Japanese government among world’s worst press freedom violators


This video says about itself:

Press Freedom in Japan in 2016 | Tokyo on Fire

19 December 2015

Japan passed a controversial State Department Secrets law in December of 2013 that has ever since been met with significant resistance. One of the most contentious points is that it punishes both distributers and recipients of SDS material (so, a reporter and a newspaper publisher, for example) with a minimum of 2 years in jail and fine of ¥500,000. Get the details with Timothy, Michael, and Nancy on this important episode of Tokyo on Fire!

From the Los Angeles Times in the USA:

How Japan came to rank worse than Tanzania on press freedom

By Jake Adelstein

April 20, 2016

The state of press freedom in Japan is now worse than that in Tanzania, according to a new ranking from the non-profit group Reporters Without Borders.

A group which is usually favourably biased towards the political and economic establishments in NATO countries, and in other rich countries like Japan.

Japan came in 72nd of the 180 countries ranked in the group’s 2016 press freedom index, falling 11 places since last year. …

For Japan’s journalists, things have taken a turn for the worse relatively recently. Just six years ago, the country ranked 11th in the world.

In the graph which accompanies the Los Angeles Times article, the absolute monarchy Brunei is the worst in the world in decline in press freedom. Poland is third worst.

Japan’s poor performance on press freedom is particularly surprising given its standing as one of the world’s leading developed countries. The island nation of 125 million people has the world’s third-largest economy and a vibrant democracy whose postwar constitution guarantees freedoms of speech, press and assembly.

“With Japan hosting the G7 meeting next month of leading democracies, the press crackdown is an international black eye for Japan and makes it an outlier in the group,” said Jeff Kingston, a professor of history and director of Asian studies at Temple University and author of the book “Contemporary Japan: History, Politics, and Social Change since the 1980s.”

The 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant set the stage for the erosion of press freedoms, Kingston said. “Japan’s slide in the rankings began with the incomplete coverage of the Fukushima meltdowns and the government’s efforts to downplay the accident; Tokyo Electric Power Company (and Japan) denied the triple meltdown for two months,” he said. “Sadly, the Japanese media went along with this charade because here it is all about access. Those media outlets that don’t toe the line find themselves marginalized by the powers that be. Since [Fukushima], Japan’s culture wars over history, constitutional revision and security doctrine have been fought on the media battlefield.”

When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned for a second term in 2012, five years after he resigned abruptly amid growing unpopularity in 2007, his administration began cracking down on perceived bias in the nation’s media.

At first, the media didn’t hold back in criticizing his administration. The press lambasted Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso for saying that Japan should learn from the way the Nazi party stealthily changed Germany’s constitution before World War II. But critics say Aso’s suggestion foreshadowed things to come.

Two years ago, the Abe administration pushed through a state secrets bill ostensibly designed to prevent classified information from leaking to China or Russia. But the measure allows for journalists and bloggers to be jailed for up to five years for asking about something that is a state secret, even if they aren’t aware it is one. Thousands protested the law when it was passed on Dec. 6, 2013.

Abe’s friend, conservative businessman Katsuto Momii, became the head of Japan’s major public broadcasting company, NHK, in 2014, in a move that has compromised the independence of its reports. Momii has stated publicly that NHK “should not deviate from the government’s position in its reporting.”

Abe’s Liberal Democratic party also recently proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow the government to curtail speech that “harms the public interest and public order.”

In June 2015, members of the party urged the government to punish media outlets critical of the government and pressure companies not to advertise with them.

This year, Abe’s Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi threatened to shut down news broadcasters over “politically biased reports” — something TV and radio laws in Japan empower her to do.

A week later, three television presenters who had been critical of the Abe administration were all removed from their positions.

Veteran reporters in Japan have criticized Abe’s government for applying pressure to reporters, but also decry the increasing self-censorship going on in the country’s press. “To me, the most serious problem is self-restraint by higher-ups at broadcast stations,” Soichiro Tahara, one of the country’s most revered journalists, told reporters last month.

