Wednesday, October 31, 2007

If the Refueling Operations Are So Important, Why Not Use the Supermajority?

Nobutaka Machimura, the Chief Cabinet Secretary, is quoted here as saying, “Japan will drop out of the battlefront of the war on terror because of extremely domestic reasons. This will leave a large blot on Japan’s future, in the sense that Japan will be relegated to the minor leagues by giving up its responsibilities as a member of the international community.”

“Extremely domestic reasons” as in: We’re afraid that the opposition will pass a censure motion in the Upper House that will force Prime Minister Fukuda to call a snap election?

Now I’ve always had difficulty in understanding this logic, which says that exercising a constitutional prerogative inevitably leads to an early election, when the LDP knows that, regardless of the Moriya scandal, at the end of the day, Yomiuri and Sankei are going to support that. More seriously, if the LDP follows the advice of Bunmei Ibuki, its Secretary General, and Shigeru Ishiba, the Defense Minister, and leave the OEF-MIO refueling extension bill to be taken up again when the Diet reconvenes in January unless the public opinion polls show a two-thirds to 60% majority in favor, then it is giving up its responsibilities as the public's representative.

Few things can be more damaging in the long-run than a loss of political will, particularly when a plurality of both the public and the mainstream media has your back.

The Japanese Government Needs Better Public Communications on the Need for Movement on the Remaining Abductees

Once every five years, the Japanese government conducts a public opinion poll on the protection of human rights, and one of the things it tries to find out is what human rights issues the public is interested in. This year, they included the "victims of abduction by North Korea, etc." for the first time. The issue/category came in fifth at 31.5%, behind "the handicapped (44.1%)", "the old (40.5%)", "children (35.0%)", and "human rights abuses using the Internet (32.7%)", but ahead of such issues/categories as "women (25.0%)", "victims of crime, etc. (24.1%)", and "HIV carriers, etc. (18.9%)".

This and other information on the abductees issue is available on this web page that came with the Headquarters for the Abductee Issue that the Abe administration established in September 2006. The web page is full of information on the abductees issue, with new material being added every month. Some of it is intriguing, such as this document, which lays out the Japanese case for all the discrepancies, irregularities, and lack of cooperation on the part of the North Koreans. As I read it, I realize that they must be the unanswered questions that are keeping Japan from pitching in with the fuel oil shipments and acquiescing to the US delisting of North Korea as a terrorist sponsor.

Unfortunately for all you monolingual gaijins, until recently, all this information was available only in Japanese. Somehow, the people who were responsible for this forgot that it was the other parties to the Six-Party Talks who were wondering when Japan would come around to helping out with the quid pro quo for the North Korean nuclear program, and that the Japanese government needed to work on public opinion beyond Japanese borders as well as the Japanese public. Somebody in the Fukuda administration must have notice the omission, and there is now an English-language page as well.

But there are problems. The English page is merely a digest version of the Japanese page. This means that the document I linked to in the second paragraph that argues the Japanese case becomes more of an English-language talking points memo. Perhaps more seriously, the page is poorly designed and lacks a sense of mission and purpose. There is little effort to draw attention to the salient points, to make your case leap out at you even before you start clicking on the links. Technically, intellectually, emotionally, it's a job done on the cheap.

If the objective of this and other PR campaign efforts (among other things, the web site links to Paul Stookey's Song for Megumi) is to show that "the government cares", then this state of affairs is fine. If the intent is to make sure that "the Japanese people care", then the fifth-place finish might be a cause for mild concern. But either way, the government needn't have bothered with the English-language digest version at all. But if it wants to win the hearts and minds of the public beyond its borders and convince them of the need for answers before it moves on, then it has a long way to go in public communications, starting here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Future of Japan's Relations with the US and China Et Cetera Et Cetera… Glad You Asked…

LH is teaching a class on East Asia in the US. She has asked these questions of several people here, but I know of at least two people beyond her list who actually read this blog whose knowledge and understanding of these issues are far superior to mine, and several others whom I consider to be, at a minimum, my peers. And of course there must be others who I am not aware of. So I decided to post this draft on my blog, since I am sure that LH will very much appreciate any comments you may have.

LH asks: What you think about the future of Japan's relations with the US and China. Do you see a rivalry developing between China and Japan? What kind of foreign policy do you see developing with the new PM?

Me: I know all the answers to your questions. Unfortunately, God has told me that if I tell anyone, He will immediately strike me down with one of his trademark lightning bolts. And He told me in no uncertain terms where I would find myself when I came to. So I'll stay away from the crystal ball and confine myself to talking around the matter by outlining what I think are some (hopefully a very large proportion) of the most salient conditions that should be the basis of scenarios for the future.

First of all, I often hear questions similar to these about Japan and its relations with its two largest neighbors. I believe that this is mainly because of China's recent and remarkable economic, military and diplomatic ascendancy. Moreover, though an increasingly influential civil society has grown up within the confines of one-party rule, there are still enough political legacies in the Chinese regime from a more totalitarian era to cause people to see China in an inherently ominous light. Add to all this the impact from the sheer size of China in every dimension, and no wonder there is talk of the Chinese threat. But I have never seen things that way since I began thinking about this matter and I still do not.

The starting point of my argument is that the current regimes in Japan, the US and China share a fundamental interest in sustaining and enhancing a market-oriented global system. In the world we now live in, this makes Japan, the US and China status quo states with a strong interest in global and regional stability. The enormous geopolitical footprints of the US and China in East Asia, the asymmetries in their bilateral economic relationship, and fundamental differences in their approaches to governance, as well as Japanese fears of the Chinese ascendancy sometimes obscure this reality, but the issues speak for themselves.

Let's look at the main regional issues:

The Korean Peninsula. None of the regimes in the three states want North Korea to have a nuclear weapons program. The reasons for that are not necessarily consonant. That is, for the main part, the Japan regime does not want North Korea to have it because it is the most natural target for the nuclear weapons, the US regime because it fears nuclear proliferation, and the Chinese regime because of the arms race that a successful North Korean program might touch off. Thus, there are inevitable differences in the scope and extent of measures each state is willing to resort to in order to contain and roll back the North Korean nuclear weapons program. Still, the three states have enough in common that they can cooperate within the framework of the Six-Party Talks. Also significant is the fact that, because of economic and security concerns, none of the three regimes seek a precipitous regime change there but would prefer a more graduated process of integration into the regional and global economic and security systems. This also happens to coincide with the interest of the South Korean regime.

Taiwan. Here again, the desires of the three regimes roughly coincide. All three regimes accept Chinese claims of sovereignty over the island but want the future course of the course of action to be determined peacefully. The US position is somewhat constrained by the Taiwan Relations Act, but, if Taiwan unilaterally declares independence, China will challenge this by force, and it is doubtful that the US would come to its rescue barring catastrophic humanitarian consequences. Japan has a role of sorts by way of the US military presence on its territory and the strategic ambiguity maintained over "areas surrounding Japan", but it is a subsidiary and passive one. In any case, the common interest of the three regimes lies in maintaining the status quo.

Looking beyond the regional stage, the most compelling issue is energy. Here again, the three regimes share a common objective that is often obscured by arguments about competition for oil and gas, as well as over human rights concerns in resource-rich states with poor and worse governance. China is sometimes accused, mainly by the US regime (most prominently by powerful members of the legislative wing) of propping up undesirable regimes - some of them downright repugnant - in order to obtain access to their energy (and other) resources, most evident in Sudan and Myanmar (or Burma, if you will). In fact, we are all net importer heavyweights and, as such, need to keep global supply steadily expanding and easily accessible. From an energy security perspective, any investment that increases supply is welcome. Besides, leaving aside for now the broader question of who is doing what business that enables which undesirable regimes to maintain itself by collecting and distributing economic rent on which scarce natural resources, China satisfies most of its oil and gas requirements the old fashioned way, that is, by paying what the market demands. This will be even more so, as they come to rely more and more on foreign sources to satiate an ever-expanding domestic demand. Some people in Japan and elsewhere see this as a threat in itself. But all sources of demand, not just the increments, for oil and gas compete against each other. The growth of Chinese (as well as Indian) demand is certainly an important factor to enter in our calculations, but to call it a threat merely obscures the way to the proper response, which is conserving energy and bringing additional and new energy sources to the market.

note: I am ignoring climate change as an issue here in great part because I am of two minds on that and consequently do not have a good idea on how to treat that matter within this context. More generally, it is difficult to talk about global externalities in bilateral and plurilateral contexts.

There is potential for real conflict in international trade. Such conflicts are not due to an inherent conflict between states under the WTO, free-trade regime, but are caused by domestic conflicts between the larger but diffused gains as the whole and the cumulatively smaller but individually more painful losses to specific interests. But understanding by policymakers of the common interest is keeping states from spinning into the damaging realms of extensive protectionism that swept the world in the inter-War years in the 20th Century. That is true of all three states concerned here.

note: An increasingly likely failure of the Doha Round does not mean that international trade will collapse. It merely signals that the free-trade system remains where it stands for the time being. All things considered, that is not such a bad place to be.

Having said all this, it is in the nature of the beast to compete. That is why we root for the home team, haggle over seating arrangements, and what have you. Politicians and pundits will pay heed to how the two states match up as measured by the nebulous concept of 'influence' over, say, ASEAN; and the Japanese authorities will chafe as their Chinese counterparts conspire to deny Japan a permanent seat at the UN Security Council's table. However, unless Japan is willing to surrender its sovereignty to the UN (and in effect to the Security Council), this disparity is almost as trivial to the Japanese national well being as the relative performance of our respective national teams at the next FIFA World Cup. The public, of course, understands this. That is why such matters never become the focus of our national debate come election time.

As for what the Fukuda administration will do by way of foreign policy, I can be brief. In a nutshell: continuity. This is not a prophecy; it is an observation. For it is remarkable the extent to which the need for popular consent ultimately winds up confining every Japanese administration within the perimeters of the Yoshida Doctrine. Now let's stretch it out a little.

