Buddhist, Kagoshima-based temple Saifuku-ji, a religious corporation boasting not just a national congregation, not just a website, not just ties to celebrities (including, according the organization, Nagashima "Mr. Giants" Shigeo and former prime minister Koizumi Jun'ichiro) not just a fabulous YouTube intro video (Link - J) but its own YouTube channel.

Journalists caught up with Saifuku-ji abbot Ikeguchi Eikan yesterday at a branch temple on Ennoshima, in Kanagawa Prefecture.

Surprise, surprise: Ikeguchi is a Pyongyang frequent flyer, with close ties to the ruling Kim regime. (Link - J)

Asked about his organization's plans for the decrepit and quake-damaged structure, Ikeguchi improbably declared the building will be used as a religious training center and, more cryptically, as a center for "ethnic reconciliation" (minzoku yuwa).

Asked to elaborate, the abbot said that the central committee of the North Korean Worker's Party had told him it was willing to use the building as is. He said he was open to the idea of renting out the building to Chosen Soren... (Link - J)

Nice work at covering all the bases, Government of Japan.

Later - For fun, put "在日本朝鮮人総連合会中央本部" into the Google Maps search window and drop down into Google Street View to see the police guard with barricade and the armored police bus parked across the street from the building.

The Magnificent 30s

From Professore Andrea Ortolani, in comments, a note of commonality in between Justice Ikadatsu Junko, who on Monday ruled unconstitutional and invalid the elections held in the Hiroshima #1 and #2 House of Representatives districts last year -- and Justice Katano Noriyoshi, who ruled yesterday that the Okayama #2 district election was unconstitutional and invalid (Link): both Ikadatsu and Katano are from the 30th lawyers' examination class.

So what?

Members of the 30th graduating class are on the cusp of retirement. Justice Ikadatsu is 65, mandatory retirement age for a justice. Katano, if he is not also in his final year, is probably close to it.

Nothing like approaching retirement to ease fears of retaliation and exclusion. Nothing stands in the way of your getting a full pension; no one can threaten you with exile to the sticks (Justice Ikadatsu served in Gifu, Tsu, Tokyo, Nagoya, and Okinawa before her present posting). No sempai can pressure you to not rock the boat. Having no hope of higher appointment, you are liberated from the need to be popular with your peers.

Revolution -- t'is a priviledge of the old.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Hiroshima Unconstitutionality Ruling - Links

Jiji Press
Court rules lower house poll invalid / Vote disparity in Hiroshima 'too wide'

HIROSHIMA --The Hiroshima High Court ruled Monday that the results in the No. 1 and No. 2 single-seat constituencies in Hiroshima Prefecture in the December 2012 House of Representatives election were invalid due to wide vote-value disparities.

This is the first ruling in the postwar period that has invalidated the result in an election for the lower house or the House of Councillors.

Presiding Judge Junko Ikadatsu also ruled that the wide vote-value disparities in the Dec. 16 lower house election were unconstitutional. If the ruling becomes final, elections will have to be held again in the two electoral districts.

Ikadatsu said the ruling will come into force on Nov. 27, 2013, depending on developments...

Kyodo News
Hiroshima court rules Dec. election invalid over vote disparity

HIROSHIMA -- The Hiroshima High Court ruled Monday that the results of last December's general election in Hiroshima's No. 1 and 2 districts were invalid due to significant disparities in the weight of votes.

The court is the first in Japan to declare an election result void among a series of lawsuits over vote disparities.

The election results, however, will not be invalidated immediately if the local election board appeals against the latest decision.

Earlier this month, six other high courts and a high court branch in Japan found that disparities in the value of votes of up to 2.43 to 1 in the election were either unconstitutional or close to a state of unconstitutionality...

Wall Street Journal
Hiroshima Court Rules Election Invalid

By Toko Sekiguchi -- In a landmark ruling Monday, a Hiroshima court ruled the results of the December lower-house election invalid in two districts due to the disproportionate weighting of votes in those districts.

It was the first time a Japanese court ruled election results invalid on such grounds. It is seen as a victory for constitutional rights activists, who have long argued disparities in the weighting of votes in different districts violates the constitution. The ruling ups the ante on lawmakers to fix the system.

A string of past court rulings has found that the current electoral system doesn't uphold the principle of “one person, one vote,” as prescribed in the constitution. Still, the rulings acknowledged the validity of the results — until now.

Yet neither of the winning candidates in the two districts — including Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida — will need to immediately worry about their jobs.

According to local media reports, the ruling stipulates that the nullification of the election results takes effect only from Nov. 26. That gives Hiroshima's board of elections time to appeal to the Supreme Court. The Internal Affairs Ministry says even if the Supreme Court upholds the ruling, it won’t necessarily mean new polls...


Me, myself, I...

For Al-Jazeera six months ago, back in the days when I believed former prime minister Noda Yoshihiko had a backbone:
Will Japan's government disappear?
A Supreme Court ruling in Japan could shake up the political landscape of the country.

A pop quiz: Name the country in East Asia where national elections are illegal. In fact, holding a national election would be unconstitutional.

The answer: Japan.

Not the answer one would expect. However, on October 17, the Supreme Court of Japan ruled unconstitutional the current electoral districts used to assign seats in the House of Councillors. This complements the Supreme Court ruling of March 2010 [sic], which found the district boundaries of the House of Representatives to be also unconstitutional.

In both instances, the Court ruled that the elections selecting the current membership of the Diet were unconstitutional. This means that every single member of Japan's current parliament is occupying his or her seat illegally. In both cases, however, the Court wisely decided that what's done is done, and that having no Diet was worse than having an illegal one.

Creating a new Diet

Having ruled that the electoral districts of both Houses of the Diet are unconstitutional, the Supreme Court has set the stage for a titanic contest of wills in between Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko and his Democratic Party of Japan and the main opposition alliance of the Liberal Democratic Party and the New Komeito...

In the East Asia Forum, published on the day of the problematic election.
Japan’s ‘nothing’ election
December 16th, 2012


To make matters worse, the failure to implement a redrawing of the electoral district map based upon the +0/-5 solution means the election has been carried out using an electoral district map the Supreme Court finds unconstitutional. The Supreme Court on 28 November showed its traditional deference to the decisions of the legislative branch, a panel of the justices refusing, on procedural grounds, to halt the 16 December election. However, the Court has no qualms with lawsuits filed after the election. A crusading group of lawyers is ready to file lawsuits in 60 jurisdictions on 17 December, seeking to invalidate the election’s results.

And here, ad nauseum:

As to the issue of when the Hiroshima decision goes into effect...Justice Ikadatsu has given the Diet up to one calendar year from the first convening of the meetings of the commission on electoral boundaries (a commission under the umbrella of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Telecommunications) to come up with a plan meeting constitutional muster.

The commission met for the first time on November 26, 2012.

As to what "constitutional muster" means, both the Tokyo High Court and the Sapporo High Court found the egregious +0/-5 reform passed on the last day of the previous Diet's existence a risible solution contrary to the Supreme Court's intent.

Expect more trouble on this issue.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Hiroshima Court Strikes Down December 2012 Elections

This just in...The Hiroshima High Court has ruled the House of Representatives elections of December 16, 2012 to be not just unconstitutional but invalid:

1票の格差:昨年衆院選は「無効」 初司法判断 広島高裁

毎日新聞 2013年03月25日 16時17分(最終更新 03月25日 16時17分)

(Link - J)

If the above Mainichi account holds up we are looking at the first ever voiding of an election.

Holy coraggio, Professore Ortolani!