“The Abe administration’s threats to media independence, the turnover in media personnel in recent months and the increase in self-censorship within leading media outlets are endangering the underpinnings of democracy in Japan,” Reporters Without Borders concluded in its report released this month about declining media freedoms in Japan.

“Independence of the press is facing serious threats,” David Kaye, U.N. special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, said during a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Tuesday. “Many journalists who came to me and my team asked for anonymity in our discussions. Many claimed to have been sidelined or silenced following indirect pressure from politicians.”

The state originally invited Kaye to visit last December, but the trip was canceled abruptly after Japanese authorities claimed to be unable to set up meetings in time.

Kaye called for Japan’s Broadcast Law to be revised to ensure press freedom, and criticized Japan’s press club structure as detrimental to an independent press. In Japan, reporters are granted access through press clubs, or “kisha clubs,” formed around groups and government organizations. They serve as gatekeepers, and typically don’t grant access to weekly magazines, like Shukan Bunshun, which excel at investigative journalism.

“Journalists in those kisha clubs tend to be focused very much together in this same kind of social network. And I think that allows for mechanisms of pressure. It may be a kind of peer pressure that’s very difficult to resist,” Kaye said.

Whitewashing war crimes, attacking civil liberties in Japan


This video says about itself:

UN human rights panel calls on Japan to provide compensation to its wartime sex slavery victims

24 July 2014

A UN panel is urging Japan to provide a public apology and compensation to the victims of its wartime system of sex slavery.

The call comes as two elderly victims continue their mission in the United States to raise awareness about the horrors they faced.

Park Ji-won reports.

Two victims of Japan’s wartime system of sexual slavery visited the city of Glendale in California this week.

It’s where a monument dedicated to them and the thousands of other victims,… a bronze statue of a young girl dressed in traditional Korean clothing,… is set up.

“Please help us, the victims, receive an apology before we all die.”

Lee Ok-seon says she was abducted by Japanese soldiers when she was only 15,… and sent to a military brothel.

To this day,… the Japanese government denies its military operated the brothels, despite a huge amount of evidence that shows the military did.

The two women, now in their late 80s, spoke out against some Japanese Americans and Japanese officials who want the statue removed.

“They’re saying really inhumane things.”

Both women will stay in the U.S. for another couple of weeks.

They’ll travel to Virginia and New Jersey and to other monuments set up in memory of all those who suffered under Japan’s cruel system of sexual slavery.

Meanwhile, a UN panel is urging Japan to provide a public apology and compensation to the victims of its wartime sex slave victims before it’s too late.

The UN Human Rights Committee said Thursday that, after reviewing the records of several countries,… it’s concerned about the re-victimization of the former sex slavery victims.

The panel criticized the Japanese government for continuously denying its responsibility and even defaming the victims,… rather than taking the necessary steps to help them.

The committee, made up of 18 independent experts, also noted that every compensation claim brought by victims has been dismissed, and every call to ask for independent investigation on the sex slavery has been rejected in Japan.

Park Ji-won, Arirang News.

From the Japan Times:

Are forces of darkness gathering in Japan?

by Jeff Kingston

May 16, 2015

Certainly it’s worse in China, South Korean security recently beat demonstrators and Spain faces a blanket gag rule, but are concerns about the anti-democratic forces of darkness in Japan unduly alarmist? How bad can it be if protestors in Hibiya Park can carry placards depicting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as Adolf Hitler?

Bad enough, alas. New York Times Tokyo bureau chief Martin Fackler, among others, recently implicated Team Abe in getting Shigeaki Koga, a prominent Abe critic, axed from Asahi TV’s “Hodo Station” program.

“I am afraid that media organizations’ self-restraint is spreading and, as a result, accurate information is not reaching the public,” Koga said at a press conference, claiming he was the victim of a political vendetta and corporate media timidity.

Mindful of the orchestrated attacks on the Asahi’s news organs and fearful of right-wing reprisals, self-censorship is a growing problem. Columbia University’s Gerald Curtis told me about the recent cancellation of a planned television interview that was to take place in New York. The local correspondent informed him that the Japanese network’s management in Tokyo nixed the interview because it was going to assess how Abe has handled the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, and this topic was deemed too sensitive.

