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Japan will play a greater role in the Coming World

(*The conversation was held at Dr. Yamaguchi’s office at the Japanese House of Representatives on July 11th, 2014.)

◇Tsuyoshi Michael Yamaguchi

◇William L. Brooks

Yamaguchi: Today I would like to talk about Japan’s role in the future in the world.
We have now difficult moments with our neighbors, Chinese and Koreans.
But as a historian, Arnold Toynbee, I hear he predicted that the center of gravity in the world could be shifting from the West to the East, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. If he is correct, it could be happening now.

Professor Brooks: I think that’s already proven to be true. Look at the European situation over the several years. EU is sort of falling apart. The question is that what kind of structure would emerge. Regional structure will emerge. There’s rise of China, the recovery of the Japanese economy, and certainly the vitality of Southeast Asia.

Yamaguchi: Structure is an important point. Three were three global orders which were established after the war for the peace and prosperity. The first was the United Nations to prohibit the use of force.
The exception was when you use force for self-defense. And the U.N. Charter created the new type of self-defense, “the right of collective self-defense.” It was created by the U.N. Charter. The Japanese Government has decided to change the interpretation. The interpretation used to be that we have the right, but we couldn’t use it. It was not natural to me.

Professor Brooks: There are a lot of aspects of Japan’s Asia diplomacy, Japan’s Asia presence as well as Japan’s global presence that were limited by the self-imposed restrictions. As you pointed out, it was not the United Nations that told Japan what to do. To me, Article 9 (of the Constitution) hasn’t changed. It’s basically sacred, in terms of the first clause particularly.
But Japan has many times reinterpreted it. This latest reinterpretation is not the first and probably won’t be the last. And I think that’s understandable, since the world situation has changed. Asia has no order, basically every country for itself.

Yamaguchi: The United Nations system is now rather shaky. The original purpose was to prohibit the use of force to create peace. But it has not been 100% successful.
The second order was the free trade system. Because there was protectionism before the war, and there was a war. To prevent war, free trade system was set as a goal. People created GATT system and WTO. But the problem is now that there are more than 190 countries, making a decision unanimously has become rather difficult. This system is now shifting to FTAs or TPP.

Professor Brooks: what’s overlooked in the current TPP negotiations is that it’s not just trade and goods. There’s whole area over 20 areas of services and other new system. What the WTO Doha Round could not accomplish cannot be accomplished by the WTO. And that’s not the end. I don’t think China is qualified to come to the TPP, but maybe in ten years. They don’t want to be isolated from that system. They will come in and we will have a basically global system that will grow.
But without Japan TPP is meaningless.

Yamaguchi: The third was currency. Keynes from Great Britain talked about world currency. But the United States rather advocated using dollar as the key currency, and it was adopted. But now, the dollar key-currency system, according to some people, it has not been functioning well. So we have to do something about it.
These three orders, the United Nations system, free trade system, dollar key-currency system, all are undergoing challenges now. Something has to be done. Structural change is necessary.

Professor Brooks: In Asia there are no regional mechanisms, set up for security. There are certain informal systems for currency problems, swapping etc., and Japan has taken leadership.
There are lots of FTAs and EPAs, and it’s been called a noodle bowl.

Yamaguchi: That’s where Japan’s role in the future comes into a picture. Because there is TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), and there is Japan-China-Korea tripartite free trade agreement negotiation, which I initiated.
Another one which I initiated was bordering countries of Sea of Japan, Japan, Russia, Korea, China, Mongolia, and as an honorary member the United States. I invited scholars from these six nations. We talked about energy cooperation, establishing a bank to cover North East Asia. Because Russia is not a member of the Asia Development Bank, they cannot get finance from this ADB. So if we establish a bank to cover this North East Asia, it would be a good news for Russians.
TPP, Japan-China-Korea tripartite FTA, and the North East Asia economic cooperation, these things need to be integrated in the future, and Japan could play an important role in this.
If we can integrate it with RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) of South East Asia, we can have an image of Asia Pacific sort of community, even though it may not be like European Union. But something like a community among the Asia Pacific countries.

Professor Brooks: Actually I think there is a synergy there because APEC has a coordinating mechanism. Right now it’s kind of a voluntary thing with goals that are not necessarily shared by all. But if you put them in your formula, it probably will start unifying.

Yamaguchi: There is an agreement of FTAAP. In ten years or so, it’s an amalgamation of TPP, FTAs, North East Asian cooperation, RCEP.

Professor Brooks: I think to get there there are hurdles that are not economic, and the U.S. is very concerned about freedom of commercial navigation. If China indeed sets up access denial system that prevents that freedom, the U.S. is very concerned as is Japan.

