Saturday, January 18, 2014

Addendum to My Commentary on the Sasae Op-Ed

The following was an afterthought to the memo that became my preceding post, just in case it might come in handy. Since I’m not getting paid for this specific piece of advice (or the previous memo), I free to share them here with you here.

If there's a piece of advice to offer Japanese leaders and their entourage, it's that the modern history of East Asia is seen differently in the public minds of Japan, China, and the United States. Specifically, for us Japanese, it began with the Black Ships, but the Chinese reach back to the Opium War. And Americans? Pearl Harbor, for all practical purposes. These differing perspectives color their respective views on history issues and sometimes affect actual outcomes, of which the treatment of the Senkaku Islands and related disputes is a prime example.

Now Japanese leaders and their entourages may be aware of this and certainly won't like it if they do, but they do have to face reality. For starters, they must be mindful of how "it plays in Peoria." I think that Ambassador Sasae's piece, with its unusually punchy style and emphasis on Japanese contriteness, was an effective rebuttal to the Chinese ambassador's op-ed. On the other hand, the kind of talk coming from special assistant to LDP president (Abe) and right-wing Diet member Koichi Hagiuda blaming the US government's negative response on the Democrats must be avoided. It may be true for all I know (although the last-minute notice to the Americans, eerily reminiscent of North Korea's last-minute notice to China about its most recent nuclear test, would have tested the patience of a President McCain as well), but it doesn't help Japan's cause any, especially when the Democrats are better situated over the long-run in presidential elections for demographic reasons.

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