Curtis says the worrying lesson here is that “the government doesn’t have to muzzle the press if the press takes it upon itself to do the muzzling.”

But the government is taking no chances.

Conservative Abe cronies were appointed to NHK’s top management last year, and Katsuto Momii, a man without any media experience, was named chairman. He later declared to the press, “When the government is saying ‘Right’ we can’t say ‘Left.’”

Since Momii began promoting this curious vision at NHK, staff have complained that managers are strictly insisting on wording that hues to government views on controversial topics such as Yasukuni Shrine, disputed territories and the “comfort women.” To ensure conformity, NHK now publishes an internal censorship manual, called the “Orange Book,” banning the use of the term “sex slaves” and other phrases identified as problematic. NHK insiders told me that some recalcitrant staff suffered career derailments because they didn’t toe the line, including a group that openly called on Momii to step down.

There is no smoking gun, and it could be a routine staff rotation, but an apparent casualty of the purge is NHK’s “News Watch 9″ anchor Kensuke Okoshi, who has spoken out against nuclear power and committed other “transgressions.”

Controversy erupted last summer when Naoki Hyakuta, a best-selling writer and conservative on history issues, was handpicked by Abe to serve on NHK’s board of governors. Hyakuta criticized Okoshi’s on-air comments about ethnic Korean residents in Japan that were aired July 17, 2014. Okoshi said: “The first-generation Korean residents were those who were forcibly brought to Japan or moved to the country to seek jobs after the annexation of Korea in 1910. They had a lot of difficulties establishing their foundations for living.”

At the subsequent NHK board of governors meeting, Hyakuta reportedly asked: “Is it acceptable to say ethnic Korean residents are those who were forcibly taken by Japan? That is wrong.”

The acting chair informed Hyakuta that as a governor, comments about the content of an individual program violated the broadcasting law. Hyakuta has since resigned his position, complaining he wasn’t able to have any impact, but one can imagine that NHK staff felt his presence, and indeed Okoshi is no longer a newscaster despite being one of the most respected in the business.

“The systematic suppression of the press and freedom of speech by the Abe government and its functionaries is very, very disturbing in terms of its effects on the future course of Japan and its democracy,” says Ayako Doi, a journalist based in the United States who is currently an associate fellow of the Asia Society. In her view, things have gotten significantly worse under Abe. She cites the Liberal Democratic Party’s summons of Japanese media executives, the Japanese consul general in Frankfurt’s visit to the editors of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and a Foreign Ministry official’s visit to publisher McGraw-Hill in New York to ask for changes in the descriptions of Japan’s comfort women system of sexual slavery written in a U.S. history textbook.

“They have become more numerous, blatant and unapologetic,” she says, adding that the government is targeting both Japanese and non-Japanese critics alike.

Japan Times columnist Gregory Clark says the atmosphere of intimidation has become exceptionally “ugly,” attributing it to a “right-wing rebound and revenge.”

“Something strange is going on,” he says, citing recent attacks on progressive media. “Particularly given that Tokyo keeps talking about its value identification with the West.”

Well-placed sources in Washington previously told me that even overseas the Japanese government actively disparages Abe’s critics, something that Doi isn’t surprised by.

“It seems that under the Abe government, efforts to silence critics of his policies and interpretation of history have become systematic,” she says. “It now appears to be a concerted effort orchestrated by Kantei (the prime minister’s office).”

Japan’s right-wing media also engages in trans-Pacific intimidation. For example, a rightwing pundit slammed the National Bureau of Asian Research’s Japan-U.S. Discussion Forum, making groundless accusations about an anti-Japan bias. He also attacked the Japan Foundation’s Center for Global Partnership for sponsoring a research project regarding Sino-Japanese relations and history issues. This research project was deemed a waste of Japanese taxpayers’ money and some of the researchers were subject to defamatory attacks on their professional integrity. But it would be a sad day for Japanese democracy if the right wing gets to set the research agenda, pick the scholars and decide what they should conclude.

