United States military base in Okinawa, Japan damages coral


This video is about diving at the coral reefs around Okinawa, Japan.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Japan: Onaga demands air base plans halted

Tuesday 24th March 2014

OKINAWA governor Takeshi Onaga instructed Japan’s Defence Ministry yesterday to suspend work at the proposed site of a US air base.

Mr Onaga claimed a concrete anchor thrown into the sea for a drilling survey of a reef at the designated site had damaged coral.

He took office four months ago after winning an election over a predecessor who had allowed the Henoko site to be developed to relocate the base.

Mr Onaga said the prefecture needed to conduct an independent survey to assess the damage and demanded the ministry stop activity in a week.

The central government’s effort to gain Okinawa’s understanding had been “insufficient,” he said.

But Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the survey should proceed regardless of the order.

The relocation is intended to address safety and nuisance concerns.

But Okinawans want the Futenma air base moved off the island completely and warn the construction would endanger marine life.

Australian government helps reviving Japanese Kempeitai secret police


This video is about the history of the Kempeitai, the Japanese military secret police during World War II.

By Peter Symonds:

Australian spies assist Japan’s plans for intelligence agency

23 March 2015

In a front-page article on Saturday, the Australian revealed that the country’s overseas spy agency, ASIS, has been assisting in the training of Japanese agents and the reestablishment of a centralised foreign intelligence apparatus in Japan akin to the CIA or Britain’s MI6.

The re-establishment of a foreign intelligence agency is bound up with the revival of Japanese militarism, which is being encouraged by Washington as part of its “pivot to Asia” and military build-up against China. ASIS’s involvement demonstrates just how closely Canberra is intertwined with US war plans, which rely heavily on its allies in Asia, especially Japan and Australia.

The Japanese government signalled last month that it intended to accelerate the creation of an overseas intelligence body. Seizing on the killing of two Japanese citizens by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militias, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared that it was vital “to strengthen the government’s intelligence functions” to inform “the state’s strategic decision-making.”

Japan’s notorious military intelligence agencies and internal secret police were dismantled following World War II under the US occupation. Intelligence operations continued, in collaboration with the CIA, through several agencies. Over the past two decades, however, the push for a centralised body has continued to mount. In 2006, a parliamentary committee report called for a new agency operating from Japanese embassies to collect foreign intelligence and another to perform centralised intelligence analysis.

The Australian explained: “Since 2008, members of Japan’s national security community have been travelling to Australia to be trained by ASIS so that Japan can slowly build up its espionage capability.” According to the newspaper, at least 20 Japanese agents have been trained, including several at ASIS’s highly secretive training centre on Swan Island in Victoria where exercises also involve elite Special Air Service (SAS) trainers.

The ASIS training has been critical to the Japanese intelligence apparatus which lacked foreign agents schooled in all dirty tricks and subterfuge of so-called spy craft. A WikiLeaks cable recorded a 2008 conversation in which Hideshi Mitani, the director of Japan’s Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office, told Randall Fort, head of the US State Department’s bureau of intelligence, that a “human intelligence collection capability” was a priority.

“The decision has been made to go very slowly with this process as the Japanese realise that they lack knowledge, experience, and assets/officers. A training process for new personnel will be started very soon,” the US cable read. Undoubtedly, Japanese spies have received training from the CIA and other allied agencies.

The re-establishment of a foreign spy agency is deeply unpopular in Japan. During the 1930s and 1940s, military intelligence services were intimately involved Japan’s wars and in suppressing opposition to the colonial occupation of Korea, China and other countries. The secret police in Japan ruthlessly cracked down on domestic opposition, especially from the working class, to the militarist regime in Tokyo.

The US think tank Stratfor noted that “persistent anti-militarist sentiments” remained a major obstacle to the establishment of a new spy agency. “The Japanese constitution famously contains an article, Article 9, that forbids the use of war to solve international conflicts. Though there is no intelligence equivalent to Article 9 forbidding a clandestine intelligence service, in the eyes of the public, intelligence and militarism are deeply intertwined. Memories of World War II still run deep,” it commented.

The Abe government is remilitarising across the board. Since coming to office, Abe has increased military spending, established a National Security Council to centralise foreign policy and strategic affairs, “reinterpreted” Article 9 to allow Japan to participate in US wars, and is campaigning for an end to all constitutional restrictions on the military. While the training of Japanese spies has been taking place for years, moves to re-establish a centralised overseas intelligence service will also speed up.

