Defending Japan

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Posts Tagged ‘Seiji Maehara

Maehara Gets It

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Locations of the 17 abduction incidents
Locations of the 17 abduction incidents (source: Government’s Rachi Mondai site)

After years of being bogged down by the abduction issue in the Six-Party Talks, Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara seems to understand that it can’t continue.

Whereas top Japanese and North Korean diplomats could sit face-to-face with each other to discuss the abductions at the six-party nuclear talks, the multilateral dialogue is for discussing Pyongyang’s nuclear program, he said.

“Basically, the abduction and missile issues should be resolved by Japan through direct negotiations with North Korea regardless of the six-party talks,” Maehara said.

If the Japanese government follows through on Maehara’s words, it will have been a long time coming. I first blogged about this problem 3 years ago, and by then it had already gone on too long. If Japan cannot keep the abduction issue (at the least) in bi-lateral talks, then it will devalue its role in multilateral forums.

Let’s just hope that Maehara can make good on that statement.


For more information on the abduction issue, check out some of my old posts on the topic at (now-defunct) Abduction Politics:

Mysterious Circumstances: Part 1 [Jan 31, 2007]
Mysterious Circumstances: Part 2 [Feb 3, 2007]
Abduction Issue Bonanza! [Oct 9, 2007]
The Abduction Issue and Japanese Long-Term Strategic Trajectory [Jan 21, 2008]
Logos vs Pathos: Emotion and Reason in Japan’s Abduction Issue [Feb 26, 2008]
Hardly a Coincidence… [May 20, 2008]


Written by James

2011/01/17 at 20:00

Weekend Summary: Jan 9 2011

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Kim Jong-il bring happiness into our blogs
Is Kim Jong-il laughing at us?
by Borut Peterlin via Flickr

North Korea offers unconditional talks

On Jan 5, the North Korea’s state media carried an open-armed call for the resumption of reunification talks.

“It is the review of the past three years that the issue of inter-Korean relations can never be solved by confrontation but it only sparks off an armed clash and war.

In order to mend the north-south relations now at the lowest ebb …. We call for an unconditional and early opening of talks between the authorities having real power and responsibility, in particular.

[…] We are ready to meet anyone anytime and anywhere, letting bygones be bygones, if he or she is willing to go hands in hands with us.

For the great cause of the nation present is more important than yesterday and tomorrow is dearer than present.”

Although Prof. Kim Yong Hyun of Dongguk University in Seoul called it “a message targeted at China and the US,” the US was skeptical, however some suggest the offer led to US and South Korean military units standing down from their special standby alert status.

For his part, Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara suggested that “if North Korea takes concrete steps, there is no reason for us to reject the reopening of the six-party talks as China has proposed.” There remains, of course, the ever-present worry that entering talks will simply give the North Koreans the attention they wanted. He also planned to “strengthen cooperation with China and Russia” by dispatching Akitaka Saiki, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau and Japan’s top envoy to the six-party talks, to Beijing and Moscow to ask for their cooperation.

Whatever North Korea’s motives, all sides understand that dialogue must be continued in the future, the real question is under what framework should we talk, and who should be at the table.

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Maehara and Clinton
by #PACOM via Flickr


Maehara and Clinton meet

On Jan 7, Maehara met US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and South Korean Foreign and Trade Minister Kim Sung Hwan in the US for discussions on US-Japan security. They agreed to review the “Common Strategic Objectives” drawn up in 2005 with China’s naval advances in mind, as well as to cooperate in resource security following the China’s rare earth gambits.

Maehara and Clinton also discussed Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the thorny issue of the Marine Corps air base at Futenma.  Maehara apparently told Clinton that Japan was working “to obtain the [Okinawa Prefecture’s] consent,’ which was taken to be a plea for US understanding of Japan‘s stance of not setting a deadline for settlement of the issue. Coincidentally, DPJ Secretary-General Katsuya Okada began a two-day visit to Okinawa today to discuss the Futenma problem with locals.

After meeting with Clinton, Maehara and Kim met National Security Advisor Tom Donilon where discussion of the North Korea issue continued.

Members of a Chinese military honor guard marc...
The People’s Liberation Army
via Wikipedia


Concerns rise over China’s role in the world

After the flurry of news from China’s military over the New Year period, the hand-wringing continues. The J-20 is big news, picked up by the Wall Street Journal and CNN. It’s been thoroughly examined, as much as grainy photos allow, and used as a stick to bash the Pentagon’s recently announced budget cuts.

There has been further worry that China now has a taste for aircraft carriers. After the earlier news that the carrier formerly known as Varyag was now up and running, a Hong Kong businessman seems intent on buying the former jewel of the British Royal Navy, HMS Invincible. The move has understandably raised concerns in defence circles.