Clark himself was publicly defamed for his alleged anti-Japanese views because he raised some questions about government and media representations concerning the North Korean abductions of Japanese nationals. Following that, he says his university employer received a cascade of threatening letters demanding he be sacked.

“Requests to write articles for the magazines and newspapers I had long known dried up,” Clark says. “Invitations to give talks on Japan’s lively lecture circuit died overnight. One of Japan’s largest trading companies abruptly canceled my already-announced appointment as outside board director with the vague excuse of wanting to avoid controversy.”

Lamentably, he added, “You cannot expect anyone to come to your aid once the nationalistic right-wing mood creators, now on the rise, decide to attack you. Freedom of speech and opinion is being whittled away relentlessly.”

Exposing such orchestrated attacks and highlighting the dangers of self-censorship are all the more important in contemporary Japan because, as Doi puts it, media freedom is “sliding down a slippery slope” and it’s important to “speak out before the momentum becomes unstoppable.”

Jeff Kingston is the director of Asian Studies, Temple University Japan.

A group of 524 historians and other academics last week released a statement critical of the Japanese government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan and its whitewashing of past war crimes. They included 37 Western scholars, 105 from Japan, and 382 from South Korea. This latest statement follows similar ones earlier this year: here.

Japanese government whitewashes war crimes, historians criticize


This video says about itself:

Weekly Protests in Korea Keep Japanese WWII Atrocities Alive

28 January 2015

Every week in Seoul protesters gather in front of the Japanese Embassy to demand an apology and reparations from Tokyo for the thousands of South Korean women who were forced into prostitution during World War II. Although this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, these protestors have helped keep the issue of comfort women alive and made it difficult for Japan to move beyond its past wartime atrocities. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul.

By Ben McGrath:

Historians condemn Japan’s whitewashing of war crimes

11 May 2015

Last Tuesday, 187 prominent historians from universities in the United States, Canada, Australia and other countries published an open letter criticizing the Japanese government of Shinzo Abe for continuing to whitewash past war crimes.

The statement entitled, “Open Letter in Support of Historians in Japan,” takes aim at the Abe government’s stance on “comfort women,”—a euphemism for women coerced into becoming sex slaves for the Japanese army during the 1930s and 1940s. It calls for the defense of the “freedom of historical inquiry” in Japan and all countries against nationalistic distortions.

Among the signatories were notable historians such as Herbert Bix, professor emeritus at Binghamton University/State University of New York (SUNY), Ezra Vogel, professor emeritus at Harvard University, and Bruce Cumings from the University of Chicago. An earlier letter, released by 19 American historians in February, criticized Abe’s efforts to have references on comfort women altered in American university text books.

The comfort women system was established in the early 1930s. While the first women to be involved were Japanese, as the war spread throughout the Pacific, the military turned to its colonies, coercing poor women with phony promises of good jobs in factories. An estimated 200,000 women from Korea, China, the Philippines, and other Asian nations were then taken to brothels and prevented from leaving. Many committed suicide to escape their barbaric treatment.

The open letter stated: “The undersigned scholars of Japanese studies express our unity with the many courageous historians in Japan seeking an accurate and just history of World War II in Asia.” Historians, as well as journalists in Japan, who have published information on war crimes, have been criticized and in some cases threatened with violence by right-wing nationalists, who claim that comfort women were willing prostitutes and that stating otherwise is an affront to Japanese honor.

Yoshiaki Yoshimi, a leading Japanese historian on comfort women, received phone calls and letters threatening his life after he began publishing his research on comfort women in the 1990s. One such note read, “You must die.” In 1992, Yoshimi discovered extensive documents from the 1930s in the Japanese Ministry of Defense’s library (then called the Defense Agency), showing the military’s role in establishing “comfort stations” (military brothels) throughout Asia.

In January of this year, former Asahi Shimbun journalist Takashi Uemura filed a defamation lawsuit against Bungei Shunju, a publisher, and Tsutomu Nishioka, a right-wing professor at Tokyo Christian University and denier of the crimes against comfort women. Nishioka has accused Uemura of faking the information in his articles.