Currently, Japanese intelligence activities are dispersed between various agencies: the Cabinet Intelligence Research Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Defence Intelligence Headquarters, the National Police Agency and the Public Security Intelligence Agency.

Abe’s ambition to forge a powerful spy agency is bound up with his determination to have the means to aggressively prosecute Japanese imperialism’s economic and strategic interests—whether or not they coincide with those of the US. A Japanese intelligence apparatus would reduce Tokyo’s current dependence on the CIA and other Western spy agencies that developed during the Cold War.

According to the Australian, “the proposal to train the [Japanese] spies was put by ASIS boss Nick Warner and approved by the previous Labor government.” As Australian governments, Labor and Coalition, have integrated more and more closely into the US “pivot to Asia,” the US has also encouraged closer military and strategic ties between its two closest allies.

During a visit to Tokyo last year, Coalition Prime Minister Tony Abbott held discussions on elevating “the bilateral security and defence relationship to a new level.” Abbott and Abe resolved to reach “a framework agreement” on cooperation on military science, technology and equipment. The deal was to pave the way for the possible multi-billion dollar purchase of Japanese Soryu submarines to replace the aging Australian submarine fleet.

Abbott foreshadowed even closer military cooperation. “We want to see more interoperability between our militaries, we want to see more exercises between our militaries, we want to see over time more significant intelligence co-operation,” he said.

The Australian’s foreign editor Greg Sheridan sought to play down the significance of the newspaper’s revelation about ASIS’s training of Japanese spies. “It is good news that Japan is building a foreign intelligence agency and that the previous Labor government offered Australia’s assistance in training its personnel … There is nothing sinister about this.”

The opposite is the case. It is one element in the far broader preparations of the US, Japan and Australia as well as other allies and strategic partners for a war with China that would have devastating consequences for the working class in Asia and internationally.

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Japan pushes forward with plans for overseas intelligence agency
[12 March 2015]

Butterflies flying again


This video says about itself:

Scarce Tortoiseshell Feeds on Oak Sap ヒオドシチョウがミズナラ樹液を吸汁

9 February 2014

A Scarce Tortoiseshell (aka Yellow-legged Tortoiseshell; Nymphalis xanthomelas japonica, family Nymphalidae) feeding on the fermenting sap of an oak tree (Quercus crispula, family Fagaceae). October 2013 in Japan.

Translated from the Dutch butterfly foundation:

Monday, March 9th, 2015

It was a beautiful sunny weekend and that was evident from the butterflies flocking, having left their wintering areas. Many people on Saturday and especially on Sunday saw their first butterfly of 2015. The brimstone was absolutely the most frequent species, but most special were the six scarce tortoiseshells.

Nearly 1500 brimstone butterflies were seen on 7-8 March.

Scarce tortoiseshells are an east European and Asian species. Last year, they were seen in the Netherlands for the first time. It turns out now that some have survived the winter.

Japanese government lies on ‘comfort women’, people protest


This video from South Korea says about itself:

“Herstory” Comfort Women Animation – English

15 January 2014

Produced with actual voices of the victims of the Japanese Military’s ‘Comfort Women‘ [policy].

By Ben McGrath:

Opposition to Japanese government’s lies on “comfort women”

27 February 2015

Opposition to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s attempt to whitewash the history of the Japanese military’s war crimes has emerged in Japan and also the United States. Earlier this month, a group of American historians issued a statement criticizing the Abe government’s attempts to pressure a US publishing company McGraw-Hill to amend its textbook’s treatment of so-called “comfort women.”

During the 1930s and 1940s, some 200,000 Korean, Chinese and other women were coerced into sex slavery in “comfort stations” established for Japanese officers and soldiers. Abe and other right-wing nationalists falsely claim that the women were not forced but willingly acted as prostitutes. This revision of history is bound up with the government’s plans to remilitarize and to end the current constitutional restrictions on the dispatch of the Japanese military in overseas interventions and wars.

Abe’s efforts to rewrite history could cloud plans for him to address a joint session of the US Congress, which, according to the Japan Times last weekend, could take place in late April. He would become the first Japanese prime minister to speak to Congress since 1961 when Hayato Ikeda addressed the House of Representatives. Abe’s grandfather, Nobsuke Kishi, also spoke before Congress as prime minister in 1957.