Note that Prime Minister Abe's already modest ambitions for constitutional reform was drastically scaled down by the time the Diet got around to passing the procedural act (neglected for 60 years!). And his predecessor Prime Minister Koizumi was often mistakenly portrayed as a conservative revisionist or worse because of a misunderstanding over his visits to Yasukuni Shrine. But virtually all Japanese administrations since the Nakasone administration have continued efforts to find more uses for our military in a multilateral context; and enhance, where possible, mutual defense relationships of a modest nature. And, in more recent years, without increasing military budget expenditures. There is no reason to believe that the Fukuda administration will waver.

On international trade, Japan has been reduced (with an inaudible sigh of relief) to the sidelines of the Doha Round as the negotiations have apparently reached an insurmountable impasse mainly over agricultural products. In the meantime, Japan, like so many other states, seek to cultivate bilateral agreements - some erroneously assume in competition with China - with its Asia-Pacific neighbors and further abroad. There is no reason to believe that this situation will change either.

note: Popular consent also drives our policy on abductees, as well as the reshaping of the contours of US Forces in Japan. Here also can be seen how the need for popular consent enforces a form of continuity.

All this makes the Fukuda administration, indeed any Japanese administration, decidedly unthreatening to China, and at a minimum not seriously detrimental to US interests. Thus, the future of the relationships… but I fear that I am already inviting the wrath of the Almighty.

I notice that I have written mainly about China. Is this a sign of personal complacency over our relationship with the US?

It is important to note that China will be facing demographic pressures similar to Japan's in a couple of decades. Can China grow quickly enough to become rich before it becomes poor?

Japan is blessed with plenty of fresh clean water and fertile volcanic and sedimentary soil. Its archipelagic geography stretching from the subtropics to the northern edge of the temperate zone endow it with an outsized exclusive economic zone. China is less well-endowed; it is less resilient in the face of environmental challenges.

Friday, October 26, 2007

I Arrive in Hino City; Two Years Later A Quarter Century of Communist Rule Ends There. Coincidence? Maybe…

Mind you, this happened in 1997, exactly ten years ago, even as the national government raised the consumption tax rate from 3% to 5% and the economy was taking a dive, which would lead the following year to an LDP loss of epic proportions in the Upper House election and the demise of the Hashimoto administration.

Then, again, the downfall of the Hino Communists may have had something to do with the fact that the incumbent had been mayor for all of those 24 years and was 85 years old when he hit the campaign trails for the last time.

In fact, Kimio Morita was the last surviving member of the massive wave of progressive governors and mayors supported by the Socialist and Communist Parties that saw its heyday in the mid-seventies. At its peak in 1975, 12 (out of 47) provinces including Tokyo, Osaka, Kanagawa and Kyoto were administered by progressive governors, and countless municipalities, including major metropolitan centers such as Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto and Kobe had progressive mayors. This progressive surge came during the high-growth sixties and maintained its front through the mid-seventies, but receded as Japan reached the bubbly eighties.

Currently, the progressives have only one governor (Yukiko Kada; Shiga Prefecture), eight city mayors including one in a Prefectural capital (Okinawa), and a smattering of mayors in smaller municipalities. Remarkably, four of the eight mayors, in Warabi, Higashi-Osaka, Yuzawa and Komae, are Japanese Communist Party members or received their main support from it in the election, while two others, in Ginowan and Kunitachi, received support from both parties. (The Ginowan candidate also received support from the DPJ and a local progressive party.) The other two mayors are Social Democrats.

This is a far cry from the Golden Era of progressive politics. Still, the public can be quite adventuresome in local governance (remember, these are winner-take-all elections), and experimentation is not limited to electing comedians.

But one of the principles of JCP diplomacy:

“We will work for the reversion of the Chishima (Kurile) Islands, and Habomai and Shikotan Islands, which are Japan’s historical territories.”

Those namby-pamby appeasers like Taro Aso and Shoichi Nakagawa will clearly have a hard time fitting into a coalition led by the revanchist JCP.

note: This is a very rough survey based on online sources (news reports and official websites). Wikipedia has an article on progressive governors and mayors if you would like to do your own digging.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

When Is History History? (The U.S.H.R. Resolutions)

And here a terrible spectacle displayed itself: the women first cast their infants down the cliff, and then they cast themselves after their fallen little ones, and the men likewise. In such a scene, Aeneas the Stymphalian, an officer, caught sight of a man with a fine dress about to throw himself over, and seized hold of him to stop him; but the other caught him to his arms, and both were gone in an instant headlong down the crags, and were killed. Out of this place the merest handful of human beings were taken prisoners, but cattle and asses in abundance and flocks of sheep.

- from The Anabasis by Xenonphon (ca. 431 – 355 BC), as translated by H. G. Dakyns

I remember being stunned by this passage many, many years ago, in my youth. In fact, it is about the only thing I retained from the book. Nevertheless, it did not evoke the sense of anger and revulsion that I much, much later felt over the 9.11 attacks. It was, after all, history. (note: I was in Manhattan at the time.)

But so much of the Middle East has yet to pass into history. Europeans carved out Israel after WW II to solve their Jewish problem, and the wound continues to fester; many of the other ill-fitting borders they etched across tribal and religious boundaries have not lost their tenuousness either. Likewise, so many of the deeds and misdeeds of the local actors continue to resonate in the hearts of their descendants. The Armenian genocide may have looked like history to Democrats, but not to its Armenian-American constituency in California, nor to the Turks.

Did Nancy Pelosi think that since Japan was a good sport, Turkey would roll over too? But there was only one loach under this willow tree. Japan put WW II and everything that led to it behind when we lost to the Americans. Thus, we do not vent our anger at Russia for unlawfully shipping our soldiers and civilians to Siberia to use them as slave labor, or seek recompense for the Japanese women who were forced to provide sexual satisfaction to the Soviet soldiers who marched into Manchuria. And the Hiroshima Epitaph famously leaves us wondering, “Who will not repeat the mistake?” even as we bade them, “Sleep peacefully”. Never mind the righteousness (or not) of such grievances. We decided, collectively, that it was all history.

Actually, though I did not notice it at the time (I think), Xenophon, a disciple of Socrates, and his men appear to have been uncommonly civilized for those days. For later in the narrative, Xenophon explains: “But wherever we come, be it foreign or Hellenic soil, and find no market for provisions, we are wont to help ourselves, not out of insolence but from necessity. There have been tribes like the Carduchians, the Taochians, the Chaldaeans, which, albeit they were not subject to the great king, yet were no less formidable than independent. These we had to bring over by our arms. The necessity of getting provisions forced us; since they refused to offer us a market.”And there is nothing in the narrative to suggest that they did otherwise.

Walter Russell Mead Tells Us How America Can’t Help Being Good, Even When It Is Bad

Walter Russell Mead unleashes another big one, with Failing Upward, subtitled Relax, America will survive George W. Bush, in the New Republic. In the article, he asks:

For two centuries, the United States has astounded critics with its bad foreign policy--and, for two centuries, the United States has steadily risen to an unprecedented level of power and influence in the international system. Why does the team with the worst skills in the league end up with so many pennants?

His answer:

But there is another dimension to our special providence, one that has come into greater prominence during the Bush administration. U.S. foreign policy isn't successful just because our process reflects the varied interests and priorities of our diverse and dynamic society (which I think was the core argument in Special Providence, the book). We also succeed because our core strategic interests--liberal society, global economic growth, geopolitical stability--fit well with the interests and aspirations of other people around the world. They remain popular even when U.S. policy is widely disliked; when we fail to achieve our goals, others often do the work for us.

Does this sound like American triumphalism with a little help from its friends, neo-con lite, if you will? Perhaps. But Mr. Mead does a breathtaking around-the-world analysis for the Bush era that argues in essence that the world is indeed buying into the deal despite the Bush Presidency.

No doubt you should be able to amass all the regional downsides to construct a different argument For example, the concentration of liquid and gaseous energy resources in the Middle East and Russia is troubling; I also have no handle on what to me was a revelation over the inroads Christianity has been making in Africa and its effects.

Still, on first reading, I find him persuasive. I think that this is going to be one of those articles that are widely talked about.

The article is split into 10 pages, but it’s not that long and can easily be read during lunch break, if you must. You can also read page 9 for the gist of his underlying argument (it is not that unfamiliar; remember the resemblance to neoconservatism), then go over the entire piece.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Tokyo Special Investigations Department Has Gone into Action on the Yamada Yōkō Affair

To a Japanese public used to watching beleaguered CEOs, politicians, and top bureaucrats scurrying away from persistent TV reporters and their camera crews, it must have been a refreshing sight to see a calmly serious Takemasa Moriya in his civvies, holding an impromptu news conference in front of his doorsteps. Not that he appeared to be very forthcoming in the snippets that I caught, as he begged off, stating that he was being questioned by the Defense Ministry. I went to bed, thinking that Defense Minister Ishiba better get hold of Donald Rumsfeld's interrogation manual, get to the bottom of things, then do everything in his power to set things right. Mr. Moriya was sure to be grilled in the Diet, and it is usually the case that the conclusions of 'internal investigations' invariably fall apart in the light of serious third-party scrutiny. You don't want to be caught between lame excuses and harsh realities, nor do you want to cede the initiative to the opposition. And Prime Minister Fukuda should start showing face himself if he wants to salvage the refueling operations and shore up long-term prospects for his administration.

And then I get up, go out, pick up the morning paper, and the front page is emblazoned with the headline:

Yamada Yōkō's US Subsidiary Investigated

Yomiuri has found out that the Public Prosecutors Office has been receiving judicial assistance from US authorities in investigating the US subsidiary for accounting irregularities. According to the report (citing multiple Yamada Yōkō sources) a former head of the US subsidiary built a multimillion dollar slush fund, some of which the sources suspect was used to entertain JSDA officials visiting the US as well as US vendors. The former US subsidiary head was a close associate of the former Yamada Yōkō executive who had treated Mr. Moriya to golf and meals excursions, and was one of the people who joined hands with him to form Nihon Mirise. Ominously, the Special Investigations Department of the Tokyo Local Public Prosecutors Office is in charge of the case. This particular Special Investigations Department (Osaka and, since 1996, Nagoya have one each as well) handles most major economic and political crime investigations, as well as large tax evasion cases.

