Monday, November 02, 2015

My July 16 CRI Q&A on Peace and Security Legislation (and Japan-China Relations)

I also found that the CRI website claims that I said that “the security bills go against Japan's pacifist constitution” when it passed the lower house. Nothing of the sort. Sure, I'm critical of the way the Abe administration handled the issue. The following is the script. Haven't heard the audio, but I don't think that I said anything that could have led to a misunderstanding.

1 First up, could you please tell us what collective self-defence is? How does it influence Japan’s military?
Simply put, it’s an arrangement where two or more countries in an alliance agree to come to the defense of the others. In Japan’s case it is going to be very limited because we will only come to the defense of its allies when those allies are acting in defense of Japan. Aegis, Japan Sea, DPRK. It will help coordinate operations with the United States in the nearby area.

2 The bill now awaits the approval of both the lower and upper houses of Japan’s parliament. How do you evaluate the likelihood of it getting passed? If it gets passed, how will it influence Japan’s position regionally and globally?
Almost 100%. It will make Japan a more active player in UN sanctioned operations, but strictly in a non-combat role, unless you count minesweeping operations as combat. It will enable the Self-Defense Forces to work more seamlessly with Japan’s allies, mainly the United States.

3 There were protest going on outside the parliament building when the voting happened. Also opposition lawmakers shouted their disapproval and mobbed the chairman of the committee who was in charge of the voting. AP even reported that some began slapping and grabbing him. Is this common phenomenon in Japanese politics? What does the intensity tell us?
Protests around the Diet complex are not that unusual, but physical altercations in the Diet have been rare in recent years. There are many people, including the overwhelming majority of constitutional scholars, who strongly believe that the reinterpretation to allow collective self-defense is unconstitutional. More generally, there is a broader, and vague, fear that the bills—not just the constitutional reinterpretation—could draw Japan into war. On the first point, I am not a constitutional scholar, though I note that most constitutional scholars used to think that the Self-Defense Forces were unconstitutional, but they no longer do. On the second point, I strongly disagree. However, the Abe administration has done a poor job of explaining what is a very complicated political compromise legislation to the public, and the Liberal Democratic Party has made a couple of serious tactical blunders along the way, adding fuel to the fire.

4 Shotaro Yachi, Japan’s National Security Advisor is now visiting China at the invitation of Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi. The two met in Beijing last year and reached a four point consensus aiming at restore relations between the two.

----How would read the timing of his visit this time?
The bilateral political relationship is on the mend, but August 15 is only a month away. What Prime Minister Abe says on the 70th anniversary of the end of the war will be crucial in keeping the process on-track. I’m sure the Chinese authorities would appreciate some reassurance from Mr. Abe’s most trusted envoy.

----So what are the possible topics that might be discussed during his visit this time?
Beyond the anniversary statement, I assume that Chinese activities around the Senkaku Islands and in the East China Sea near the median line will be raised by the Mr. Yachi, and the Chinese authorities may wish to know what Japanese intentions are in the South China Sea. Talk will not change anything, but it’s better than not talking to each other at all, because it helps keep these matters of contention from doing harm to the broader relationship. I am sure that there will also be talk on broader, more positive issues, and there may be a renewed invitation to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and/or talk on cooperation with the Asian Development Bank, but I don’t see much happening.

5 There are speculations that Abe might meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and attend commemoration activities of the World War II in this coming September. If the two countries really want the meeting of two to happen, what are further needed to be done from both sides?
In his 70th anniversary statement, Mr. Abe should hold to the line that he expressed in his speech to the U.S. Congress. A specific reference to China would be highly desirable. The Chinese authorities would very much like to hear a specific reference to the Murayama Statement, though I would be surprised if Mr. Abe did so. On the Japanese side, no Chinese escalation around the Senkaku Islands and more broadly, the East China Sea.

6 Former Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo is also reportedly visiting China. What is his mission and how he might help improve ties between the two sides?
I am not informed well enough to know what he’s doing there specifically, but the fact that a former Japanese prime minister who is very well-liked in China is shuttling back and forth, presumably with Mr. Abe’s blessing, surely helps to calm the waters and keep it that way.

7 On another note, Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao has met with a group of war-displaced Japanese orphans who were raised by Chinese families after World War II. We know that there are also people from this group of orphans who returned to Japan later.

----How are they coping with life in Japan?
I am not well-informed. All I can say is that some are coping better than others.

----The orphans left in China to a certain degree have helped tighten the ties between people of the two countries. What other measures do you think should be taken to further promote people to people exchanges between the two countries?

It certainly reminded us of the good will that existed at the people-to-people level that endured the brutality of war, and the kindness was not forgotten here in Japan. I don’t have any specific ideas, but there needs to exist a sense among the common folks in Japan that China is a safe and healthy place where we Japanese are welcomed. This will come from the perception of Japanese journalists, businessmen, and tourists, not from government-sponsored exchanges.