A bipartisan group of US lawmakers who visited Japan last week raised questions about Abe’s view of history. Democrat Congresswoman Diana DeGette warned that the issues surrounding World War II “could really put some cracks in the relationship… It’s really important that Japan not be seen as backtracking… on the comfort women issue and some other issues around the end of the war.”

Republican congressman James Sensenbrenner told the Wall Street Journal that Abe’s “revisionist history” was hurting “Japan’s standing with its neighbors. That has to be cooled down.” His warning reflects concerns in Washington that the Abe government’s whitewash of Japanese war crimes was undermining relations with South Korea, the other major US ally in North East Asia.

Regardless of these misgivings, Abe’s congressional address appears to be going ahead. The Obama administration regards Tokyo as a crucial ally in its “pivot to Asia” and military build-up throughout the Indo-Pacific region against China.

It should be noted that the criticisms of Abe’s stance on Japan’s atrocities are rather hypocritical. The US political establishment remains silent on its own crimes during World War II, including the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians in the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the firebombing of Tokyo and other Japanese cities.

Within Japan, right-wing nationalist groups continue to wage a vicious campaign against the Asahi Shimbun after it retracted a series of articles last August based on the testimony of Seiji Yoshida, a former soldier, who claimed to have forcibly rounded up “comfort women” on Korea’s Jeju Island. Yoshida later admitted that he had made up parts of his story, which has been seized on to claim there is no evidence that women were coerced into sex slavery and to demand the retraction of Japan’s 1993 Kono statement—a formal, but limited apology over the abuse of “comfort women.”

In an interview last month with the Asia-Pacific Journal, Yoshiaki Yoshimi, a leading historian on comfort women, said in, “As early as 1993 at the latest, no one took seriously Yoshida’s testimony claiming that he had witnessed the Japanese Army’s forcible relocation of women in Jeju Island. The Kono Statement was not based on Yoshida’s testimony. Nor do scholars researching the comfort women issue draw on it for their argument. In short, Asahi’s retraction of Yoshida’s testimony due to its falsity should not affect the discussion.”

Other former Japanese soldiers have provided evidence of the military’s system of sexual slavery. Masayoshi Matsumoto, currently 92, has spoken out against the crimes he witnessed as an army medic. “I feel like a war criminal. It is painful to speak of such things and I would rather cover it up. It is painful, but I must speak,” he said in a 2013 interview with Reuters.

In a more recent interview in the Asia-Pacific Journal in October 2014, Matsumoto described working at a base in Yu County in Shanxi Province in China during the war. “Our battalion had approximately one thousand men. We took about 5 or 6 ‘comfort women’ with us. I was a corpsman…I had to help the army doctor to do tests for venereal disease on comfort women.”

After describing the instruments and testing methods, Matsumoto said, “These [women] had definitely not arrived there of their own will. Nobody would be willing to travel to such a remote area. The money was handled by Japanese civilians employed by the military, who took care of the women.”

Matsumoto made clear that rape of captured village women was rampant and that the setting up of the “comfort stations,” where soldiers forced women to have sex, was an attempt to curb the spread of disease among the troops. Matsumoto described finding several women in a captured village.

“When we raided a village, there happened to be some villagers left behind. Normally during a raid all the villagers would flee. Among them were seven or eight women. The soldiers grabbed them and took them away to the barracks. Knowing that they would be killed if they resisted, these women came along without resisting. The women were made to live inside the barracks, and whenever the soldiers felt like it they would visit them to have sex,” he said.

Matsumoto explained why he spoke out: “While reading all kind of things, I realized that if we don’t face our past squarely, we’re bound to repeat the same mistakes. When I look at Abe, I think he’s starting to do exactly that. Someone needs to speak up.” Asked about Abe’s claim that there was no coercion of women, Matsumoto responded: “Such a thing is not true! It’s…nonsense. A lie.”

The evidence proving that the Japanese army engaged in the wide-scale and systematic coercion of women into its “comfort stations” is not limited to such personal accounts, but has been found in wartime documents unearthed by historians. Nevertheless Matsumoto’s first-hand testimony is not only telling refutation of Abe’s lies but also points to the fact that the whitewashing of war crimes is the preparation for new ones.