At a minimum, this guarantees that the issue will be in the public eye for the duration of this Diet session. I think that the chances of the Fukuda administration retaking the initiative on the refueling extension bill have diminished substantially.

Incidentally, running alongside this story on the same front page is yet another revelation (not yet online) in an ongoing medical scandal, where a pharmaceutical company and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has failed to act on information that could have led to early treatment for victims of drug-induced hepatitis. This falls on the shoulders of Yoichi Masuzoe, the MHLW Minister who is already charged with cleaning up the public pension records.

When it pours, it pours.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

National Defense Twofer:Minister Wants Procurement Done His Way, and Seiji Maehara Denies Ichiro Ozawa

One of the quirks of Japanese defense procurement is that trading companies have traditionally acted as go-betweens for foreign vendors in their dealings with the Self-Defense Agency (now the Ministry of Defense). This is why trading companies showed up in the center of the 1976 Lockheed bribery scandal, which took down a Prime Minister (Kakuei Tanaka), a Transport Minister (in Japan, although the Grumman-Lockheed battle for the JSDA next-generation fighter was at the core of the controversy, the criminal case revolved mainly around government influence on the procurement of civilian aircraft by Japanese airlines), the Marubeni CEO, and a host of other lesser political figures and businessmen. (It also spawned the New Liberal Club, the first of the so-far unsuccessful challenges to provide a viable alternative to the LDP.) They were also featured in the 1978 Grumman/McDonnell-Douglas bribery scandal, which threatened to implicate LDP politicians, before the investigation petered out the following year after a key witness, a senior executive in the trading company Nissho-Iwai (now part of Sojitsu), committed suicide, leaving many questions unanswered. Raizo Matsuno, the one Diet member whose career was derailed by the scandal, managed to escape prosecution. Things have changed little, if the latest scandal is any indication.

Shigeru Ishiba, the LDP defense otaku, doesn’t like this state of affairs one bit, and has long been an advocate of taking the trading companies out of the procurement process and dealing directly with vendors. Now, as Minister of Defense, he is in a position to do it. And, as luck would have it, the Takemasa Moriya scandal gives him the opportunity to do something about it, and he vowed this morning on the Sunday Project, the must-see program for Japan politics otakus), to do just that.

It will not be an easy task; the bureaucracy will be required to do a lot of homework that the trading companies had been doing for them, and people do not become smart overnight. Less significantly, foreign vendors will have to face the consequences of the American Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (1977) or the EU equivalent thereof. But the establishment has no choice, since corruption is something that the public can wrap its mind around, and the extension of the refueling operations, on which so much of the Fukuda administration’s credibility depends, will turn on how Mr. Ishiba handles not only Takemasa Moriya (under the bus, drawn-and-quartered, Class A War Criminal), but the broader issue as well.

The silver lining for the LDP in the latest defense procurement scandal is that it does not look likely to implicate anyone beyond the bureaucracy. In that sense (and that sense only), it is more like the Defense Facilities Administration Agency scandal, where it came to light that former DFAA officials employed by construction firms and other vendors had been at the center of widespread collusion in bidding for DFAA contracts. The DFAA was fully folded in the Self-Defense Agency as a consequence, allowing the mainstream JSDA bureaucracy to rein in the somewhat autonomous DFAA.

I suspect that there are some people out there who are wondering, what are the political prospects of Shigeru Ishiba if he saves the day? For my two bits: zero chance of becoming Prime Minister. He’s a one-trick pony, and defense wins only in the NBA.

Mr. Ishiba’s DPJ soulmate Seiji Maehara joined him on Sunday Project. Think Romeo and Juliet, without the sex. Yes, they argued. Three things caught my attention:

Mr. Maehara stated at least twice that the DPJ has never claimed that the OEF-MIO operations are unconstitutional and that Ichiro Ozawa’s views are his personal opinions, nothing more. This is, of course, not what the public is hearing from Mr. Ozawa and Yukio Hatoyama, his DPJ deputy and two-time party head.

Mr. Maehara gave the lack of proper governance and civilian control, citing the long string of JSDA/MOD misdeeds (he mentioned corruption in the JDAA, the Winny information leaks, 800,000/200,000 gallon discrepancy, missing ship logs, and possibly one or two others; Shisaku should have the video tape) as the main reason for opposing extension. As for the 800/200 K, he repeatedly said that it was one thing to say that there had been mistakes back then, but the refueling activities are crucial to Japan’s national interest and quite another to claim that nothing was amiss and demand that the extension be passed under that premise. This is, of course, not what the public is hearing from Mr. Ozawa and Yukio Hatoyama, his DPJ deputy and two-time party head.

Mr. Maehara would not say that the DPJ would submit a bill on Japanese participation in ISAF, no matter how hard Sōichirō Tawara, the ugliest emcee this side of the Crypt Keeper, pushed him. Only an outline; that seems to be the limit for Mssrs. Ozawa, Hatoyama, and Maehara. For now.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

A Monkey Wrench Named Takemasa Moriya in the OEF-ISAF Refueling Issue

I've been prefacing my prediction that the refueling extension bill will be passed with the words "barring unforeseen circumstances", or something of the sort. Those are part weasel words of someone who's been wrong too often, but also part truth. In politics, unforeseen circumstances do happen, with uncommon frequency. Here, I am thinking, Edmund Muskie's “tears”, Gary Hart-Donna Rice, Prime Minister Uno and the geisha girl, George Allen's macaca moment, ad infinitum.

And then, you have Takemasa Moriya.

Revelations of political financing irregularities that dogged the Abe administration (and the DPJ) continued under the Fukuda adminstration, and Yoichi Masuzoe, the Health, Labor and Welfare Minister and other LDP worthies have had their share of verbal gaffes in the new administration. But the media has been more or less willing to hand out mulligans to the media-friendly Prime Minister. But there is a good chance that this will end with the latest scandal to break out.

The DPJ had been pushing in the Diet to summon as a witness Takemasa Moriya, the previous Administrative Vice Minister at the Ministry of Defense, who had been the head of the MOD bureau responsible for the refueling operations when the 800,000-200,000 gallon accounting error occurred. The LDP had resisted, claiming that it was not the custom of the Diet to summon private citizens. For one, the LDP must be afraid of the spill over to another ongoing struggle, where the DPJ has also been trying to haul in Fujio Mitarai, head of Keidanren, for questioning on labor practices irregularities at his firm Canon.

But on Friday the deluge struck, as the media jumped all over Mr. Moriya with accusations of enjoying over a hundred all-expenses-paid golf and dinner outings courtesy of Yamada Yōkō, a mid-major MOD supplier, by way of a senior executive there. News reports add that his wife accompanied him on some of these excursions, and they signed in using aliases on at least some occasions. If true, all this would have served as grounds for severe punishment under Ministry rules. Although there is no way to formally punish him, barring criminal charges, the opposition is beside itself with joy. The fractious DPJ in particular has been handed an excellent sideshow in which to rake the MOD over the coals and take the public’s eyes off their own lack of agreement on a viable alternative. This not only calls into question the reliability of the executor of the refueling but also casts a pall of scandal on the defense establishment and more specifically the LDP-New Komeitō coalition government. Predictable calls from an unnamed LDP sources are suggesting that it might be wiser to shut the Diet down as scheduled and put the bill forward in the regular Diet session.

This should not have come as a total surprise to the LDP. Mr. Moriya had been asked about his relations with the executive at the press conference he held when he retired. He gave an evasive answer that sounded very much like playing for time until he could disappear from the scene. But it appears that the LDP had not prepared themselves for this contingency. Still, the LDP could throw him under the bus, and wait it out until the two months are up. Evading the Diet on the scandal now makes the Fukuda administration only makes it look even more guilty by association, raises questions of leadership, and calls into question the importance of the refueling operations. It’s not as if Mr. Moriya will conveniently take himself out in the meantime.

If only.

But the story could be bigger than the moral degeneracy of a wayward bureaucrat. Sankei has the best backstory on the scandal. According to the article, the former senior executive had been responsible for handling MOD and politicians. He left Yamada Yōkō with a few dozen colleagues to form his own company Nihon Mirise, which quickly became a formidable competitor to Yamada Yōkō. Ymada Yōkō is suing its former employees for 1.5 billion yen in damages, and Sankei believes that the Prosecutors Office is also questioning senior executives at both companies for accounting irregularities at Yamada Yōkō while the former executive worked there. For someone who may be under criminal suspicion, the former executive seems to be talking freely to anyone who comes asking. I assume that the DPJ will try to use this controversy to discredit the entire defense establishment.

Now all this is not directly linked to the refueling operations, and it does not have any of the makings of another Lockheed bribery scandal. But the plurality public support for the refueling operations is, like its majority/plurality support for constitutional amendment, lukewarm, and lacks the compelling power of domestic pocketbook issues. I'm not ready (vicariously) to throw in the towel yet, but the air of inevitability is definitely gone.

Quote of the day:

鳩山由紀夫「法案の形で[党独自のアフガン対策を]法案の形で作り上げたいが、(守屋氏の)疑惑を最優先にしていかなければならなくなった」(Yomiuri, 20 October; assuming, of course, that he actually said that)

“We would like to put [DPJ’s own proposal for Afghanistan] in the form of a bill, but we have been forced to make suspicions over (Mr. Moriya) our top priority.”
-Yukio Hatoyama, DPJ Secretary-General

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Why Would Waiting An Extra Month or More Would Make It Any Easier to Pass the Refueling Bill?

There is talk within the LDP about not forcing a House of Representatives supermajority override vote on the new bill to extend the OEF-MIO refueling operations for another year during this extraordinary Diet. Instead, some LDP Diet members are talking about postponing the initial H.R. vote to the next regular session (typically convened in the bottom half of January), or even to let it die in the House of Councilors and resubmit it to start again at square one at the regular session. The reasoning appears to be that forcing the issue now would cause the DPJ and the opposition to pass a censure motion of the Fukuda Cabinet, which could force the Prime Minister to dissolve the H.R. for an early election. The reluctance of the pacifist coalition partner New Komeito to force the matter is also cited as a concern. Taku Yamazaki, head of the LDP-New Komeitō special team for the legislation, and former LDP Secretary-General Hidenao Nakagawa, are two prominent LDP members calling for restraint.