Yamaguchi: If we look back about ten years, there was Afghan war, there was a war in Iraq. I was worried about the negative possibility when the United States was beginning a war in Afghanistan and Iraq, because there is a historic example that the Soviet Union collapsed because they invaded Afghanistan.

Professor Brooks: You know that the repercussions of those two wars hit America, hit the American spirit. People are wary of war. We are not interventionists.
Most importantly, we’ve got to build up our domestic economy first before we can have a strong external relationship with the rest of the world. I think that’s what Obama Administration is focusing on.

Yamaguchi: Even if there was a reason why the United States went there, I was worried. It has to be a cautious strategy. Probably it was not 100% strategically wise.

Professor Brooks: We were swept up by the post 9.11 syndrome. I think that’s now dissipated. Instead of attacking the enemy, which was the al-Qaeda, we attacked another country, thinking that would solve the problem, but it did not.

Yamaguchi: So what’s happening is rebalancing coming to the Asia Pacific.

Professor Brooks: I have a point on that. We are not actually rebalancing, we are here, and we’ve always been here. I think it’s more of a rebalancing within the area. We put some marines in Australia, and we are beefing up our relations with the Philippines, but we’ve always been here. Our presence has never been questioned. It’s a question of fine tuning rather than a complete shift.
That being said, the rest of the world isn’t going to leave us alone. Mr. Kerry was in Beijing China a few days ago, but he’s been everywhere. So focusing on Asia is a major problem for U.S. diplomacy because of the incredible distractions and problems all over the world.

Yamaguchi: If we look at it a little differently, there is “manifest destiny” in the United States history, going toward west, west, west, and west to the Pacific.

Professor Brooks: Most of our trend is here.

Yamaguchi: Shifting more toward the Asia Pacific to stimulate trade there in the Asia Pacific region and increasing employment within the United States and then reestablishing the economy. But the problem for the United States is that Japan, China, Korea are now having the difficult times over the territory fighting over the rocks. We have to do something about it. I think something can be done. But Mr. Abe seems to be having difficult times.

Professor Brooks: The U.S. wants to have triangular relations: Japan, China, and the U.S. ; Japan, ROK, and the U.S.. That’s part of our rebalancing diplomacy to have cooperation within the region among those powers, and cooperation on global issues, like climate change, or even TPP.
Actually gap is growing between Japan and the United States. As you saw by Secretary Kerry’s speeches and strategic dialogue in Beijing, we are pursuing a frank and sometimes strong discussion laying out problems as well as laying out commonality of issues. But with Japan, no dialog. That gap is growing. Instead, Japan is focusing only on the maritime issue, of course we are too, but we are not preparing for war. We are preparing some kind of code of conduct or rules that can be set with China in the region so that disputes, not necessarily territorial, can be settled.

Yamaguchi: Probably, dialogues between Japan and the U.S. could be different from dialogues between the U.S. and China. Chinese like it because they call it “G2.”

Professor Brooks: We don’t like it.

Yamaguchi: For the peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region, I always think about our relations across the Pacific, the United States and Japan. 70 years ago, there was a war across the Pacific. Even two atomic bombs on Japan. But now, nobody talks about a war between the two countries, nobody ever imagines a war between the two countries, because our society, politics, economy, culture all intertwined. We like Hollywood movies. The same thing could happen in our relations with other countries.

Professor Brooks: Of course. Among my students at SAIS the Jones Hopkins, there are many Chinese students from the mainland, they are majoring in Japan studies. They like Japan.

Yamaguchi: I am glad to hear that.

Professor Brooks; I ask them, ‘Don’t you get anti-Japanese education?’ Their answer is, ‘we get patriotic in education, but we are not particularly anti-Japan.’ So I think at the grassroots level, not at the political level, there is a great possibility of having multilayer dialogues and at grassroots level which would build good cultural and educational relations. There are many Chinese coming to Japan as tourists or students.
It’s just a matter of political dimensions. There are three structural issues Japan faces with China. One is obviously the territorial issue. The second is history. And the third is nationalism. Right at this moment, all three are intertwined. We’ve got to extract them one by one.
Deng Xiaoping shelved the territorial issue. Xi Jinping is a collective leader. He doesn’t have the power of Deng Xiaoping. So it has to be slowly latched back. If the rest of the relation is good, then ultimately the territorial issue will quiet down.

Yamaguchi: I think there is a desire on both sides, the Japanese side and the Chinese side, to do something with this. We cannot fight a war over the rocks. We shouldn’t. Nobody wants it.