A Habibie Reprise

Fifteen years ago B. J. Habibie received a great deal of grief for his acronym for his predecessor. Habibie, who took over control of Indonesia following lethal rioting and the resignation of President Suharto, would call Suharto "S-G-S" -- both to his face and when talking about the former general in the third person.

"S-G-S" stood for "Super Genius Suharto."

Whether the grief was well-earned, in fair condemnation of Habibie's obsequiousness, or ignorant, overlooking a cunning deployment of self-deprecation, I do not know. Perhaps someone could ask Habibie, if he is still compos mentes, what his game was. Habibie, who was neither general, nor business leader nor nor a great scholar, had to find some way to survive inside Suharto's hot house regime of low-grade brutality, unspeakable corruption and U.C. Berkeley Ph.D.s. I am willing to accept the possibility that calling Suharto "S-G-S" created a space for Habibie to not just survive but thrive.

I was reminded of Habibie's gambit and "S-G-S" while I read a pair of articles from The Yomiuri Shimbun. The goal of these articles was to educate me as to the wonders of Abe Shinzo's management of government affairs. What they taught me instead was to not trust the Yomiuri Shimbun's take on whatever is going on inside the administration.
Abe exercises personal governing style / Utilizes 'control tower' approach to hammer out policy details, streamline political process

Tetsuya Ennyu and Hiroyuki Ishida / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writers

In the three months since his inauguration, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has adopted a "control tower" approach to government, letting Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga handle important issues with relevant ministers after presenting a basic plan of action.

However, many difficult tasks still await the Abe administration, such as the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture.

In a speech delivered Saturday in Tokyo, Suga said, "We'll make progress one issue at a time while making good on our promises, such as the appointment of a new Bank of Japan governor, the Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP] free trade agreement, and an application for land reclamation in the Henoko district [of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture]."

"We're not going to 'play it safe' until the next House of Councillors election. We're going to do what we need to do," Suga said.

Each of the issues mentioned by Suga are tasks that previous administrations have struggled to resolve. In that regard, Suga has approached each task in line with Abe's intentions...

If you normally do not click through on links, I would recommend foregoing of your usual reticence. The formatting of the article, with the artful use of an appropriate image of Abe as commander, transmits far more of the message than the words do.

In the same vein, and indeed dealing with some of the same issues, is this YSO article, again on Abe's brilliant management of the bureaucracy:
Govt-bureaucrat relations transformed
The Yomiuri Shimbun

Although Prime Minister Shinzo Abe does not allow bureaucrats to attend meetings to make policy decisions, they are given free rein in implementing them, highlighting a distinct change in the relationship between the government and bureaucrats since the Democratic Party of Japan was in power.

For example, when the government applied to the Okinawa prefectural government for permission to conduct landfill work for the planned relocation of functions of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in the prefecture, Abe asked the Defense Ministry to "choose a day less likely to cause a fuss, even though it's inevitable that many residents of Okinawa Prefecture will oppose the plan," according to government sources.

After the government received a report that "Friday would be appropriate" from the ministry's Okinawa Defense Bureau, Abe approved the date...

According to the Yomiuri, I am supposed to get excited by Abe Shinzo's

1) Running the affairs of government one step removed, giving broad discretionary powers to his Chief Cabinet Secretary

2) Asking for suggestions from the responsible ministries, receiving recommendations and following the bureaucracy's advice

Great, wonderful, super...except of course that every other prime minister, with the possible exception of Kan Naoto, has run his government in exactly the same way.

The Yomiuri is asking us to (take solace in/clap wildly for) that which is mundane.

I know that the leadership of Pravda-By-The-Palace is beside itself with joy that its old friends, or what it takes to be its old friends, are back in charge of the Prime Minister's Residence.

However, there is no tang of mischievousness in talk of "Super Genius Abe Shinzo." The phrase tastes bitter, with nothing to savor -- just the black/white flavors of abject sycophancy versus dull sardony.

I do find interesting the revelation in the second article of someone's tasking himself with watching over Abe Shinzo:
Given Abe's past health problems, Imai has emphasized careful management of Abe's health and taken such measures as restricting Abe's attendance at night meetings.

This situation has caused concern among some members of the Liberal Democratic Party, with one saying, "Imai is responsible for making it difficult for us to make an appointment with the prime minister."
Good to see someone's keeping tabs on the human being inside the phenomenon.

Not that my tub thumping about this issue the last time around would have reached the ears of anyone inside Abe's circle, of course.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Politics and Poetry: Senryu For The Week Of March 23, 2013 - The Shrieking Begins

It is hard not to applaud, if only while shaking one's head, at the performance of the Abe Administration and the Liberal Democratic Party. Against all odds and all expectations they have steamrollered all opposition to their policy program. The equities, bond and currency markets have sung a tune that the an informed but uncritical lay person can hum, with the unsurprising result of public support for the Cabinet and the party rising ever higher in public opinion polls. (Link - J)

Every single thing Abe and his party have sought to make happen has happened. Unless there is some extraordinary reversal of fortune between now and election day, Abe's LDP will sweep the district and the proportional races, leaving out of courtesy – not necessity—a smattering of seats to their electoral allies, the New Komeito.

With the seeming inevitability of a landslide and the prospects of an Abe administration unleashed following a massive victory in the July elections, the tone of the comic verse published in my Saturday newspaper have taken a decidedly uncomic turn.

Kuni agete
Ato wa shiranu to

All over the country
No knowledge of that which is to come
The sake of cherry blossom viewing
It is cherry blossom viewing season (at an unseasonably early time, yet another brick in the wall of worry for those of us wishing a livable planet for our children) and indulging to excess on alcohol is a part of the festivities. However, the oblivion described is far from blissful. The lack of knowledge of the future refers not just to loss of fear of the future from drunkenness but also to the quick scattering of the cherry blossoms, who know no future because they have none. The "All over the country" furthermore does not refer just the geographical space but the people of Japan, who are drinking themselves into a stupor because they do not want to know the future.

Roso yori
Tsuru hitokoe de

Rather than the labor unions
From the voice of ultimate power (one call of the crane)
Comes conquest
It has been the time of the ritualized spring struggle (shunto) in between the labor unions and the managements of the major corporations. The remuneration rate rises won by the major unions become the standard for remuneration in all businesses.

As has been the case for longer than anyone wishes to contemplate, labor union requests for dramatically higher wages – i.e., a sharing of the profits the corporations have made through long term cost-cutting and the recent fall of the yen – have been turned down by corporate executives, even with the Abe government encouraging corporations to be more generous. (Link)

The crane voice of Tsusu hitokoe de is not the crane’s cry of classical poetry, which is associated with a love of one’s children and one’s homeland. Instead it is the voice of ultimate, unquestionable authority (in this cases, the CEOs of the corporations). With a single utterance, it ends all conversation.

zujo ni iwau
shuken no hi

overhead celebrate
the day of return of our sovereignty
The LDP in its December 2012 election manifesto promised to establish a national day of remembrance of Japan’s Occupation. On March 12, the Cabinet ratified the establishment of a public commoration, choosing April 28, the anniversary of the entry into effect of the San Francisco peace treaty, as the day. While shuken no hi will not be a national holiday, there will be a formal government ceremony with the emperor in attendance
The establishment of this day of national liberation has understandably infuriated Okinawans, for whom April 28 is a day of shame. (Link)

The author of the senryu mocks the pretentions of the Abe administration, pointing out that the same week the Cabinet established a day celebrating the end of the Occupation, U.S. Forces Japan began conducting training flights of the highly controversial V22A Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft over Japan’s main islands.