But why do the people doing this talking believe that waiting up to another extra month (in the case of H.R. vote postponement) or three months or more (in the case of resubmission) to get the deal done will bring more of the public - let alone the DPJ - around to the LDP's views? To the general public, this is not an issue on the death-and-taxes level, or one with the emotional resonance of, say, the abductees. Thus, what public perception there is will continue to be molded by the media, rather than the other way around.

As it is, Yomiuri and Sankei are firmly behind an extension, while Asahi continues to question the accountability of the operations and their link to the Iraq War. I have little awareness of how this is playing out on TV, but I assume that the broadcasting networks are not doing things that materially change perception created by the mainstream print media. Accordingly, the bulk of the don't-knows have climbed off the fence over the last couple of months and tended to migrate to the support column; if you average out the left-to-right media polls, it looks like the public has come around to give the operations a reasonably strong plurality. And the media does not look likely to change their tune. Thus, to let your decision on the supermajority override turn on further enhancing this support by bringing the remaining fence-sitters to your corner or even converting some doubters looks like a dangerous course of action.

The people suggesting a delay must be hoping that the need to attend to such domestic affairs will give the Prime Minister a good excuse not to call a snap election in the inevitable H.C. censure vote after the H.R. override. But the Fukuda administration will have to balance that against a four-, five-month gap in Japanese operations, which would be a serious diplomatic embarrassment. Add to this the serious leadership question this will raise if he is seen to be caving in to the opposition. There's a point where man of reason tips over into wimp.

And how serious is the threat of an early election anyway? Will the media call on the Fukuda administration to resign or seek a new mandate in the case of an override during the current Diet session, and the public follow suit? And if the Prime Minister does neither, and causes the DPJ to step up its intransigence and obstruct proceedings altogether during the regular Diet session, do the LDP members now calling for restraint think that the media and the public will blame the LDP, but not the DPJ?

Barring an unforeseen turn for the worse in public sentiment, I don't see the Prime Minister backing off and tabling the issue until the regular Diet session.

Also important is the fact that, at the regular Diet session, the media spotlight will be on the new FY 2208 budget proposal and other bread-and-butter issues such as the public pension system and taxes. As a practical matter, the extension bill will have to share the Diet agenda with the budget and all the other legislative bills, and the delay could stretch ahead even longer, into the early months of FY 2008, April and beyond, before the bill is even introduced.

There is a further technical issue involved here, namely, whether the refueling bill is a budget-related bill, that is, legislation linked to the execution of the budget. I don't remember enough about the definition, but the fact that the bill can be introduced now without the occasion of a supplementary budget suggests that it's not. If this casual guess of mine is correct, that means that, by custom, the bill will not be resubmitted until April, after the budget has passed and all the budget-related bills have been taken care of. That would take the JMSDF out of refueling operations until June at the earliest.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The LDP Accommodates New Komeitō on Refueling Extension. Will It Try to Go for Two for Two with the DPJ?

The LDP reportedly has acceded to New Komeitō and will seek a one-year extension for the JMSDF refueling activities under the Maritime Interception Operations instead of the two years that it had originally intended. New Komeitō wants to enhance the role of the Diet and the LDP has decided to assuage the New Komeitō, whose leadership is under fire from its rank and file for having been too accommodative of the Abe administration and suffering the consequences at the polls in the July House of Councilors general election. On the other side, Ichiro Ozawa seems to be softening on his push for a (presumably) JDSF role in ISAF, as the DPJ appears to be moving towards a legislative proposal that will focus on reconstruction and development tasks and/or humanitarian efforts, in contrast to the more conflict-oriented security activities.

I suspect that it must be tempting to the soft-sell Fukuda administration to offer to add the eventual DPJ proposal to its own package. I doubt that the DPJ would accept it, given Mr. Ozawa's uncompromising stand on the unconstitutionality of the refueling activities. But it would make great political theater and help the LDP cast itself as the more reasonable and responsible of the two. The LDP would also hope that this would reopen internal fissures that the DPJ will have papered over with its proposal.

Whether it would work in practice is another matter. Japan already does provide considerable development assistance to Afghanistan through JICA, which has a good number of shoes on the ground as technical and engineering experts. There are also a number of Japanese NGOs active there. These brave men and women reportedly have been free from harm so far. Thus, it seems at first glance that, if we could find the right people - the money should not be a problem - we could repackage and expand these activities under the ISAF brand.

However, placing Japanese activities under the ISAF umbrella carries the risk of bringing Japan under the suspicion of insurgents and terrorists as enemy combatants. And this is not Samawa. At a minimum, it would carry added security risks that require protection that the other ISAF participants will be loathe to provide. Moreover, reconstruction and development activities are a terrible fit in a piece of extraordinary legislation that nominally expires in a year.

This does not mean that the Fukuda administration should reject such an idea altogether. It could push it as a new and improved, reconstruction and development package of mid- to long-term assistance with more substantive but still civilian presence as the development, attacking-the-roots side of our efforts to bring peace and prosperity to the region, or something of the sort. Human resource constraints will put a practical limit on the speed and extent of its implementation. There are only so many qualified and competent Japanese who will be willing to go and work under prevailing conditions. Still, with judicious use of non-Japanese actors, the Japanese government actually might be able to do something useful that does not increase the risks to the individuals already engaged in our activities there. And, back home, it could still be sold politically as constructive engagement with the opposition.

ADD: I don't believe in synchronicity (actually, he put his post up much earlier), but it looks like Tobias Harris and I have similar takes on the situation. I note that he has more on the domestic political background, though I'm sure that everyone reading this also goes to the Japan Observer and everyone is already aware of the fact. The main difference seems to be my own skepticism about forcing ourselves on the other ISAF participants. Under current political and practical constraints, Japanese activities should maintain a certain distance from ISAF, even if that limits their scope.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Happy Birthday, Observing Japan

Happy Birthday, Observing Japan

I look forward to continue reading Tobias Harris in my fast-approaching dotage.

This Is One Post I'll Never Forget

Because Kevin Drum has made my day!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Why Japan Needs a (Big) Navy

Wikipedia says that Japan is the sixth largest sovereign state in terms of its exclusive economic zone plus territorial waters. China is less than one-fifth of Japan in this respect.

Not that it makes us feel any more magnanimous about the off-shore gas fields, mind you, but it gives you some idea of what the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Forces and the Japan Coast Guard are up against.

Why 準 Can't Swear (but Jun Can)

I have no idea. But there's something in the English language that brings out the muthaf#$#a in all of us, as Steven Pinker reminds us, by way of Andrew Sullivan. As opposed to Japanese.

Do you have any idea?

ADD: Two observations:

Steven Pinker doesn't take note of the fact that almost all swearing consists of Anglo-Saxon words.(He is a linguist, not a philologist.) In fact, in the examples he gives, Jesus Christ is the only one that uses words of Romance language origins. And Anglo-Saxon words are short, as are basic vocabularies; thus, the four-letter word.

In Japanese, the three most commonly used phrases used in situations where an English-language speaker would use swear words and phrases are variations of: kono yarō (this low-life man), chikushō (non-human animal life-form), and kuso (dung). Basically, they are no more than vulgar epithets, and are heard commonly on TV broadcast programs. They do not seem to carry the sense of taboo that continues to lurk behind the pungent parlance of that most permissive of societies, English-language America.

Is It Time to Consider the Effect of Peace on the Korean Peninsula on Japanese Policy on National Security?

The Chinese authorities were the first to complain when ballistic missile defense (BMD) came up as a possible option for the Japanese Self-Defense Force in the early nineties in the form of the US theater missile defense.

The National Defense Program Outline in and after FY 2005 (sorry, I can't find a translation) gives the reason for its introduction as follows:

" The thinking on the response to and the institutional arrangements of the Self-Defense Forces for the new threats [including the progress of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, and the activities of international terrorist organizations, etc.] and the wide variety of situations [that influence peace and safety] is as follows:

a) Response to ballistic missiles: Against ballistic missile attacks, [we] shall deal effectively by establishing the necessary institutional arrangements including the deployment of a ballistic missile defense system. Concerning the threat of nuclear weapons against our nation, [we] shall deal appropriately by such undertakings, together with the nuclear deterrence powers of the United States.


It is not clear what is meant by the "wide variety of situations that influence peace and safety", but it does not explicitly exclude the rapid, continuous build-up of Chinese military capacities that the 2005- Outline lays out as follows:

"China, which has a major influence on security in this region, has pushed the modernization of its nuclear and missile military powers and naval and air power, and is also attempting to expand the areas of activity on the oceans; and it is necessary to continue to pay attention to such developments."

However, if the Chinese authorities still have serious qualms as the Japanese Ballistic Missile Defense System prepares to go into operation, the media are not paying notice.

Perhaps they have been assuaged by Japanese assurances like this:

"In relation to the right of collective self-defense, the purpose of the BMD systems that the GOJ will introduce this time is to exclusively defend Japan, and it will be operated based on Japan's decision on its own initiative and will not be used for the defense of third countries. From this point of view, no issue of the right of collective self-defense comes up." (Statement by the Chief Cabinet Secretary, "On the Introduction of Ballistic Missile Defense Systems and Other Measures " on December 19, 2003)

In other words, in the case of a military showdown over Taiwan, Japan will not dispatch those AEGIS ships equipped with SM3 missiles to shoot down Chinese ballistic missiles launched against Taiwan. (Or the US.)

On the Japanese side, at the beginning, the defense and foreign policy establishment appears to have been somewhat ambivalent, presumably over the financial costs and technical feasibility of the program. There may also have been some reluctance to antagonize China, with whom Japan had been careful to maintain good relations even after the 1989 Tienanmen Incident. However, the Nodong (1993) test in the Japan Sea and, more significantly, the Tepodong (1998) shot over Japanese air space into the Pacific Ocean appears to have galvanized domestic support. On other words, it was North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs that jointly tipped the scales in the BMD's favor. At a minimum, the introduction of the BMD would have taken a more tortuous road to fruition without Kim Jong Il's help.