Professor Brooks: In fact if you go back to 2008, things were pretty good for a while. There was a joint development agreement for gas in the East China Sea. So it looked like things were going along OK.

Yamaguchi: Although I would rather not delve into details of specifics of how we can solve it, I feel we can solve it.

Professor Brooks: Yes. If you focus on the healthy part of the relations, the economy, the cultural, the educational, the global commonality, the North Korean issue, then you can find a lot of things to talk about. That will make the rest of the relationship manageable.

Yamaguchi: The post-war global systems, the United Nations, free trade system, and dollar key-currency system — all initiated through the U.S. leadership. But they are now undergoing some challenges, and we have to do something about it. I am sure Japan has some potential to play a greater role.

Professor Brooks: Japan is actually becoming a little more active internationally, and their diplomacy is getting more proactive. A lot have started with DPJ (Democratic Party of Japan),
My thesis is that many of the policies of the Abe Administration grew out of the policies of DPJ.
I wrote a paper on U.S. –Japan relations under DPJ, and gave A+. Except for the base issue, which is always a problem, the rest of the relationship was quite good.

Yamaguchi: I remember there were mainly four areas to be taken care of. One was base issues. Another was TPP. Third was beef. Fourth was the Hague Treaty.
These things were almost solved, beef and the Hague Treaty especially.
(About TPP) It’s a pity that we couldn’t make a decision much earlier. We could have done it.

Professor Brooks: I think there was a good reason, an earthquake. If you take a look at the policy process, it was going along and then the earthquake came, and it got completely sidetracked. So you had about a year or a year and a half gap.

Yamaguchi: It’s rather a favorable way of looking at it.
Professor Brooks: It’s true. Everybody focused here (Japan, Fukushima), and it was a major national crisis. Overcoming that national crisis was the top priority. You couldn’t expect farmers to be flexible to TPP when they were afraid of the crisis.

Yamaguchi: Professor Brooks, thank you very much. We covered many things. I always enjoy discussing things with you.

Professor Brooks: I will be back in Washington in September. If you are in Washington, please feel free.

Yamaguchi: You are now with University of Waseda?

Professor Brooks: I’m now at Waseda as a visiting scholar. I was teaching some lectures including one by Nakabayashi sensei.
Now I’m doing a full time research to finish my book, which will compare the policy processes of DPJ administration to the policy processes of the LDP particularly under Abe. My conclusion is that DPJ moved gradually and strongly toward a very effective process by the time the Noda Administration was in power. If you look at the LDP, not that much difference.
Effectiveness was a trial and error at first with Hatoyama Administration, but by the time Noda Administration was in, it was pretty smooth going.
TPP was just about a timing. It just ran out of time.
Consensus building in democracy takes time.
American problem is that the word consensus in the U.S. Congress has become a dirty word.

Yamaguchi: Good luck on your book. Thank you very much.

Professor Brooks: Thank you.

Student’s impression of ambassador Kennedy

I asked the students about their impressions on Ambassador Caroline Kennedy.

Generally speaking, students have the impression that she will be playing a pivotal role across the Pacific, including the Japan-US relations.

Ms. Narita:
I have a very positive impression about her coming to Japan as Ambassador.
Ambassador Kennedy often mentions the word ‘friend.’ I sense her wish to make as many friends as possible across the Pacific.
I am sure that Ambassador Kennedy will deepen the relations between the United States and East Asia including Japan.

Ms. Li:
Japan is the gateway to Asia.
Therefore, I think that it is the U.S. Government’ view to exert more influence on the whole Asia through Japan.
I personally wish that she will run for Presidency and hopefully become the first female President of the United States.
I give my wholehearted support to Ambassador Kennedy.

Ms. Yoshizawa:
I really hope that the somewhat complicated situations in East Asia would be smoothened through her work.
Her father, President Kennedy, advocated the New Frontier spirit. Likewise, Ambassador Kennedy as Ambassador to Japan may explore the new frontiers for the U.S. in East Asia.
It may eventually lead to the Asia Pacific Community.

Ms. Oyamada:
Ambassador Caroline Kennedy reminds me of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. I certainly feel the same aura in her.
I have a hunch that she will give a huge impact not only on Japan but also on the whole East Asia.

Mr. Arai:
It may be the US Government’s vision to build the new order of prosperity in the Asia Pacific region including Japan which has the enormous potential for further economic development.

Ms. Koike:
Some media reported that there is a hidden agenda in her assignment to Japan as Ambassador, which is to help her son, Mr. John Schlossberg, to go into politics.
I have heard the word “Kennedy Dynasty.”
Her distinguished services as Ambassador here may actually make it happen.
Although she has yet to show her real caliber, I do wish her best, and I believe she can.