Koyaku to
sagi to wakaru mo
toki ososhi

Even if you can differentiate
campaign promises from fraud
it's too late
One cannot get more negative than insinuating the campaign promises of the ruling party are fraud (sagi).

The negative view of the author is nevertheless one very much of the minority. Cabinet approval is riding high at over 70%. When voters who support the Cabinet are asked why they are doing so, an overwhelming (possibly historic) majority say, "faith in the Cabinet's policies."

The popularity of the government's programs and the reality that the election has already happened prompt the bitter final line of toki ososhi -- translatable as "It's too late for that now" or "That ship has sailed."

The sense of hopelessness reached its apogee this week in the poem that the editors of my local paper published at the top of their weekly feature of poems sent in by readers.

Anna ni mo
hantai shita no ni
mo sansei

After opposing it
So much
You are now agreeing to it
In contrast to the topicality of most senryu, the lead poem is transcendent, without a clear link to a specific incident or government act. It might be a reference to the Democratic Party of Japan's voting in favor of the appointment of former Finance Ministry bureaucrat Kuroda Katsuhiko as Governor of the Bank of Japan five years after the DPJ provoked a major crisis in rejecting two Finance Ministry old boys for the post. Then again, the author may be referring to another betrayal of conscience.

Very possibly the author is making a sweeping accusation of all, cursing all for surrendering to the new regime, abandoning principles and beliefs without a fight.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Aquatic Marvels

Another day, another reason to look sadly at the ocean, the sky and one's wallet...
Deep-sea mud proves rich in rare earths / But remote deposits hard to extract
The Yomiuri Shimbun

Highly concentrated deposits of rare earth elements have been confirmed in mud from the seafloor near the nation's easternmost island, registering as much as 6,500 parts per million, scientists said Thursday.

The figure is about 10 times higher than that of the inland deposits in China, the concentration of which ranges from 500 ppm to 1,000 ppm, according to a team of researchers from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), the University of Tokyo and other organizations.

The team conducted a survey in late January to ascertain the location of mud containing rare earth elements near Minami-Torishima island, one of the Ogasawara Islands about 1,900 kilometers southeast of Tokyo. The coral atoll has a regular triangle shape with each side measuring about two kilometers, on which Japanese Meteorological Agency officials and Maritime Self-Defense Force personnel work.

Mud containing dysprosium, terbium and other kinds of rare earth elements--which are used for hybrid cars and liquid crystal displays--is widely available below the seafloor of the Pacific Ocean.

The team conducted the survey using JAMSTEC's deep-sea research vessel Kairei, under which pipelike devices were injected into the seafloor south of the island at six points 5,600 meters to 5,800 meters deep to sample the mud. Most of the points are located within Japan's exclusive economic zone.

Analysis of the samples revealed that 5,000 ppm or more of rare earth elements were contained in the mud taken at two of the six points, the researchers said, adding that 10,000 ppm is equivalent to 1 percent.

The rare earth materials were discovered about three to eight meters beneath the seafloor, according to the researchers...


"Hard to extract"? Three to eight meters below the sea floor at a depth of 5,600 to 5,800 meters. "Hard to extract," is it?

We were treated to a similarly uncritical seabed resources announcement only a week ago in the methane hydrates gasfication story. Non-Japanese news sources like The New York Times approached the announcement with tempered enthusiasm (Link). Japanese news reporting, however, was uncritical the the point of malfeasance, crowing only about Japan being the first country to pump burnable fuels out of ocean floor methane deposits...and how the methane hydrates in Japan's near shore area can keep Japan in fossil fuel for a century. (Link - J)

Not getting quite so much airtime and column centimeters was the failure of the methane hydrate extraction well's pump only only one week into the two week long trial and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry cancellation of the rest of the test on account of bad weather (Link - J). Or the inconvenient truth that disturbing the methane hydrate beds is an incredibly dangerous thing to be doing. (Link)

A number of narrative arcs are jumbled together here.

First is the "heroic engineering" angle of Japanese technicians and engineers solving vexing, big machine problems -- the kind of technical struggle that NHK's Project X series glorified. (Link - J)

Second is the resources security angle, where the key issue of market access has been steamrollered by the easily understood concept of self-sufficiency. Concern is fevered regarding energy security post-Fukushima and rare earths after the cutoff in Chinese exports following the Chinese trawler captain incident in 2010.

Finally there is the new, manufactured hysteria about maritime security. As the translated Yomiuri article notes, the government is drafting a new Basic Plan on Ocean Policy, one that everyone wants to get in on (Link). Not that the old Basic Plan on ocean policy is that old, mind you; indeed, the folks futzing with a new plan are the pretty much same folks who drafted the old one (Link). The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and Prime Minister Abe Shinzo have been big boosters, however, of a heightened state of awareness of (infatuation with?) Japan's maritime territories and EEZs.

A major goal of the revision of the Basic Plan will be providing the justification for a rapid increase in the capabilities of Japan's maritime security forces. Nothing will be allowed threaten Japan's ability to protect and exploit (note the juxtaposition) the seabed resources within Japan's EEZs, presumably not even "economic viability of projects to be undertaken."

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Young Are Not Always The Agents Of Change

I do not like writing about the Trans Pacific Partnership. I know too little about it to appreciate shifts in details. I know just enough about it to be revolted by the cynical avoidance strategies, preposterous PR campaigns and pressure politics.

Nevertheless, here is a little TPP item worth looking into. The Mainichi Shimbun, in its most recent public opinion poll (16-17 March 2013) asked voters whether or not they supported the Abe government's announcement of Japan's formal participation in TPP talks. The poll found that 63% of all respondents supported the government's plans.

When the Mainichi broke down the respondents into age cohorts, however, it found the very youngest voters, those in their twenties, were not very enthusiastic about the plan to join TPP talks. Only 50% supported the government's move. The newspaper guesses that these younger voters are concerned over potential job losses resulting from accession to the TPP. (Link - J)

Perhaps the Mainichi or some other news gathering organization will follow up, finding out exactly why relatively more of the very young in this blessed land are opposing the TPP, or, conversely, why more of their elders are for it.

Ya Gotta Wish 'Em Good Luck

The Abe Government is purportedly going to have a go at solving one the most vexing problems of the last 40 years: how to entice Japanese men and women to marry at younger ages and reproduce more frequently.
Govt to step up aid to lift low birthrate / Will help more people marry, have children

The Yomiuri Shimbun

In a bid to boost the nation's chronically low birthrate, the government will provide more support to encourage people to get married and have children, it was learned Tuesday.

The support will include assistance in finding marriage partners and homes, and in having and raising children.

The government will establish an expert task force next Wednesday that will work out concrete measures by May. These steps will be included in the government's basic policy on economic and fiscal reforms, which it plans to compile in June.

Among them, the government will implement measures that are urgently needed, starting in fiscal 2014, a government source said.

The task force will be chaired by Masako Mori, state minister for measures for the declining birthrate, and will comprise about 20 experts, including scholars, doctors, heads of local governments and corporate managers.

Three bills designed to support childbirth and child-rearing were passed into law last August. The bills center on improving child care services and preschool education.

However, the low birthrate is also the result of many people remaining single or delaying marriage, as well as their anxiety about having and raising children. The task force will discuss how such concerns can be dispelled...


The article reveals a number of interesting proposals. It also reveals some silly-sounding ones, such as increasing subsidies to local government programs helping residents find spouses -- programs that have had little measurable impact on marriage numbers so far.