Now, through the Six-Party Talks, North Korea seems to be seriously seeking a new equilibrium on the Korean Peninsula. I still think that by far the most likely better-case scenario for the foreseeable future is North Korea disabling its three facilities but holding onto its current nuclear arsenal and ballistic missiles system at their current levels, enough to allow China and South Korea to keep sustaining the current North Korean regime without incurring US disfavor, but well short of normalization of the US-DPRK relations. Still, there is enough movement in the Six-Party Talks to make it worth considering: What will Japan's defense posture be like without a nuclear threat from North Korea? More specifically, what will become of the Japanese BMD System once China becomes the sole concern of direct military threats to the homeland?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Yet Another Correction and Apology from Yours Truly as the Prime Minister Moves into the Official Residence. (Oh well, at Least I'm Not Mr. Ozawa.)

Yomiuri says:

Prime Minister Fukuda Inspects the Official Residence, Indicates Eagerness for Long-Term Regime

Prime Minister Fukuda, who continues to maintain a daily 30-minute commute from his private Tokyo residence, inspected the Official Residence located next to the Prime Minister's Office in anticipation of his move there.

The Prime Minister and his wife took approximately 45 minutes to look around the newly redecorated Official Residence. "It looks pretty now," he said, looking satisfied.

Asked by the group of reporters, "How long do you want to live here," the Prime Minister replied, "If I say one month, that is too short, but if I say ten years, that's too long. I guess it's somewhere in between, right," indicating in that "Fukuda way" his eagerness for a long tenure.

My intent, of course, is not to abject myself for yet another ("[a]nd he hates the Official Residence") of my exegetic sins, but to give you a sense of the relationship between the Prime Minister and his media minders. This reporter is ready to canonize the Prime Minister. Note the use of the collective in referring to the press as kishadan (which I translated as group of reporters) for this one question, as if he/she had expressed the collective will. Can there be anything that describes the good will and camaraderie between the Prime Minister and the reporters accompanying him on a Saturday to come away with no story but his inspection?

This is what the DPJ is up against.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Seeking "Normal Life", Takahide Kimura (LDP) Leaving Diet

52 year old Diet member Takahide Kimura (House of Representatives, Aichi 5th District, LDP) held a news conference on October 9 and announced that he would not seek a fifth term and would leave politics to return to a normal life. According to the Asahi, he confessed that he was "not fit to be a politician" and explained:

"I reached the same age as my father when he died and I considered how I should live from here on. I am not the kind who conducts giin rippō [legislation initiated by Diet members; most Japanese legislative bills are developed and submitted by the Cabinet)] and otherwise creates his own future. I am not appropriate to a new era when the fences between factions and parties are diminished and Diet members create new groups on their own. I apologize to my supporters for my selfish reasons."

(translated from: 父が亡くなった年と同じ年になり、これからをどう生きようか考えた。私は議員立法をするなど、自分で切り開くタイプではない。派閥や党の垣根が低くなり、議員同士がグループをつくる新しい時代には向いていない。身勝手な理由で、支持者の皆さんには申し訳ない。)

None of the newspapers gave an explanation of what Mr. Kimura thought of as the old era, but it's easy to imagine. Like other LDP members of the post-1955 regime, he could look forward to perhaps a couple of more decades in the Diet, during which he could expect to be appointed to a minor Cabinet post in his sixth term (fifth if he were exceptional, seventh if he were unlucky), and another one before he retired. In the case of Mr. Kimura, he does not seem to be a person who sought power within the party (say, angle for a share of the Big Three party posts), so he would have contented himself with the usual gig of bringing public works and other public money to his district and otherwise doing favors for his constituents, and, when the time came to choose the new LDP President, he would dutifully vote with (and hopefully for) his faction chief. After all, if Mr. Kimura were a typical LDP Diet member, faction sponsorship and support for his initial run for the Diet seat would have been crucial to his success (though, with his strong background in Prefectural politics, it may have not been as significant as for the average aspirant). The faction chief would also be tending to Cabinet and sub-Cabinet government appointments, as well as initial assignments to Diet committees. And he would also welcome your son or son-in-law with open arms when he succeeded you on your retirement. As for legislation, you voted for the bill that the Cabinet submitted, and left the hard thinking to the bureaucrats. Why they would even draft accompanying resolutions, if it came to that. You got along, to get along. Do it well enough, and you had a teensy-weensy chance of becoming House President, or the far less delectable but still prestigious LDP General Council Chairman, the least of the Big Three, along the way.

Contrast this with a world where faction members vote against the wishes of their leaders with impunity, and Diet members associate freely and new Diet members choose factions with leisure after they are elected and often decide not to join at all. And even (sometimes) submit their own legislative bills!

One of Mr. Kimura's two most memorable moments speaks eloquently of his lament for the old ways, for it turns out to have been a most unhappy occasion for him:

"I was opposed to the immediate privatization of the Post Office till the end. But in order to stand for election from the LDP, I could not maintain my opposition, and I continue to regret that even now."

(translated from: 私は最後まで即時の郵政民営化に反対だった。しかし、自民から選挙に出るため、反対を貫くことができずにいまだに悔やんでいる。)

Shinzo Abe, also opposed to the Koizumi proposal, also reluctantly went along, and was rewarded with a year in the Prime Minister's seat. Mr. Kimura, with his very different background but also staring mortality in the face, decided to walk out on his own two feet.

I do not know what kind of a "normal life" awaits a 52 year old man "not fit to be a politician" who has nevertheless been in elective office for 22 years - son of a Prefectural Assemblyman, Mr. Kimura succeeded his deceased father in 1985 before he ran successfully for the House of Representatives in 1996 – but I wish him the best.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

My Big Mistake on OEF-MIO Operations from the Persian Gulf and Incomplete Thoughts Thereon

I made a big mistake. In fact, I made a doubled-size, italics, bold-letter mistake here. Foreign Minister Komura under Diet questioning reaffirmed that naval vessels did participate in bombing sorties in Afghanistan after receiving fuel from JMSDF vessels, and that the new anti-terrorism bill would be limited to Maritime Interception Operations (OEF-MIO).

So, my unconditional, absolute apology to TIME and its intrepid reporting team.

But it was not to abase myself publicly that I am writing this. You see, the existence of such bombing operations is very important because that is the only plausible explanation for the USS Kitty Hawk engaging in OEF from the Persian Gulf during the three days (25-27 February 2003) that, according to Defense Minister Ishiba, it took to consume the 800,000 gallons that it received from the JMSDF refueling ship Tokiwa. (In fact, I'm very much embarrassed at the fact that I didn't see this point in the first place.)

Still, leaving aside the conceptual difficulty of wrapping your mind around the idea that you can somehow distinguish between the drops of JMSDF fuel and drops of non-JMSDF fuel in the same fuel tank (surely the Kitty Hawk was not running on empty when it was serviced by Tokiwa) the discrepancy between average daily fuel consumption figures under normal conditions (U.S. documents by way of Peace Depot-113,000 gallons, Mr. Ishiba-200,000 gallons) remains unresolved. Likewise, the Kitty Hawk command history that the Peace Depot accusations has uploaded appears to show that its objectives on this mission were to engage in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Southern Watch (OSW).

Moreover, the Kitty Hawk deck log, again courtesy of Peace Depot, together with a map attached to the hard copy version of this Yomiuri article on Mr. Ushiba's testimony raises a further question. The deck log shows the Kitty Hawk in "AT/PASSAGE FROM Malacca TO Persian Gulf" on two dates, 17 February and 27 February, the latter date being the day it changed command. I presume that subsequent log entries show the Kitty Hawk "AT/PASSAGE FROM the Persian Gulf TO". The Yomiuri map of the Kitty Hawk's final leg of its passage (did Mr. Ishiba display it during his Diet testimony?) shows the Kitty Hawk on the move continuously, as it approaches from the Indian Ocean on 24 February, refuels from the Tokiwa near the mouth of the Persian Gulf on 25 February, enters the Gulf on 26 February, then comes to settle off the narrow Iraqi outlet at the tip of the Gulf on 1 March. I suspect that if the log between its departure from Okinawa and arrival in the Gulf were disclosed, it would show that the Kitty Hawk had been in continuous movement every day. Now it is conceivable that it ran sorties to Afghanistan in passing as it neared its ultimate destination. But plausible? I have no military expertise whatsoever, so I'll leave it at that.

There's also the matter of the large amount of JMSDF-to-U.S. vessel refueling, both in number of operations and per operation volume, in FY 2001 (April-March) and FY 2002, and the dramatic drop-off thereafter. The 800,000 gallons in the 25 February operation is merely a small fraction of the total. OSW effectively ended with the successful subjugation of the Iraqi regime at the end of the Japanese FY 2002. This coincidence of the end of refueling large U.S. military vessels and the end of a continuous aerial operation must be matched against the rise and fall of battleground needs in Afghanistan at the time to derive any conclusions, though; and, again, I am in way over my head. Unfortunately for Ichiro Ozawa, DPJ wonks knowledgeable in defense matters do not seem to be in his corner in the attack on the anti-terrorism operations.

Okay, now back to life.

(note) Major operations in Afghanistan involving air power seemed to have subsided, at least for while, after Operation Anaconda in March 2002. And the Anaconda was run by the U.S. ARMY and Air Force and did not involve the Navy or the Marines.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

There's News, There's Fake News, and… Holy Cow

from today's CNN web page, right under the featured article:
10 tricks to boost memory

Memory loss's normal at middle age, but don't put up with it. Tips to remember where the keys and car are

Satire: N. Korea nuke program

North Korea promised to dismantle its nuclear program. What do you think?

Vote for your favorite

Winner to be honored at tribute hosted by Anderson Cooper. This week: Medical Marvel.

Fukuda, LDP Up; Ozawa, DPJ Down. By Default?