Uemura stated when he filed his lawsuit: “There is a movement in Japan to stop people who want to shine a light on the dark side of history, on the parts of the war that people don’t want to mention.”

Uemura first became the target of Japanese nationalists in 1991, following two articles he wrote on Kim Hak-sun, who is considered to be the first comfort woman to come forward. Uemura was accused of faking his stories and was attacked as the journalist who “fabricated the comfort woman issue.”

Condemnation of Uemura increased last August, following the Asahi Shimbun’s retraction of a series of articles on comfort women published in the 1980s and 1990s that referenced the accounts of Seiji Yoshida, a former soldier who claimed he had rounded up women during World War II in Korea. Historians had dismissed Yoshida’s story by the early 1990s, while emphasizing the clear evidence of the military’s role in establishing comfort stations.

Neither of Uemura’s articles relied on Yoshida’s story, but the retractions further opened the door for attacks on journalists and academics by right-wing nationalists like Nishioka. Not only was Uemura’s life threatened, but Hokusei University, where he is now employed, received bomb threats. Photos of Uemura’s teenage daughter also appeared online with calls to force the girl to commit suicide.

The Abe government strengthened the nationalists’ claims by calling into doubt the 1993 Kono Statement, a formal yet limited apology for the abuse of comfort women during the war in the Pacific, released by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono. In June 2014, Abe’s government released a report by five “experts” questioning whether women and young girls were coerced or forced into the military brothels.

Tuesday’s letter goes on to say, “[…] historians have unearthed numerous documents demonstrating the military’s involvement in the transfer of women and oversight of brothels. Important evidence also comes from the testimony of victims. Although their stories are diverse and affected by the inconsistencies of memory, the aggregate record they offer is compelling and supported by the official documents as well as by the accounts of soldiers and others.”

The letter also makes clear the fundamental difference between the comfort women system and justifications by Japanese nationalists that prostitution was common in other theaters of war: “Among the many instances of wartime sexual violence and military prostitution in the twentieth century, the ‘comfort women’ system was distinguished by its large scale and systematic management under the military, and by its exploitation of young, poor, and vulnerable women in areas colonized or occupied by Japan.” [emphasis added]

The open letter comes less than a week after Abe, the most right-wing Japanese prime minister in the postwar period, was warmly welcomed by Obama on a trip to the United States where the prime minister also made a speech to a joint session of Congress, the first Japanese premier to do so. The two sides agreed to new security guidelines to allow Japan to take part in the United States’ imperialist wars.

All of this is bound up with the United States’ “pivot to Asia,” designed to economically subordinate and militarily surround China. Japan has been encouraged by Washington to remilitarize and discard its postwar pacifist constitution, as well as to enflame territorial conflicts in the region. During Abe’s recent trip to the US, Obama once again promised to back Japan in a war with China over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.

While the historians’ letter fails to directly tie historical revisionism to preparations for war, that is the purpose of Abe’s campaign: to whip up Japanese nationalism to condition public opinion, particularly young people, for future conflicts.

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.

Japan upholds rule that married couples must have same surname. Court decision is a setback for campaigners who argued 19th-century law violates civil rights and in practice forces women to take their husband’s name: here.

Japanese taxpayers’ money to militarism, not to Fukushima survivors


This video says about itself:

14 January 2015

Japan’s Cabinet has approved the country’s largest ever defense budget, including plans to buy surveillance aircraft, drones and F-35 fighter jets.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

New budget gives ¥5trn to ‘defensive’ military

Wednesday 14th January 2015

THE cabinet approved Japan’s largest-ever defence budget today, spending nearly ¥5 trillion (£30 billion) on its military.

Shinzo Abe’s government plans to buy new F-35 fighters and surveillance planes from the United States and drones and amphibious vehicles for a new branch of the military mimicking the US Marines.

It also hopes to co-operate with Washington in developing an anti-missile system that could raise tensions in the east Asian region.

Mr Abe has increased military spending every year since he came to power in December 2012, following 11 straight years of defence budget cuts.

The right-wing PM has sought to amend Japan’s pacifist constitution and engaged in brinkmanship with China over islands claimed by both countries, forcing a government purchase of three disputed islands in 2012 that sparked massive protests in China.