The national government, however, is sailing against a global tide (Link). It could go full force pro-natalist, promulgating such measures as the ban on abortions Liberal Democratic Party General Council chair Noda Seiko (whose own desire to give birth led her to make icy bioethical decisions) seems to have proposed last month (Noda has made statements in support of such a ban in the past - Link - J). Without suppressing civil liberties or blowing out the budget (income tax holidays for child bearing, for example), the final package of government measures, none of which is likely to be tested for effectiveness prior to promulgation, will likely be more than just a lot of fumbling around in the dark.

Cherry Blossoms Of Shinjuku Gyoen

Cherry blossoms at Shinjuku Gyoen, Shinjuku City, Tokyo Metropolitan District on March 20, 2013.

Photo images credit: MTC

Justifiable Thievery

To steal a single person's savings is a crime.

To steal an entire generation's savings is a policy.
Drawing "two wrongs make a right" through the grill of ratiocination, David Pilling, the former Tokyo Bureau chief of the Financial Times, lays out the case for the Abenomics policy of sotto voce confiscatory inflation. (Link)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Out Of My Brain

Why should I care?
Why should I care?

- The Who, "5:15" (1973)

Having seemingly lost the readership of Janne Morén to my obsession with surface values and trivia, I ask the readership for a favor: allow me to offer an explanation of my zeroing in on the pronunciation of the country's name, in the form of a translation of a paragraph from an article published in Nihon Keizai Shimbun's electronic edition of 4 January 2012:

Over history, the prime ministers: "Nihon" or "Nippon"?

When Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko gave his inaugural press conference as prime minister, he said, "in order to make Nihon healthy and strong." However, in the Democratic Party of Japan's campaign commercial he said, with force, "We will encourage the revival of a healthy Nippon!" Former Prime Minister Koizumi Jun'ichiro would use both Nippon and Nihon. For every time that he would shout Nippon with force in the Diet, he would repeatedly say Nihon when he would be giving a press conference about his visits to Yasukuni Shrine. Prime Minister Aso Taro, who decided that "either pronunciation is acceptable" would say Nippon in commercials but called his own book Totsute mo nai Nihon. It seems that for former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, the overwhelming majority of utterances seem to have been Nippon. [My underline]

If, according to the Nikkei, Koizumi Jun'ichiro would choose which pronunciation of the country's name to use based upon whether he wanted to rouse an audience or calm it down, I am going to wonder/pay attention when NHK without explanation shifts 100% to the rousing version -- especially when the shift seems to happen when Abe Shinzo returns in glory from his own private Siberia.

Regarding The Voiced Plosive Consonant/Geminate Unvoiced Bilabial Stop

At the prompting of reader "Marcus" I have looked into the question of what is NHK's official position on the correct pronunciation of the name of the country, whether it is "Nihon" or "Nippon" -- and why as of late last year everyone on the network is saying the stuttering "Nippon."

[Note to readers: the below contains big chunks of Japanese text. It is not necessary to read the Japanese text to understand the post - MTC]

In 1998, the network received a number of inquiries about its stand on the country's name. Its response then was that according to its in-house guide, the correct pronunciation is "Nippon."









[ニホン]と読む語 日本画、日本海、日本髪、日本橋(東京)ほか

[ニッポン]と読む語 日本(国号)、日本国民、日本橋(大阪)ほか

[ニホン]または[ニッポン]と読む語 日本一、日本記録、日本語ほか

[ニホン]を第1とし、[ニッポン]を第2とするもの 日本アルプスほか



(メディア研究部・放送用語 豊島 秀雄)


Fascinating, no?

According to the findings of NHK's Media Research Bureau, the failure of financial institutions and the unveiling of scandals involving officials of the Bank of Japan in 1997-98, but even more so the shouting of the crowds at the 1998 World Cup soccer matches, had viewers peppering the network with questions about the official pronunciation of the country's name. Seeing tens of thousands of fans yelling the easy-to-chant "Nippon! Nippon!" rather than the softer, unvoiced alternative, then hearing announcers using "Nihon" seems to have confused a lot of folks.

Very kindly, the NHK executive in charge of daily word usage reproduces the pronunciation rules as they appear in the NHK company handbook of that time:
"Nihon" is the correct pronunciation for some terms: Nihonga (Japanese-style painting), Nihonkai (Sea of Japan), Nihongami ((Japanese hairstyle), Nihonbashi (the location in Tokyo)

"Nippon" is the correct pronunciation for some terms: Nippon (official country name), Nippon kokumin (citizens of Japan), Nipponbashi (the location in Osaka)

Both "Nihon" and "Nippon" are equally correct for some terms: Nihon ichi/Nipponichi (No.1 in Japan), Nihon kiroku/Nippon kiroku (the Japan record), Nihongo/Nippongo (the Japanese language)

"Nippon" is not wrong but "Nihon" is preferable for some terms: Nihon Arupusu (the Japan Alps)

So that should have settled it, right? According to the NHK handbook, the correct pronunciation of the country's name is "Nippon" -- end of story.

Not so fast.

Within six years, the same division of NHK issued a clarification, this time with historical and public opinion survey data demonstrating that "Nippon" was not only not official, it was not popular:
「ニホン」か「ニッポン」か 「日本」の読み方の現在









So, according to NHK's research, the 1934 recommendation of a Ministry of Education's advisory council that "Nippon" to be the official pronunciation was never adopted by the Government of Japan. NHK, in what seems to be a bit of pre-emptive self-policing, adopted the recommended pronunciation one week after advisory council made the recommendation.

Ridiculously and inevitably, NHK's adoption of "Nippon" became the evidence for other organizations that "Nippon" was the official pronunciation.

As the research bureau duly noted, the "Nippon" pronunciation was less popular in the younger age cohorts. Surveying all age cohorts, the research bureau found that in 2003 "Nihon" was used 61% of the time and "Nippon" 37% of the time, with the split having shifted since 1963, the first year NHK researchers asked the question, from "Nihon" 45.5% of the time and "Nippon" 41.8% of the time.

So that should have settled the matter. "Nippon" is the name in the handbook, not the official name. Use one or the other.

Of course, some folks want to make sure. In this case the Democratic Party of Japan's Iwakuni Tetsundo (yes, the former President and CEO of Merrill Lynch, Japan, among many other things) wanted an official answer...

[I have sent an email off to Iwakuni-sensei to find out why he wanted an official determination. When I hear back from him I will insert his explanation here.]

The question Iwakuni-sensei submitted can be found here. (Link - J)

The Aso Cabinet's response came in the form of a Cabinet Decision (kakugi kettei), the gist of which was:

- There has never been heretofore a Cabinet Decision on the matter of the official pronunciation of the country's name

- Both "Nippon" and "Nihon" are are in widespread usage so there is no reason to unify the pronunciation one way or the other.

(Link - J)

So, until such time as the Diet says otherwise, Nippon is officially just as good as Nihon, and vice versa. Indeed, it would be wrong to choose one or the other.

So then, what the heck is going on at the national broadcaster?

I decided, "OK, enough of the impressionistic musings. Count."

So this morning, I counted every instance of NHK news announcers and reporters using either "Nihon" or "Nippon" in the national broadcast from 07:00 to 07:45, with the words either standing alone or in compounds.

My results:

"Nippon" was used 7 times

"Nihon" was used 6 times

Of this

Instances when "Nippon" was used [# of times]:

- country name [5]
- nippon daihyo ("representing Japan") [1]
- nippon kokunai ("inside Japan") [1]

Instances when "Nihon" was used [# of times]:

- zennihon judorenmei ("All Japan Judo Federation") [2]
- nishi nihon ("western Japan")[2]
- higashi nihon ("eastern Japan") [2]

From the looks of it, NHK's announcers are following pronunciations outlined the handbook of 1998, no matter what the Cabinet may have decided in the interim. To the network's credit, the announcers are not over-correcting, using "Nippon" in compounds where has heretofore never appeared.