I have come to believe that the failure of the DPJ to consolidate its gains from the election victory is attributable in great part to Ichiro Ozawa's shortcomings. Here's what I think:

The latest Yomiuri poll (October 6-7) is in, and the Fukuda Cabinet continues to ride high, with approvals outnumbering disapprovals by more than two to one. The post-LDP has widened its lead over the DPJ from 29.3% to 20.9% (September 8-9) in the last poll under the Abe adminstration to 37.8% to 18.0%.. Prime Minister Fukuda also leads DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa in leadership (47.1% to 39.0%), political ideals and objectives (48.1% to 34.1%), ability to explain to the Japanese people (52.3% to 30.2%), and accessibility (69.1% to 17.7%). On what promised to be the signature policy debate of the current Diet session, extension of refueling activities in support of anti—terrorism activities in the Afghan theater, public sentiment, once relatively evenly divided between support, opposed, and undecided, has shifted significantly to 49.1% support against 37.2% opposed.

This, after Mr. Fukuda won the Prime Minister's job with an old-school, faction-oriented campaign as an openly reluctant candidate, inherited Prime Minister Abe's Cabinet wholesale (the only significant change being the replacement of a popular, non-faction Chief Cabinet Secretary with his own (Machimura) faction head), suffered a series of political financing embarrassments including his own, gave an uninspiring inaugural policy speech to the Diet, and has otherwise looked pedestrian and not-quite at ease throughout the initial days of his regime. And the refueling activities have seen their share of unseemly revelations as well…

But consider the competition, or lack of it. Ichiro Ozawa has been conspicuously absent since Mr. Fukuda slipped onstage. He had not been particularly forthcoming during the Abe days, but that could be overlooked somewhat because Mr. Abe appeared not too eager himself to show face, and often lost more than he gained when he did. But hunkering down and producing occasional pronouncements from on high does not work so well against a media-friendly (or, perhaps, friendly-to-the-media) opponent whom the uncommitted public, after an increasingly depressing year under Mr. Abe, would like to see succeed. Yukio Hatoyama, Naoto Kan, and lesser lights like Akira "Mr. Public Pension Scandal" Nagatsuma gamely go against the Prime Minister and his men. But absent Mr. Ozawa, and with barely concealed fragging from the likes of Yukio Edano, it often seems as if all Mr. Fukuda has to do to ace his serve is to put the ball in play.

As for the one issue of substance that seriously affected Mr. Abe's fortunes, the 50 million missing public pension accounts will come to roost again, if and when Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe fails to make a show of sufficient progress come March, Mr. Abe's self-imposed deadline for cleaning up the books. But in the time being and beyond, the more fundamental and substantial issue - in the sense that it affects the fortunes of all voters - the future shape and scope of the public pension system and the means to fund it - must be addressed. Here, the DPJ proposal of a basic pension with universal coverage has for various reasons attracted substantial positive interest But the DPJ decided to fight the last election by changing its mind and promising to maintain consumption tax rates at the current 5% level, use the consumption tax revenue solely to fund the basic pension system, and make up the enormous revenue shortfall by ill-defined expenditure cuts. Now, it is being forced to talk its way around it. The funding issue is a serious policy debate that has ramifications well beyond the public pension system, because the consumption tax will be an integral part of the inevitable policy package to deal with the enormous public debt overhang. Measures must be taken soon (unless the ruling coalition decides to give up its promise to achieve primary balance of the national budget by FY 2011), and no independent expert will tell you that the consumption tax can remain untouched. The LDP is not exactly forthright on this matter as of yet, but at least it is talking about it.

The post-WW II electorate in the developed democracies has become less committed, less ideological over the years. This trend has accelerated since the end of the Cold War. Political parties that have adapted to this by de-emphasizing ideological purity and broadening their bases have thrived, while those that have not have suffered the consequences. One consequence of this shift is that the policies of successful political parties have also been converging., in broad contours if not in precise detail. And a corollary of this loss of distinction is an increasing focus on personalities, likeability, if you will, the face the party presents to the media, the public, the electorate. I believe that this is the reason for the sometimes dramatic changes in party fortunes from simple changes in leadership, when there are few or no drastic changes in policies (despite, in the case of Abe-to-Fukuda, a major shift in the personal ideological coloring).

It is notable that both the DPJ intransigence over the ISAFOEF-MIO refueling activities and its insistence on freezing the consumption tax rate as part of its public pension proposal are both personal decisions of Mr. Ozawa made in the face of considerable internal opposition. Thus, without Mr. Ozawa front and center to put a presentable face on these and other parts of the DPJ manifest, DPJ will come to resemble the Abe administration in effect, a political force without effective leadership or discipline.

Many things can happen between now and September 2009, when the House of Representatives must hold its next election unless the Prime Minister has called a snap election before then, and the Fukuda team will score its share of own goals by that time. Even now, as the Diet is in session, the DPJ is throwing a formidable array of debaters at the soft-sell Prime Minister and his team in the hopes that the steady barrage at irregularities and shortcomings at every level will erode public support and confidence. Still, barring economic catastrophe, The Great Un-aligned Electorate will not throw its support to a DPJ that lacks a public face to give coherence to a party fraught with personality clashes and policy fissures.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Ask The Jurisprudence Guy: Why Joining ISAF Is Constitutional

Okay, nobody asked, so I guess that makes this a promo.

I don't know where Foreign Minister Komura gets his legal advice, but I find the argument that engaging in ISAF activities is unconstitutional unconvincing to say the least.

Article 9, paragraph 1, says that "the Japanese people renounce forever" the "use of force as means of settling international disputes". Now, the last time I looked, I did not find one sovereign state openly in military conflict with the ISAF forces, or supportive of the non-state actors who are the subject of ISAF activities, and the Afghan government more than welcomes ISAF. So where is the "international" conflict? As far as international law is concerned, surely this is merely a policing action.

If I were the LDP leadership, I would accept the constitutionality of Japanese participation in ISAF, and hammer Ichiro Ozawa on the practicalities of the intervention until Mr. Ozawa has no choice but to come out of hiding to make his case. Which he will botch.

But this is a soft-sell administration, and there must be LDP people on the right who do not want to look wimpy in the first place, so it won't happen.

If Anyone Can Prolong the Honeymoon with the Media, It's Prime Minister Fukuda

I did not make it up when I wrote that "[Mr. Fukuda] had charmed the entire Kantei press into longing for his triumphant return." In fact, a member of the Asahi board of editorial writers said it on Sunday Project. So I am not surprised to see that the Prime Minister's multiple political financing embarrassments are not causing him much trouble. Likewise, the financial irregularities in, for example, Environment Minister Kamoshita's books provided a few headlines, but nothing more. Think of it, if Mr. Fukuda had been an Abe clone, he would have been inundated with "more-of-the-same" invectives by now, and never mind the legal distinctions between the intentional and the negligent. Of course the media would be obliged to maintain balance with these and other Ozawa money stories (it could be just a coincidence that this story does not appear on the Asahi website), and it remains to be seen if they are just sick and tired of flogging this same horse over and over again.

In any case, Mr. Fukuda is liked - by the media and the public alike - and likeable, so this may be as good a time as any for the media, as they do here and here, to let the Japanese people know something that they've been aware of for a long, long time: that is, short of regime change, North Korea is not going to give Japan any more meaningful information on the abductees issue, let alone 1) let all abductees come home; 2) give a full, satisfactory accounting of the abductees issue (for example, how did they die, if they did), and 3) hand over the culprits; and have the Fukuda administration deal with the consequences.

Now imagine the embarrassment if the Abe administration had to deal with the revelation, and the only answer it had was that it had not heard such a thing directly from the North Koreans. Wouldn't the media be saying that Mr. Abe should ask Mr. Roh what Mr. Kim actually said? But I'll be mildly surprised if the mainstream media put that same question to Mr. Fukuda.

I found this while I was looking for my posts on the relationship between the media and Prime Ministers. I think that it has stood the test of time pretty well, including the time horizon for Mr. Abe.

Blog Watch: Michelle Malkin Plays with the Facts

I do not expect much to happen in the Diet between now and the introduction of the new anti-terrorism bill - barring, of course, unexpected developments. I mean, what's there, really, to talk about what's happening on Elm Street without Freddy Krueger, in Smallville without Clark Kent? So, let me take this opportunity to let Michelle Malkin show you how to write a partisan blog.

The title of the post – for the benefit of American liberals who cannot stand the thought of reading her blog – is:

Boxer amendment would block immigration enforcement in order to count illegal aliens for 2010 Census, boost Democrat seats

Ms. Malkins goes on to say:

Boxer's amendment, SA 3246, is attached to the current spending bill up on the Senate floor. So, why is Boxer so interested in blocking aggressive immigration enforcement leading up to the 2010 Census?

Hint, hint:

Then quotes herself (apparently; the recursive link itself is broken) as follows:

U.S. states with large numbers of undocumented immigrants could receive additional seats in Congress after the 2010 census is conducted.
A University of Connecticut study concluded Arizona, Texas and Florida could all see their House delegations increase due to rising populations that include sizable numbers of illegal immigrants.
Although they can’t vote, such aliens are included in the census. The San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News predicted Tuesday the pending 2010 headcount could be the subject of a political fight as Democrats and Republicans jockey for position before House seats are reallocated.
The Connecticut study also predicted California and New Jersey would likely keep their current number of seats while states with fewer immigrants, including New York, Illinois and Ohio, will lose a seat or two.

The hint, of course, is that Barbara Boxer, as a Democratic Senator from heavily Democratic California, is seeking to better Democratic fortunes by inflating the Californian population with as many illegal immigrants as possible. Ms. Malkin's blog being a comment-by-registration-only blog, all 76 comments that I saw there more than agreed with her, and were furious with Senator Boxer. (And very often angry or exasperated with Republicans who were soft on the issue.)

However, the study says that California likely will only break even. So, unless the ratio of illegal aliens to the entire population in California has gone up more quickly than the U.S. average or, to put it another way, the Californian illegal immigrant population has been growing at a faster rate than the national average, California has nothing to gain and possibly something to lose by including illegal aliens. Without the numbers, we simply can't tell. But Ms. Malkin does not appear to have looked into that matter, or even to have considered it at all.