However, the real worrying news came from a Kyodo News press release that China would “consider launching a preemptive nuclear strike if the country finds itself faced with a critical situation in a war with another nuclear state.” If true, this would be contrary to China’s long-standing commitment to never consider pre-emptive nuclear strikes. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei denied the report and labelled the report “groundless and out of ulterior motives.” It seems that the ‘documents’ that Kyodo News used for their reports may be more than five years old, and while the authors were from the PLA, it is unclear how official this debate has been, let alone whether it has been adopted or not.

Presumably, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will discuss this issue during his three-day visit to China this month to try to increase the rising powers transparency by encouraging dialogue, particularly between the two countries’ militaries. There will be plenty more to discuss, but there is some concern that the diplomatic front will have little effect on China’s expanding military. Gates will drop by Japan and South Korea after his visit, and Chinese President Hu Jintao will visit Washington on Jan 19.

Meanwhile, China and Japan met to discuss counterterrorism cooperation and French counter-intelligence began an informal investigation of  possible Chinese industrial espionage at Renault, a French car manufacturer.

USS Carl Vinson on patrol in the Pacific 2003-...
USS Carl Vinson
via Wikipedia


Small Print:

Where is Kim Jong Un, the Dear Leader’s alleged successor?

Japan confirms it will run in the election for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for 2012-13. Japan first publicly stated its desire for permanent seat since 1968 (see Ch. 19 in Japan’s International Relations, edited by Glenn D Hook [2005]).

USS Carl Vinson, a Nimitz-class nuclear powered aircraft carrier, will be conducting exercises in Japanese waters in the East China Sea on Jan 10. The drills with the MSDF will include communications and cross-decking practice. Some say that the Carl Vinson will be covering for the George Washington which is dock-bound for maintenance.

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Written by James

2011/01/09 at 22:00

Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara at CSIS

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Japan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs has been a busy man of late. On his trip to the US to meet US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other officials, he dropped by the Center for Strategic and International Studies to give a lecture on Japan in the world, touching on its relationship with the US (including Okinawa), the issue of North Korea, and development. If you can get past the staccato reading pace (but kudos for giving the talk in English), then it works as an overview of Japan’s goals for the coming year (more about this in tonight’s Weekend Update – watch this space).

See more of these speeches, and enjoy CSIS’s analysis at their site.

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Written by James

2011/01/09 at 18:00

Posted in People

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Mid-Week Summary: Jan 5 2011

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Aearial view of Kadena Air Base on Okinawa
Aerial view of Kadena Air Base via Wikipedia

Japan, US agree to relocate F-15 training from Kadena to Guam

This is part of a large move relocating forces from Okinawa to Guam, but is only a minor victory for the Japanese government who remain unable to effect any larger move.


US drops AEGIS system software upgrade development collaboration with Japan

The US was unwilling to give Japan the right to approve US sales of the software, which could have included Taiwan. Japan’s strict interpretation of its arms export control laws have effectively banned arms exports except for collaboration with the US.

The export of technologies which are exclusively related to the design, production and use of “arms” as defined in paragraph 5 above (hereinafter referred to as the “military technologies”) is treated in the same manner as the export of “arms.” However, in order to ensure the effective operation of the Japan-United States security arrangements, the Government of Japan paved the way for the transfer of the military technologies to the United States as an exception to the Three Principles. [MOFA]

The US will continue development on its own.


Maehara hopes for dialogue with North Korea, abduction issue still holds precedence

With US Ambassador Stephen Bosworth in town, East Asia is talking about how they should engage North Korea. The North Korean abduction of Japanese citizens in the 1960s – 1980s has been a major sticking point both  bi-lateral working groups and the six-party framework more broadly. With North Korea adamant that the issue is resolved, Maehara seems a little too optimistic.


Strong hopes for bi-lateral meeting between ROK and Japanese Defense Minister

The media has been abuzz with talk of closer cooperation between Japan and South Korea in areas of security and defence. In a New Year’s interview, Maehara was mistakenly quoted – so he says – as saying, “I hope that Japan will form an alliance with South Korea also in the field of security”, but the optimism still stands.

During his visit next week, Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa will propose that the two countries provide operational logistical support (Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement), hold more high-level defence meetings, and share intelligence on North Korea (General Security of Military Information Agreement). The Korean reaction, however, is more reserved.

Meanwhile, the US is prodding both sides of the virtual alliance to engage in tri-lateral exercises. Good luck with that.


Santa brings China some new toys: an aircraft carrier, a next-generation fighter, a diesel submarine and a land-based anti-ship ballistic missile.

The Shi Lang carrier, formerly Soviet Navy Varyag, might be launched in July. Although it most likely be used to train carrier pilots until China can produce its own carrier (ONI estimate: 2015). The Yuan-class submarine also surfaced for a few photos.

With news of the DF-21D anti-ship missile reaching initial operational capacity is sending shivers down the spines of China hawks. The land-based ballistic missile will give the PLA green-water area denial capabilities that would cause problems in the event of a cross-Straits crisis.

Finally, images of a J-20 fifth generation fighter taxiing has caused much skepticism and speculation among defence blogs, but all we know is that it’s big and can roll around an airfield.

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Written by James

2011/01/05 at 22:00