Nevertheless, hammering away with "Nippon" flies in the face of everyday usage. As explained in a Nihon Keizai Shimbun article of last year (Link - J - text is only partial. Copyright infringing full text versions can be found on listserves like Chiebukuro), a 2004 study of actual speech found that over 97% of the instances "Nihon" was being used. Even for compounds like nippon daihyo and nippon ichi where "Nippon" is the proper form, speakers were over-correcting, saying nihon daihyo and nihon ichi 80% and 77% of the time, respectively.

So, is there some sort of resolution to the conundrum of why NHK announcers have made the switch to the voiced plosive consonant/geminate unvoice bilabial stop when talking about the country?

Not yet.

I did put the question of whether or not there have been mandated changes since the election to NHK News producer Takahashi Eisuke on Facebook.

His response was...colorful:
As for your request for the "company email detailing the change",I have just consulted with this mysterious guy in black suit sitting side by side with me round the clock and his answer was "If Michale Cucek thinks NHK switched it's official narrative on Abe administration suddenly and thus become cheerleader instead of critic,than the duty is upon this guy to provide much more detailed evidence with 5W1H rather than writing a blog post based on pure imagination,No?".However,he also told me to inform you to dial 0570-066-066 for NHK customer service and voice your complain.I have much more critical idea on your blog post.But the man in black insists me to halt my guns and not to engage too much in SNS.I have my family to feed and this guy is said to be connected directly to Abe,so i obey.Lucky you.

Perhaps the man in black will let Mr. Takahashi send me the email now.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Trees In Bloom In The Kairakuen

Plums and early cherries bloom in the Kairakuen, Mito City, Ibaraki Prefecture on March 16, 2012.

Photo credits: MTC

Things I Know Will Not Happen But I Still Wish Would

- NHK News providing access to even a fraction of its back catalog so that I might determine the exact day when the network's news announcers made the switch from pronouncing the name of the country as "Nihon" in favor of the current, enervating "Nippon."

- Spike reversing his decision to stop writing about his wanderings through down-at-the-heels Japan. (Link)

- Commentators ceasing to worry about how a misunderstanding in between the maritime constabulary forces (I must thank Alessio Patalano for that wonderful locution) of China and Japan could lead to an exchange of gunfire and a military crisis -- and starting to worry instead how the leaderships of China and Japan are using the Senkakus as springboards for their own careers, the needs and interests of their citizens be damned -- i.e., make plain that from the viewpoint of fostering or preserving democracy and prosperity in the region, the prophesied "Senkakus crisis" is already upon us.

- Folks who write up articles and reports about this blessed land doing a little thinking about their sources of anecdotes and comments, along the lines of "if I am talking to a smarter-than-average person about the way his/her society and government work, shouldn't I worry that what I am hearing is not what works but instead how things are supposed to work?"

Call it the yutosei problem, if you need a label for the idea.

Anthropologists have to worry all the time about whether or not what they are hearing from native informants is just a narrative the informant is selling or even worse believes is true.

The antidote is not that difficult to find: just tell the story you heard from Informant #1 to Informant #2, and then ask Informant #2, with the benefit of anonymity if he/she needs it, "OK, now what did Informant #1 get wrong?"

- People reading the new sections of Abe Shinzo's repackaged and expanded Toward a Beautiful Country, now entitled Toward a New Country, in order to get a taste of Abe Shinzo Thought in all its incurious, knee-jerk weirdness and without the filter of his fabulous media management machine he has acquired from Amaterasu-knows-where.

- Commentators about Japan's entering into Trans Pacific Partnership discussions not talking about the recalcitrance of Japanese farmers and starting to talk about the recalcitrance of U.S. light truck manufacturer executives and workers. At least Japanese farmers have the traditional rural environment and culture fig leaves to hide behind.

- Folks making more noise about the role that narratives of national weakness play in driving the countries in the region toward conflict. How is it possible that every single state in the region has a leadership promising greatness through strength and the pressuring of other countries in the region to understand the errors of their past policies and attitudes?

[For those who saw the "in terms of feminine totems of cults of past national weakness, Yokota Megumi is to Japanese political activists as the comfort women are to South Korean political activists" test answer, 100 points. For those who saw "Japan revisionists and Abe Shinzo promise solutions to the abductees problems, Dokdo/Takeshima dispute and the Southern Kuriles/Northern Territories claims because they know that there are no solutions to these issues, only endless opportunities to opine about how Japan must be strong again," 200 points. For those who asked, "How incredibly bad and illegitimate can the Chinese government be that it must beat its breast and swear to reestablish the supposed pre-Opium War borders of the Qing Empire as its own?" -- a seat in the front row.]

Abe Shinzo yesterday crowed about how persons his age (so full of vim!) are now in charge of China and South Korea and how the trio of himself, Xi Jinping and Park Geun-hye can, though vigorous (shikkari to) communication of their respective positions, work for the prosperity and peace of the region (Link - J). How he managed to avoid throwing in an even more nonsensical "and we all three are in no way are caught up fighting dead political battles and the legacies left us by our parents and grandparents" escapes me.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

What Is There To Not Understand Regarding The Rikuzankai Case?

I am still trying to understand the High Court ruling on the Rikuzankai case.

I am not confused by Justice Iida Yoshinobu's determination, following his throwing out evidence that could prove the contrary, that the determination made in 2011 by the trial judge had no errors in it. I mean, just look at Justice Iida's face.

Does this face not just scream, "Mind open to the possibility that the National Police Agency concocted this case out of perjured testimony, forced confessions and circumstantial evidence?"

I am confused by the underlined bits in this Yomiuri Online explanation of the appeal ruling:
The high court endorsed the judgment of the lower court that one motive for the falsification was to prevent secret donations from midsize contractor Mizutani Construction Co. from coming to light.

The judge accepted as credible the testimony of a former Mizutani Construction president that the company gave 50 million yen to Ishikawa to help the company secure a subcontract for a dam construction project

The judge said Ishikawa falsified the political fund reports of the Rikuzan-kai fund management body of Ozawa, now leader of People's Life Party, in an attempt to conceal 400 million yen he lent to Rikuzan-kai to finance a Tokyo land purchase.

Iida said there were no factual errors in the lower court ruling from circumstantial evidence that the former secretaries deliberately falsified the reports in a conspiracy

"This is a vicious crime that is against the Political Funds Control Law," Iida said.

The Tokyo High Court's not-guilty ruling for Ozawa, finalized in November 2012, recognized the falsification of the reports by the former aides but accepted that Ozawa may have not been given details of the land deal and may have been unaware of the illegality of the off-the-book treatment of the 400 million yen.


Do you see the problem?

According to the determination of now two courts, Ishikawa committed two crimes.

1) He accepted a 50 million yen secret donation from Mizutani Construction, which he did not properly record

2) He falsely recorded a 400 million yen loan Ozawa made to the Rikuzankai

The problem is he cannot have done both. Because the Monday after Ishikawa supposedly receives a secret donation from Mizutani Construction, he deposits the 400 million loaned by Ozawa in Rikuzankai accounts. He does so by breaking up the 400 million into a number of smaller amounts, this in order, according to his explanation, to camouflage his boss' having 400 million just lying around the house to loan out to anyone without collateral or even a written contract.