Ms. Malkin's insinuations become even more tenuous when you look at the states that have been cited in the study as potential winners and losers. In Arizona, Florida, and Texas, the three potential winner states, Republican Representatives currently outnumber their Democratic counterparts by a total of 39 to 26. By contrast, in Illinois, Ohio, and New York, the three losers, the Democrats are ahead 40 to 26. Although a full accounting of projections for all the states is needed to be sure, it seems that, on the basis of the information available from Ms. Malkin's post (as well as Wikipedia) the Democrats would actually lose Congressional seats if the reallocation count excludedincluded illegal aliens. In other words, the noble Senator Boxer is rising above party interests in her desire to go easy on illegal immigrants. Or so one is forced to argue.

Many things determine the action of Senators, and they will vary from individual to individual. And maybe in the case of Senator Boxer, it's her wacky, Pavlovian ultra-liberalism making its mark. But that's blasé, an accusation - even if true - that fails to whip up nationalist right-wing sentiment, to make the blood quicken. There is, though, one very important determinant common to all successful politicians - and being elected is a very powerful indicator of success- and that is the need to please your constituents. California has a large Hispanic and Asian minority population, and many members of this minority are actually voters (as we in Japan learned through the House of Representatives comfort women resolution). It is surely not unreasonable to think that Senator Boxer is mindful of the desires of these minority voters, which may be at odds with a crackdown on their friends, family, and other community members.

Of course listening to one's constituencies is another person's pandering, and a run-of-the-mill opponent of illegal immigrants might choose that line of attack. But that would put your arguments against the illegal immigration issue on a bipartisan level, something that is patently true, but not desirable if you are running a partisan blog.

As I said, all the comments agreed – explicitly or implicitly - with her point that Senator Boxer is going easy on illegal immigrants to benefit the Democratic Party. For that is the nature of the great echo chamber that is partisan blogging, and, to an alarming degree, partisan media.

Counting non-citizens in pro-rating Congressional seats does seem to be an odd thing to do, so I have an idea for my American friends. Now if there's one thing that Americans both left and right agree on, it's that if Kennedy/Reagan is sliced bread, George Washington is the pop-up toaster. In fact, George and The Founding Fathers (give or take a Lincoln or two) are routinely referred to as the font of all political wisdom in America. So why not go back to the conceptual framework of that greatest of their achievements, the original Constitution of the United States of America, and count each illegal immigrant as "three fifths of all" U.S. citizens?

ADD: In fact, I just noticed that the 76th comment raises this point.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Has TIME (Where Else?) Correspondent Fallen for Deadpan Foreign Minister's Joke?

Japan May Stop Afghan Mission Aid

(TOKYO) — Japan would scale back its support of the U.S. in Afghanistan by ending naval assistance to vessels involved in ground missions there under a ruling party proposal that officials predicted Sunday would gain parliament's approval.
Since 2001, Japan's navy has been providing fuel for coalition warships under an anti-terrorism law that has been extended three times. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has strongly pushed for another extension to the mission, which expires on Nov. 1.
However, Fukuda has been forced to make concessions because of strong resistance from the opposition bloc, which took control of parliament's upper chamber following a massive electoral defeat for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in July.
A new draft law, submitted to the opposition Friday, would clearly limit the mission to naval refueling and supplying of water to vessels participating in the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom's maritime patrol missions in the Indian Ocean.
"Under the new law, there will be no refueling to ships providing support for ground operations (in Afghanistan)," Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said Sunday on a public broadcaster NHK talk show.

- TIME, 07 October 2007

Dang, we've been hearing about the new anti-terrorism bill doing away with "[non-existent] search and rescue missions, as well as [non-existent] humanitarian relief efforts", but maritime operations? Oddly, none of the mainstream media seem to be carrying the story. Doesn't anybody care anymore? So I wrack my brain all day, until I realize:

Afghanistan is a land-locked nation, hundreds of miles away from any serious body of seawater! In fact, it's hundred's of miles away from any serious body of water.

"Opposition lawmakers have also alleged that oil supplied by Japanese ships was diverted to U.S. operations in Iraq, triggering public outrage. "The government must more clearly disclose its activities over the last six years," DPJ secretary-general Naoto Kan told a Fuji TV talk show on Sunday."

Mr. Kan's low-key sarcasm does not come cross very well in print (you have to see it to feel the victim's irritation and frustration), and something is lost in translation, so I'll give the correspondent a pass on that. But where's the public outrage? Don't you have the presence of mind to quote a tabloid? Asahi? Actually, the relative lack of public outrage is something that has mildly surprised me through all this.

"On Saturday, the country's largest business daily, the Nikkei, said Japan was preparing to withdraw its ships entirely from the region because the government did not expect to meet the deadline — a report quickly denied by the Defense Ministry.
Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba reiterated Sunday the government remained confident it can win backing of the opposition, which controls parliament's upper chamber. "We believe the new law will be approved in the upper house," Ishiba told a separate talk show aired by TV Asahi."

Maybe I was watching a different Shigeru Ishiba, because the Defense Minister that I saw kept saying something to the effect that this was not the time to talk of an override, and that much would hinge on how public opinion would evolve. But I'll take it on faith that Mr. Ishiba did say those things. Still, when most people believe that the DPJ has little room for moving away from its opposition to the extension of OEF-MIO, it's odd that these statements could be left out there without any context.

"But Fukuda, who took office last month, has sold himself as a compromiser and promised to reach a consensus with the opposition over the Afghan mission."

Nobody believes that he has made such a promise. He's made a best-effort commitment, nothing more.

And why does the article end on this note:

"Japan also hosts about 50,000 U.S. troops and is working with the U.S. on a joint missile defense system."

So true, but what does it have to do with the context? This article seems to begin with a missed joke, and end in a missing point.

Seriously, could the Foreign Minister have been referring to Iraq? It is also important to note that, under Ichiro Ozawa's reasoning, the JSMDF should be providing support for ground operations in Afghaniston, but not for what Mr. Komura purportedly limited the extension to.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Professor Shigemura Thinks Three=North Korea+US+China, Not North Korea+South Korea+US

Toshimitsu Shigemura, the Korea expert, said unequivocally that Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Jong Il could not agree on the inclusion of South Korea in an ultimate peace agreement that would formally end the Korean War.

Maybe I shouldn't have been so accepting of the common view after all. Now that I think about it, it is absurd to think that North Korea would dare to keep China out of the final deal. This would also prove that Mr. Kim is in control of his faculties after all.

And for this, Mr. Roh gets a 20% bump in his popularity?

Refueling Issue Update

1. Newspaper reports say that the ruling coalition will introduce the bill only after the Budget Committee has completed its session on October 17. If true, this means that the earliest opportunity to submit the bill will be October 19, after the Cabinet meeting, giving the House of Representatives less than two weeks to vote on the bill. It is looking more likely that the supermajority revote will be held in January, before the Diet recesses and reconvenes in its annual regular session, most likely in the bottom half of January.

2. I had written here that the LDP considered both OEF-MIO and ISAF constitutionally acceptable. But I have recently seen Foreign Minister Komura state that direct participation in ISAF activities as of now would be unconstitutional, since the area could not yet be considered a non-combat area. Defense Minster Ishiba, the man who not only knows everything about military affairs but can also recite Article 9 by heart, gave a more elaborate explanation today on Sunday Project, pointing to two elements; 1) the existence of a conflict between states; and 2) a state of war that would make Japanese participation unconstitutional, and that 2) constitutionally barred Japan from taking part right now.

I don't think that this is a sound legal argument. War is war in a legal sense only because there are two or more states involved. Mr. Ishiba, in arguing for the continuation of the refueling activities, stated (and nobody is disputing) that there was no state as an enemy combatant in the case of OEF-MIO. But the same holds true for ISAF. In fact, Article 9 has even less to do with OEF-MIO (which did have Afghanistan as an enemy combatant to start with) than it does with ISAF (which has only non-state domestic insurgents and Al Qaeda as adversaries). But who asked me for my opinion? So this is a correction of the facts of the issue.

3) Mr. Ishiba also claimed that, although Pentagon is still in the process of conducting a thorough survey of the Kitty Hawk refueling controversy, he has so far been developing a conviction that the diesel fuel was not diverted to the Iraqi War. Everything seems to acquire more credibility - or at least plausibility - when Mr. Ishiba says it, so I'm going to suspend judgment until the case is laid out in public with due evidence, as he promised.

Soichiro Tawara Revives Two Year-Old Story about Ichiro Ozawa's Money Issues and Yukio Edano Is Furious

Sunday Project features four policy wonks, Nobuteru Ishihara (LDP), Yukio Edano (DPJ), Yosuke Takagi (New Komeito), and Akira Koike (Japan Communist Party), to sock it out, right after the Plenary sessions, just before the Diet committees begin their work. Other things being equal, Mr. Edano would be running circles around Mr. Ishihara. Unfortunately for the DPJ, Mr. Edano is one of the most anti-Ozawa politicians in Japan, never mind the DPJ, and it shows. He makes it clear that he disagrees with Ichiro Ozawa on the Japanese anti-terror operations in and around Afghanistan, and the most he is willing to do is to explain Mr. Ozawa's position on Japanese presence in Afghanistan. In doing so he splits a legal hair by pointing out that Mr. Ozawa has stated that he wishes to have Japan participate in ISAF operations when he assumes power, but has not said he actually will.

That sounds very much like damning with faint praise. But it was nothing compared to Mr. Edano's act when the talks came around to political financing.