Set up a dialog framework as a system between Japan and China

China set up their air defense identification zone over the Senkaku Islands of Japan.

I would interpret this move as China’s coercive message that they want to talk about the islands.
I feel frustrated to see very littlle move by diplomats in this context.
If it fails to be solved by diplomats, it will be a soldiers’ job, which I would prefer not.
Although the air defense identification zone is a militaray affair,
related with military affairs, the issue should be viewed from a broader angle. It is diplomats’ job.
A protest by the Vice-Minister’s for Foreign Affairs to China’s Ambassador Cheng Yonghua in Tokyo is not more than a ceremony. There should be more substantial operations by diplomats.
At the same time, the United States which is the partner of the Japan-United States Security Treaty does not desire military solution at all.
You should not go to a military option in one jump.
It is imperative to set up a dialog framework as a system between Japan and China. (end)

On the instant zero-nuclear-power option asserted by Koizumi

(English translation of post November 13)

I feel rather convinced that most of the Japanese people would prefer eventual denuclearization. I also prefer it.

Mr. KOIZUMI Junichiro, ex-prime minister of Japan, strongly and convincingly argues that nuclear power generation without nuclear fuel cycle system in place is like ‘a discharge without toilets’ and should be stopped immediately.

Whether we could continue nuclear power generation or should stop it immediately is an extremely important issue for us, because the issue affects our lives, the image of Japan and would also affect tourist industry.

As a matter of fact, Japan is currently faring without nuclear power generation. As a reality, it is a zero nuclear power status.

When we discuss the issue, a comprehensive and realistic examination is important, without prejudice to nuclear power generation. (We may also have to examine the possible employment question of the personnel currently working at nuclear power plants if all the plants are to be demolished at once.)

It is also indispensable to discuss and examine the energy scheme as a whole with concrete numbers on the table.

If we replace the nuclear power generation with thermal power generation (coal or petroleum), we would have to do something about our CO2 reduction target. Of course, we would also consider the fuel cost question.

For our future, we should accelerate our efforts to explore the practical use of natural renewable energies (sun, wind, water, geothermal, ocean current, etc.).

The Government must show to the people the scientific and technological information about them, and try to enhance an understanding about them.

The Government should allocate more budget to the development of natural renewable energies for practical use.

I would expect that would lead to producing a new energy system replacing the current system of nuclear power generation. Thus, Japan would be in a position to export the new energy system to the world, instead of nuclear power plant.

If we could (I believe we can) develop storage battery technology with further help of the Government, it will enable Japan to lead the world in the field of electric vehicles in the future. Isn’t it a nice dream?

Let women advance in Japan

(English translation of post November 19)

At the confirmation hearing in Washington, Ms. Caroline Kennedy mentioned that enhancement of women’s activity is her priority matter together with education exchanges.

How we can enhance female activity is extremely important for Japan’s future vitality. There are many things to be done in this area.

For example, although women do better than men in written part of government officials examination for service, through interview process, men eventually outnumber women in passing the exam. Is it fair?

Why women’s advance in society is not easy in Japan?

One reason could be that women tend to resign from work after getting married. Another reason could be related to the cultural climate of Japan that most men still do not do much housekeeping. Moreover, it is still usually hard for women to return to her workplace after maternity leave. It is difficult to manage both a career and a family in such a Japanese system.

 Any solution?

 Asking companies to make it easier for women to return to their job after maternity leave is of course indispensable. But it is not enough.

 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided to aim for the policy to extend the maternity leave to be granted until a child reaches the age of 3 (now 1 and a half years) and to increase the number of day-care centers in five years so that there will be no waiting children.

 Incidentally, the DPJ (the Democratic Party of Japan) Administration increased the number of day-care centers while they were in power. The number increased from 22,925 in 2009 to 23,069 in 2010, and it increased to 23,385 in 2011, and to 23,711 in 2012. (Source: Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare Press Releases)

 It is to be noted that the City of Yokohama actually achived their target to make the number of waiting children zero by doubling the number of day-care centers run by companies.

 The experiences of Sweden and France should also be noted.

 In Sweden, it is said that the ratio of women in the management is more than 30%. This may be because of the fact that the Swedish social security system is composed not on family unit but rather on individual unit. Incidentally, at a Swedish company in Japan, you not only enjoy a maternity leave, but also ‘daddy leave.’ You are also encouraged to take all paid holidays.

 I hear that in France PACS helped women advance in the society by extending public support even to the unmarried couples.

 To grapple the issue fundamentally, it is of utmost important to raise consciousness regarding this issue through education.