One of the amounts of money that Ishikawa deposits is 50 million yen. This the prosecutors insist is not a part of the money that Ozawa loaned the Rikuzankai but is instead the secret donation from Mizutani Construction.

If that is so,

a) are prosecutors not arguing that Ozawa gave only 350 million, not 400 million, and

b) since 400 million was repaid to Ozawa a few years later, why have prosecutors not gone after Ozawa to return the 50 million amount allegedly received from Mizutani Construction?

Note that I am not even considering the glaring inconsistency of the prosecutors simultaneously asserting that Ishikawa was sneaky enough to split the entirely legal Ozawa loan into smaller amounts and too stupid to split up an illegal donation from Mizutani Construction.

No one denies the accounts were a mess regarding the 400 million Ozawa loaned the Rikuzankai, the emergency loan being necessary in order that Rikuzankai could in turn borrow from a bank the money needed to pay for the land for a staff dormitory near Ozawa's residence (the banker's rule being that if one wishes to borrow X amount, one has to show one has the full X amount in collateral).

Was the messed up accounting of the no-interest loan a crime? Only under criteria which, if applied to the loan officers of the country's financial institutions, would put hundreds if not thousands behind bars.

Ozawa, poised to become prime minister prior to the ridiculous arrest of his secretary Okubo Takanori on the charges that led prosecutors to seize the financial records of the Rikuzankai, enabling the discovery amid the tens of thousands of transactions this one bit of victimless funny business, now lords over a tiny rump party on the verge of annihilation. Oh, that and the 400 million.

Sic transit gloria? Not exactly.

The sad joke of the political application of the Political Funds Control Law now goes to a higher but not necessarily better place.

The LDP's Latest Electoral Reform Chimera

Cognizant of some voters remembering that in November representatives of the Liberal Democratic Party promised then Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko that they would cooperate in cutting the number of seats in the House of Representatives if Noda would dissolve the Diet -- and cognizant that some kind of action looking like electoral reform is in order -- the LDP is now proposing to scramble the electoral system worse than ever.

In 2009, the Democratic Party of Japan promised to cut the number of House of Representatives proportional vote seats from 180 to 100. Nominally this proposal sought to reduce Diet expenditure. However this explanation was facetious: the House was to be left with a still extraordinary 400 seats. The actual goal of the proposal was the further cementing of a two-party system, this by starving the mini- and micro-parties of opportunities to win seats. As a such, the proposal never had a chance of being enacted after the losses of the 2010 House of Councillors election, as the DPJ by itself no longer had the votes necessary to prevail in both Houses of the Diet. Had the LDP, the other party desirous of a two-party system, been willing to accept a short term sacrifice for a long-term gain, the proposal could have been passed at any time. However, the LDP had no interest in cooperating with anything the DPJ offered.

So the matter sat, fermenting, until revived to provide camouflage for Noda's reprehensible surrender on every front.

However, with the courts beating upon the doors of Diet demanding reform (Link), the LDP has taken up the promise to reduce House of Representatives seat numbers.

Cutting the number of proportional House of Representative seats has nothing to do with the sort of reforms the courts are demanding. However, better to be seen doing something, no matter how perverse and pointless, than be hounded for doing nothing.

Hence, the latest cockamamie proposal. That, and the desire the LDP has to retain the New Komeito as an ally until the July House of Councillors elections are over.

Here is the LDP's proposed reform of the House of Representatives:

- Retention of the +0/-5 plan for rectifying the disproportionality of districts, a solution which the courts have derided as "nothing but the barest minimal reform meeting the mandatory standards." (Link – J)

- Cutting the number of proportional seats by 30

- Dividing the remaining 150 seats (180-30=150) into two, with 90 seats being apportioned by the current d’Hondt distribution from regional blocs and 60 seats apportioned among the parties other than the top finisher in the proportional bloc vote, with the proviso that greatest number of seats a party other than the top vote getter can win inside a bloc is equal to the number won by the top finisher (Got that?)

- Reducing the number of blocs from the current 11 to 8 (Link – J)

The DPJ has already come out against the LDP proposal, iterating the obvious point that "voters would find this reform hard to understand." (Link – J)

A reform which accomplishes none of the things the public and the courts have asked for, while adding at three new layers of complexity to the existing process is "hard to understand?" Really?

The great thing about having the LDP back in power with Abe Shinzo at the helm? One never needs to knit together tenuous webs of inference and intrigue in order to make plain the time-wasting self-interest at the heart of every ruling party initiative.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Look At il diritto c'è, ma non si vede

Blogging in Italian about Japanese jurisprudence, reader Andrea Ortolani. (Link)

Professore Ortolani writes a straightforward style, allowing Google Translate to do a decent job (Pace, il Dottor P. S.) of rendering the original into English.

In a recent post Ortolani examines the two high court decisions handed down this month on the unconstitutionality of the House of Representatives electoral map, and by extension, the illegitimacy of the Abe Government and the sitting Diet:
A che servono queste due pronunce, se tanto in pratica non cambia nulla? Sono anni che i tribunali giapponesi lanciano avvertimenti, nella forma di pronunce di incostituzionalità dei collegi elettorali, ma finora nulla è cambiato. Ci sarà prima o poi un giudice che avrà un po’ più di coraggio degli altri?

Which, according to Google Translate, is:

What are these two decisions, both in practice if nothing changes? For years, the Japanese courts speak warnings in the form of rulings of unconstitutionality of the constituencies, but so far nothing has changed. There will be sooner or later a judge who will show a little more courage than others?
It is perhaps unfair to dump upon the Tokyo High Court and Sapporo High court justices. They did rule without equivocation that the December 2013 election was unconstitutional and not "carried out in a state of unconstitutionality" or some other responsibility-shirking locution.

The pair also at least cast doubt upon the constitutionality of the egregious +0\-5 fudge on rectifying the unconstitutionality of the districts passed by the last Diet in the last week of its existence (Link - J). This opens the door for the Supreme Court to rule in favor of a more meaningful reform of the House of Representatives district boundaries -- not that the Supremes will take advantage of this opening, at least as regards the current round of cases.

[The ruling also casts into doubt upon the +4/-4 rectification done to the House of Councillors district seat apportionments, a question which will come to the fore the closer we approach to the end of the current Diet session.]

As for showing more coraggio, declaring an election invalid is really up to the Supreme Court. After all, the frame for the fight over who has final say on what is or what is not constitutional is Article 81 of the Constitution, where the named actor is the Supreme Court, not the national judiciary. (Link)

The decisions to declare the December 16, 2012 election unconstitutional but not invalid is a headscratcher, to be sure. As a senryu by Tanaka Jiro of Koshigaya City put it:

Iken demo
senkyo yuko?
aho kai na

Even though it's unconstitutional
The election's valid?
Do you think I'm a moron?/Are you morons?
Source: Tokyo Shimbun of 9 March 2013

In my heart I know that when the Supreme Court takes on the issue of whether or not the December 16 election should be invalidated, it will kick the ball to the sidelines, no matter that Japanese government is in a corrosive (and likely, given the contempt the revisionists have for the 1947 Constitution, an entirely willful) state of unconstitutionality.

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Quiet Anniversary Song

For listening, not watching, on cold day in March: Matsui Yuki playing Hito Yo's 2004-05 megahit "Hanamizuki" - uploaded in the immediate aftermath of the triple disaster. (Link)

Far more hopeful than this day leaves me feeling.

Nice Touch, Your Majesty

At the official ceremony commemorating the second anniversary of 3/11, his Highness the Emperor just paid tribute to the contributions made by foreign residents of Japan and non-Japanese everywhere to the rescue and recovery efforts in the disaster zones.