Now Prime Minister Fukuda has been having money issues of his own. His office has had to reacquire and resubmit approximately a hundred receipts that it altered inappropriately, and forced to return political donations from a construction company that relied heavily on public works contracts and a company in which foreigners (in this particular embarrassing case, North Koreans) held a majority stake. However, before it gets interesting, host of the show Soichiro Tawara, the cruelest septuagenarian this side of Uncle Scrooge, whips out a panel, which, together with further explanations, reveals:

When Mr. Ozawa's Liberal Party was dissolved and merged into the DPJ in 2003, the LP donated 1.3 billion yen to the Kaikaku Kokumin Kaigi (Reformatory People's Conference; yes, I know, but it sounds awkward in Japanese too), a political organization over which Mr. Ozawa had substantial control. The money included 0.56 billion yen of the political funds given to the LP under the Political Party Assistance Act. Moreover, just two days before the LP was dissolved, DPJ gave 0.3 billion yen, just like that.

This matter first came out on 2 February 2005, when Katsutoshi Matsuoka (yes, the MAFF Minister who committed suicide as allegations of irregularities and possible criminal acts piled up) raised it in the House of Representatives Budget Committee. The
Kaikaku Kokumin Kaigi appears to be doing nothing particular these days, other than to sit on a pile of cash.

Mr. Edano is furious to learn this, because he was the DPJ Policy Research Council Chairman at the time but was not told anything at the time about the 0.3 billion yen gift to the soon-to-be-disbanded Liberal Party. In fact, he appears to be claiming that this is the first time he's heard about the Kaikaku Kokumin Kaigi itself. He says repeatedly that the DPJ has no right to attack the Fukuda administration on political financing issues unless it gives a satisfactory explanation, and vows to get to the bottom of the matter. And it is on that note this particular segment of the program ends. (The JCP, the only party that has elected to decline the public money, makes the more general point that unused public money should be returned to public coffers, but is understandably ignored by the other parties.)

Mr. Ozawa is in many ways old-school LDP, more so, actually, than any of the Tokyo-native, second-, third-, fourth-generation, neotenous contenders in the LDP. And this is, in fact, the second money issue that has been raised against him this year, and the other one also involved a large amount of loose money. The renewed accusations, though there appears to be nothing illegal about them, are strong incentives to make himself even scarcer in the Diet - he has been as elusive as Kim Jong Il during the Plenary sessions – and in the public eye; not exactly the kind of leadership that is conducive to a DPJ that is struggling to distance itself from the LDP without looking irresponsible while papering over significant internal policy differences and personality clashes.

(note) The precise facts and figures cited by Mr. Matsuoka were:
(24 September 2003)
DPJ gives LP 295,540,000 yen.
(26 September 2003; day of the DPJ-LDP merger)
LP gives Kaikaku Kokumin Kaigi 745,899,041 yen.
LP gives Kaikaku Kokumin Kaigi 560,964,143 yen in public funds that it has received under the Political Party Assistance Act.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

A Week in the Life of a Prime Minister and It Looks Like It's the Economy

I must have written about it somewhere, but major and semi-major Japanese newspapers typically carry a small daily column that gives the Prime Minister's itinerary of the previous day. The following is a translation of Prime Minister Fukuda's week, September 30-October 5:

September 30
09:07 The Prime Minister's Office (no holiday for Mr. Fukuda; must get ready for tomorrow's resumption of the extraordinary Diet session
09:17 extraordinary Cabinet session (ditto)
10:00 The Prime Minister's Official Residence
10:12 Office
11:58 private residence, in Nozawa, Tokyo (lunch?)
14:24 Office
15:30 informal talk with editorial board members and others from the print media. Joined by Nobutaka Machimura, Chief Cabinet Secretary; and Ohno Matsushige, Mitsuhide Iwaki, and Masahiro Futahashi, the three Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretaries (making nice with the media before the Diet session resumes)
16:06 informal talk with analysis board members and others from the private sector broadcasting corporations (ditto)
16:30 informal talk with the chief correspondents of the Cabinet Kisha-kai (Reporters Club) members (ditto)
17:39 Haneda Airport to greet the Emperor and the Empress on their return from Akita Prefecture (I didn't know that this came with the job)
18:38 private residence (Thank the powers that be it wasn't Narita.)

October 01
07:52 JP Nihon Yusei Building, Kasumigaseki, Tokyo. Yoshifumi Nishikawa, President of Japan Post, and others greet him.
08:00 startup ceremonies for the Japan Post Group
08:34 Office
09:35 Extraordinary Cabinet meeting
11:16 Hiroko Ohta, Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy; Bunshichi Fujioka (Cabinet Office (CAO) by way of Economic Planning Agency(EPA)), Takashi Matsumoto (on loan from Ministry of Finance (MOF)?) and Jun Saito (CAO by way of EPA), Directors-General for Policy Planning, CAO
12:55 Diet
13:02 House of Representatives (H.R.) Plenary Session, Policy Speech
13:57 Takeo Kawamura (LDP), former Minister of Education and Lots of Other Things (MEXT)
14:07 Office
14:26 Yoshimi Watanabe, Minister of State for Financial Services and Administrative Reform
15:25 Fukushiro Nukaga, Minister of Finance (MOF), Hiroyoshi Tsuda, Administrative Vice Minister of Finance (MOF), and others
16:28 Fujio Mitarai, Chairman, Keidanren
16:57 Diet
17:00 LDP Leadership Meeting
17:24 Office
18:06 Kenichiro Sasae, Director-General, Asia Pacific Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA; obviously Six-Party Talks)
19:15 private residence

October 02
09:57 Office
10:02 Cabinet meeting
10:53 Global Warming Prevention Headquarters (all Cabinet members)
10:53 Kohei Masuda, Administrative Vice Minister, Ministry of Defense (MOD)
12:02 coordination meeting of Government and Government Parties
14:22 Toshikazu Uchida, Administrative Vice Minister (CAO), and Yuji Fukushita, Director-General, Honors System Bureau, CAO
15:11 Nobuo Yamaguchi, Chairman, Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Taneo Nakamura, Chairman, Japan Retailers Association
15:53 Masami Zeniya, Administrative Vice Minister (MEXT)
15:53 Eriko Yamatani, Special Advisor (Education Regeneration) to the Prime Minister
18:09 Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Futahashi
19:00 private residence

October 03
09:06 Office
11:32 Misoji Yabunaka, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs (MOFA)
12:56 Diet
13:02 H.R. Plenary
16:21 Office
17:00 Atsuo Saka (on loan from MOF), Assistant Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary
17:39 Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy Ohta
18:38 private residence (Despite extensive renovations, the Official Residence is clearly not a pleasant place to stay, for Mr. Fukuda at least.)

October 04
08:28 Office
09:04 Mitsuhide Iwaki, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary (H.C.)
09:56 Diet
10:01 H.C. Plenary
11:47 Office
12:03 Matsushige Ohno, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary (H.R.)
12:17 Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Ohno
13:56 Diet
14:02 H.R. Plenary
16:32 Office
16:38 Chief Cabinet Secretary Machimura
17:20 Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy Ohta, Keidanren Chairman Mitarai
17:31 Economic and Fiscal Advisory Council (note: Mr. Mitarai as Keidanren Chairman is a member)
18:20 representatives of the "Six Local Associations" including Wataru Aso, Governor of Fukuoka Prefecture and Chairman of the National Association of Governors
19:09 private residence

October 05
07:02 private residence; Motoji Nozawa, former Gunma Prefecture Assemblyman
07:53 Office
08:00 Mitsuhide Iwaki, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary
08:59 Diet
09:04 Cabinet meeting
09:24 Office
09:56 Diet
10:01 House of Councilors (H.C.) Plenary Session
11:52 Office
12:56 Diet
13:01 H.C. Plenary
15:23 Office
15:30 Takao Kitabata, Administrative Vice Minister, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI)
16:19 Katsuhiko Shirai, President, Waseda University (note: Mr. Fukuda is a Waseda graduate)
16:49 Hideshi Mitani, Chief Cabinet Information Officer
17:31 Kazuo Kitagawa, Secretary General, New Komeito (NK); Kiyohiko Tooyama, H.C. member (NK)
17:55 on the phone with President Roh Moo-hyun, Republic of Korea
18:10 on the phone with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka (note: Mr. Fukuda is the Chairman of the Japan-Sri Lanka Association)
18:33 Harufumi Mochizuki, Director-General, Agency for Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE), METI; Kenichiro Sasae, Director-General, Asia and Pacific Bureau, MOFA
19:37 Dinner at the Italian restaurant Belle Vue, Hotel New Ohtani Tokyo with secretaries (note: a Prime Minister typically has one political secretary and four administrative secretaries who are senior officials seconded from MOF, MOFA, the Police Agency, and METI. They are appointed for the duration of the administration, and form a close-knit team.)
10:13 private residence (The Official Residence continues to gather dust.)

This is just his second week in office at the beginning of what promises to be a contentious Diet session, so it may be atypical. And there's one more day, a Saturday, to go. But a few things are becoming clear:

Prime Minister Fukuda listens to bureaucrats. A lot. And they are for the most part economic and finance bureaucrats. His other appointments during the week, including those with his ministers, also reflect this domestic focus.

MOFA got a lot of face time too, but it appears to have been all about the Korean Peninsula, with the Six-Party Talks/North-South Summit simulcast going on. The MOD administrative vice minister got an appointment, but that appears to be it for the OEF-MIO refueling extension battle. It's now mostly political, and the battle lines have been clearly drawn.

He takes care of the media. I'm sure that Prime Minister Abe did those meetings before the Diet session as well. Still, it's a good thing for his administration.

And he hates the Official Residence. Didn't Prime Minister Abe used to live there? And Mr. Koizumi?

As I said, there's still Saturday, and Mr. Fukuda just might decide to hop over to the Official Residence today to get away from his wife and text message Yoshihisa KomoriYoshiko Sakurai and booze the night away there with Ambassador Hisahiko Okazaki and Professor Terumasa Nakanishi and Shoichi Nakagawa.

But I don't think so.

(note) For the Japanese-literate, the Tokyo Shinbun provides a couple of weeks full.

BTW, does anyone know why the PM's Office stopped posting the full itinerary? Prime Minister Obuchi's can still be found on the PM Office server for curious searchers.

ADD. Mr. Fukuda did not go to his Official Residence, nor did he text message (or dance the rumba with) Yoshiko Sakurai. He did not pull an all-nighter with the ambassador and his friends either. Instead, he spent a quiet Saturday at his private residence.