Classy gentleman, his Highness.

The Imperial House was one of only three institutions (the others were the Self Defense Forces and U.S. Forces Japan) to have behaved impeccably from very early on in the disasters and in the weeks and months afterward.

Are You Doing Nothing?

There are two Fukushima Dai'ichi nuclear power plant meltdown decontamination stories.

The first is the damn serious one of the decontamination of everything in the immediate vicinity of the Fukushima Dai'ichi reactors. (Link)

The second is the farcical cleanup of areas downwind of the plant, with imaginary unsafe dosage levels, the most irregular of irregular workers and of course, organized crime syndicates playing their parts. (Link)

The real secret of the latter cleanup: the best thing to do would be...nothing.

The major components of the windborne contamination were Cesium 134 and Cesium 137. Cesium 134 has a half-life of 2 years; Cesium 137 has a half-life of 30 years.

By doing absolutely nothing, radiation levels have in two years's time dropped by 25% in the affected areas away from the Fukushima Power Station. In another two years, another 13% of the radioactive material will be gone. After the end of 10 years, only 7% of the original amount of Cesium 134 will be left.

Of course, more than half of the Cesium 137 will be remaining in 10 years' time. However, with Cesiuum 137's low rate of decay, radioactivity will fall below concern level in all but the areas in the band running from Futaba on the coast to Iidate in the mountains.

As we know though, doing nothing does not win one votes in democratic elections. The scatterbrained clean up effort also appeals to the ideology of diligence -- that through hard work and determination, one can make the seemingly impossible, possible.

So the show is sure to go on.

Need Some Numbers On The Post-3/11 Situation?

Need some numbers to toss out on the second anniversary of the worst natural/man-made disaster of the postwar era?


Percentage of special disaster funds held by the Reconstruction Agency for reconstruction and disaster preparedness actually disbursed by the Agency by the end of September 2012: 51.5%

Percentage of the funds for projects outside the main disaster zone spent: 96%

Percentage of the funds for projects inside the main disaster zone spent: 45.6%

Percentage of the funds for radiation remediation projects spent: 18.4%

Source: Tokyo Shimbun of 4 March 2013


Killed in original disasters: 15,881

Missing in original disasters: 2,668

Early deaths traceable to displacement or other disaster-related causes: 2,303

Source: NHK broadcast of 10 March 2013

Early deaths traceable to displacement due to Fukushima nuclear accident: 789

Source: Tokyo Shimbun of 11 March 2013


Number of persons displaced from disaster zones: 315,000

Numbers of persons evacuated out of disaster zones in Fukushima Prefecture: 154,000

Source: Reconstruction Agency

"Do you still have strong feelings of sympathy and support for persons affected by the triple disasters?"

Strongly or to a certain extent 84%
Weakening feelings 15%
None at all 1%

"The Abe Government says there must be a revision of the DPJ-led government-passed plan recommending a phase-out of nuclear power over the next 30 years. Do you agree with the Abe Government’s contention that a revision is merited?"

Agree 51%
Disagree: 41%

Source: TBS/JNN poll of 9-10 March 2013


Number of communities with plans to be moved to higher ground: 229

Source: Reconstruction Agency

Actual number of communities relocated to higher ground: 0

Source: Tokyo Shimbun of 10 March 2013

Number of persons rendered jobless by the triple disaster: 81,000

Number who have since found work: 45,000

Number of workers reporting loss of income because of triple disaster: 385,000

Number of workers put on leave because of triple disaster: 638,000

Source: Ministry of General Affairs and Telecommunications

Percentage of fishing ports repaired since disaster: 37%

Source: Tokyo Shimbun of 10 March 2013

Number of public housing units deemed necessary in order to house those unable to rebuild their own homes: 23,000

Number of units built to date: 84

Source: NHK News


"Can you or can you not support the Abe Cabinet?"
Can support 76%
Cannot support 22%
"Which party do you intend to vote for in the 2013 House of Councillors election proportional vote?"
LDP 37.5%
DPJ 8.1%
JRP/JAR 3.6%
Your Party 2.7%
New Komeito 2.2%
Communist 2.2%

All other parties have less 1% support.

Source: TBS/JNN poll of 9-10 March 2013

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Fair And Balanced

Reckless, provocative, incompetent, amateurish! (Link)

Against the baying of the Hallelujah Chorus, the Democratic Party of Japan never stood a half-a-chance...

Friday, March 08, 2013

Please Everyone Just Calm Down

On March 5, in anticipation of the United Nations Security Council approving a new round of economic sanctions on the already sanction-blessed Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the Korean People's Army released a statement on its plans for meeting the UN's challenge.

Since the Korea Central News Agency presents information in a fashion that does not allow linking, I present the KPA statement here in all its superheated glory:
On Dec. 12 last year the DPRK legitimately and successfully launched a satellite for peaceful purposes, ensuring international transparency, going beyond practice, and choosing a comparatively mild situation for it.

Seizing the DPRK's satellite launch as an occasion for stifling it from the outset, the U.S. and its allies deliberately negated the DPRK's sovereignty over its satellite launch. They finally prodded the UN Security Council into adopting a "resolution on sanctions" before opting for high-handed hostile acts against the DPRK.

These hostile acts are still going on.

Under this situation the DPRK was compelled to take practical counteractions to defend the security and sovereignty of the country. On Feb. 12 it admirably and successfully conducted the third underground nuclear test for self-defence at the highest level as part of those counteractions.

However, the U.S. imperialists and their allied forces including south Korea are making more persistent and desperate efforts to slap new tougher "sanctions" against the DPRK, far from drawing a due lesson.

Not content with this, they kicked off again the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle joint military exercises to stifle the DPRK by force of arms by mobilizing huge armed forces of aggression. They will reportedly last for two months from March 1.

Unlike last year the current joint military exercises will be participated in by super-large nuclear-powered carrier task force carrying at least 100 nuclear warheads, B-52H strategic bombers and other means of the U.S. imperialist aggression forces for making ground, sea and air nuclear strikes and its allied forces including south Korea, U.K. and Australia.

From this point of view, the exercises cannot be construed otherwise than the most dangerous nuclear war maneuvers targeted against the DPRK and the most undisguised military provocation to be made by a group of all hues of hostile forces.

This serious situation clearly indicates that the actions of the U.S., south Korea and other hostile forces to infringe upon the sovereignty of the DPRK are now leading to a military offensive for aggression, going beyond the level of outrageous economic "sanctions."

In view of the prevailing situation, the Supreme Command of the KPA which is responsible for the national defence and security of the country and the destiny of the nation sent a meaningful warning message to the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces through the KPA Panmunjom mission on February 23. It warned them that if they ignite a war of aggression in the end, from that moment their fate will be hung by a thread with every hour.

But, the joint military exercises have persisted and the U.S. and the south Korean puppet forces have become all the more undisguised in their base moves to kick up their "sanctions."

Looking back on history, the Korean people have neither shot even a single arrow nor thrown a single stone at the land of the U.S.
The U.S. is, however, working with bloodshot eyes to swallow up the DPRK, not content with having incurred the pent-up grudge of the Korean people which can never be settled.

What matters is that the south Korean puppet forces steeped in worship and sycophancy toward the U.S. are dancing to its tune.
Of late Kim Kwan Jin, puppet minister of Defense, and Jong Sung Jo, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, inspected frontline army corps, fleet command and guided missile units where they blustered that a sort of military provocation is expected from the north and cried out for making "deadly strikes" and "preemptive strikes" at the "bases for provocations."

As far as these guys are concerned, they are a group of traitors who pushed the inter-Korean relations to a collapse together with traitor Lee Myung Bak who knows nothing about politics and military affairs. They are military gangsters who go reckless, unaware of what their master U.S. has in mind, what is the intention of the neighbouring countries and what all fellow countrymen and nation desire.
The puppet authorities, too, are crying out for the dismantlement of nukes and halt to provocation as dictated by their master, without knowing what is precious wealth for the nation. They move like a robot and repeat anything like a parrot.

The sovereignty and dignity of the nation are violated and the supreme interests of the country are seriously threatened by the U.S., the sworn enemy of the Korean people, and maniacs of confrontation with fellow countrymen grouping worst traitors. The army and people of the DPRK can never remain a passive onlooker to this fact.

The spokesman for the KPA Supreme Command is authorized to declare the following important measures:

First, it will take the second and third strong practical counteractions in succession to cope with the high-
handed war acts of the U.S. and all other hostile forces as it had already declared.

The army and people of the DPRK never make an empty talk.

It is the mettle of Songun Korea to do what it is determined to do.

It won victories in the two wars and has advanced along the road of victory despite manifold difficulties.

The army groups on the front, ground forces, the navy, air and anti-air units, strategic rocket units of the KPA, the Worker-Peasant Red Guards and the Young Red Guards have launched an all-out action according to the operational plan finally signed by the dear respected Supreme Commander Kim Jong Un.

Now that the U.S. imperialists seek to attack the DPRK even with nuclear weapons, it will counter them with diversified precision nuclear strike means of Korean style.

Those means are bound to be launched once their buttons are pressed, and the enemies' strongholds be turned into a sea in flames.
This land is neither the Balkans nor Iraq and Libya.

The army and people of the DPRK have everything including lighter and smaller nukes unlike what they had in the past.
Second, the KPA Supreme Command will make the Korean Armistice Agreement totally nullified.

The war maneuvers being staged by the U.S. imperialists and the south Korean puppet forces are a vivid expression of their systematic violation of the AA.

Accordingly, the Supreme Command of the KPA will completely declare invalid the AA, which has existed for form's sake from March 11, the day when the war maneuvers will enter into a full-dress stage.

The DPRK will make a strike of justice at any target anytime as it pleases without limit, not bound to the AA, and achieve the great cause of the country's reunification, the cherished desire of the nation.

Third, the KPA Supreme Command will totally stop the activities of the Panmunjom mission of the KPA which was tentatively established and operated by it as a negotiating body for establishing a peace-keeping mechanism on the Korean Peninsula.

In this regard it will simultaneously make a decision to cut off the Panmunjom DPRK-U.S. military telephone.

Our choice has become clear now that the moves of all hostile forces to encroach upon the sovereignty and dignity of the DPRK are reaching a dangerous phase.

It is the unshakable stand of the army and people of the DPRK and the mode of counteraction of Mt. Paektu style to counter enemies coming in attack with a dagger with a sword, a rifle with an artillery piece and nukes with precision nuclear strike means of Korean style more powerful than them.

The U.S. imperialists and their allies should not forget even a moment that they are standing at the crossroads of their life and death.

A final victory is in store for the army and people of the DPRK who are all out to protect its sovereignty.
The issuance of this statement has led to demands from U.S. (Link), South Korean (Link) and Japanese (Link - J) quarters for a more severe international response.

Question: is there anything so terribly striking, new or frightening about the March 5 statement and its follow up statements?

Here are some of the purportedly torrid lines from the statement and my take on them:
"First, it will take the second and third strong practical counteractions in succession to cope with the high-handed war acts of the U.S. and all other hostile forces as it had already declared."
This seems to be a declaration of at least two more tests will take place that the UN will not like, either of long-range rockets or nuclear devices, sometime in the current calendar year.
"The army and people of the DPRK never make an empty talk."
This is an admission that the Kim regime and KPA have a credibility problem. If they did not have a habit of indulging in empty talk, they would be so determined to explain the seriousness of their threats.
"Now that the U.S. imperialists seek to attack the DPRK even with nuclear weapons, it will counter them with diversified precision nuclear strike means of Korean style."
This seems to only reconfirming that the DPRK rocket and nuclear weapons development programs will not be abandoned or delayed, as "precision nuclear strike means of Korean style" seems to be DPRK-talk for a nuclear weapon-bearing intercontinental ballistic missile.
"This land is neither the Balkans nor Iraq and Libya."
The Kim Dynasty and the KPA have learned lessons from those conflicts and will use all means possible in an attempt to thwart regime change. Duh.
"The army and people of the DPRK have everything including lighter and smaller nukes unlike what they had in the past."
When the KPA is claiming to have these smaller nuclear warheads one should probably assume it in fact does not have them. It would, however, make sense to for the KPA to claim greater capabilities when it is trying to influence the contents of sanctions resolutions.
"Second, the KPA Supreme Command will make the Korean Armistice Agreement totally nullified.

The war maneuvers being staged by the U.S. imperialists and the south Korean puppet forces are a vivid expression of their systematic violation of the AA.

Accordingly, the Supreme Command of the KPA will completely declare invalid the AA, which has existed for form's sake from March 11, the day when the war maneuvers will enter into a full-dress stage.

The DPRK will make a strike of justice at any target anytime as it pleases without limit, not bound to the AA, and achieve the great cause of the country's reunification, the cherished desire of the nation."
This could be a threat warning of an imminent incident.

It might just as just likely be an admission that the leadership itself does not know when the next violation of the Armistice Agreement will take place. By announcing a violation in advance it can take credit for whatever unapproved incident that occurs (note to local commanders: you will not get the credit for your show of initiative).
"It is the unshakable stand of the army and people of the DPRK and the mode of counteraction of Mt. Paektu style to counter enemies coming in attack with a dagger with a sword, a rifle with an artillery piece and nukes with precision nuclear strike means of Korean style more powerful than them."
From the list of comparatives, one can assume that, as noted before, a "precision nuclear strike means of Korean style" is the current operating euphemism for a nuclear-tipped ICBM.

OK, so the Kim regime and the KPA are angry at the world for being angry at them for their pursuit of a credible nuclear threat that they can then wave at the United States.

Considering that the DPRK's guarantor of extended deterrence is China, can one blame the members of the DPRK ruling regime for pursuing an independent deterrent? Given the weakness of the Chinese nuclear response guarantee, is not the current pace of the DPRK's nuclear and rocketry development programs rather desultory?

(Poverty promotes lassitude, folks.)

As for the the DPRK, running as it is looking over its shoulder at the dust broom of history, let us be real: right now is a lousy time to be an anti-capitalist, anti-American dictator -- and an even worse time to be the anti-capitalist, anti-american dictator's default candy store.

El Commandante has just checked out. The Colonel met death in a culvert; the Al-Tikrit Gang have met the rope. Assad Family Syria (the only one of North Korea's customers to shell out for a nuclear reactor) is teetering on the brink. Myanmar seems to have lost the tyranny script entirely.

Authoritarianism and lawlessness both look like they are in for the long haul. Dictatorship...looks ever so 20th century.

With its twin to the south going from strength to strength and its best customers going belly up, can we just keep calm at DPRK Incorporated's desperate releases of implausible declarations that

a) things are going great, and

b) they are only getting better?

Of late, we have been hearing a lot from the Eastern Seaboard of the United States about Japan and China having a need to cool it over the Senkakus. (Link)

Sound advice.

Can those keeping a careful eye on the pathetic, dysfunctional irritant that is North Korea "cool it" too?