But the Chinese response to the growing military budget was muted today, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei merely saying: “We hope Japan will reflect on its history and follow the path of peaceful development.”

See also here.

Obesity a growing problem among children in FukushimaThe Asahi Shimbun: here.

A worker at Japan’s destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant died on Tuesday, after the latest in a rising number of accidents at the plant. A second worker was crushed to death on the same day at the neighboring Fukushima Daini plant, also operated by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO): here.

The β radioactivity of snow-pit samples collected in the spring of 2011 on four Tibetan Plateau glaciers demonstrate a remarkable peak in each snow pit profile, with peaks about ten to tens of times higher than background levels. The timing of these peaks suggests that the high radioactivity resulted from the Fukushima nuclear accident that occurred on March 11, 2011 in eastern Japan. Fallout monitoring studies demonstrate that this radioactive material was transported by the westerlies across the middle latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. The depth of the peak β radioactivity in each snow pit compared with observational precipitation records, suggests that the radioactive fallout reached the Tibetan Plateau and was deposited on glacier surfaces in late March 2011, or approximately 20 days after the nuclear accident. The radioactive fallout existed in the atmosphere over the Tibetan Plateau for about one month: here.

Japanese government censorship on World War II crimes


This video says about itself:

Comfort Woman

Through painting, a Korean woman breaks her 50 years of silence on being forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Army during World War II.

By Ben McGrath:

Japanese ministers visit Yasukuni war shrine

24 October 2014

Three Japanese ministers visited the notorious Yasukuni Shrine on Saturday, continuing the push by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s right-wing government to revive militarism and whitewash the war crimes committed by the Japanese army during World War II. Saturday’s visit came a day after 110 lawmakers went to the shrine.

The ministers were Sanae Takaichi, the internal affairs and communication minister, Eriko Yamatani, the head of the National Public Safety Commission, and Haruko Arimura, the minister tasked with promoting female empowerment. All three women were added to Abe’s cabinet during the shakeup that took place in September.

Abe, who visited the shrine in December 2013, the first sitting prime minister to do so since Junichiro Koizumi in 2006, did not attend Yasukuni last weekend. However, he sent an offering, the third this year—along with one sent in spring and another on August 15, the anniversary of the end of World War II.

The Yasukuni Shrine is a symbol of Japanese militarism, where those who died in Japan’s wars, primarily World War II, are symbolically interred, including 14 class A war criminals. An associated museum has military displays and literature that downplay such crimes as the Nanjing massacre, during which the Japanese army murdered an estimated 300,000 captured Chinese soldiers and civilians in 1937.

The Chinese government released a statement, saying: “China would like to reiterate that Sino-Japan relations can only realize healthy and stable development when Japan seriously faces up to and repents of its aggressive past and disassociates itself with militarism.” While there are legitimate fears among working people about the re-emergence of Japanese militarism, the Beijing regime exploits those concerns to whip up Chinese nationalism.

Abe has held off going to the shrine this year in part so as not to exacerbate tensions with China. He is reportedly seeking a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping next month when Beijing will host a meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group. Since coming to office in December 2012, Abe has not met the Chinese leader.

Paying homage at the Yasukuni Shrine is just one aspect of Abe’s agenda of remilitarisation. His government has increased the military budget, established a National Security Council along the lines of its US counterpart, and “reinterpreted” the constitution to allow for “collective self-defence”—in reality, for Japan to join US wars of aggression.

The three ministers who visited the shrine all have ties to Japan Conference, an ultra-nationalist grouping founded by former elements of the imperial military, Shinto fundamentalists and other conservatives. The group calls for “patriotic values” to be taught in schools, while seeking to cover up the crimes of Japanese imperialism.

In line with this agenda, the government is trying to rewrite the history of the Japanese military’s systematic coercion of about 200,000 women from throughout Asia into military-run brothels in the 1930s and 1940s. Many of the women remained silent out of shame before beginning to come forward in the 1980s as light was shone on the extent of this war crime.

Last week, Japanese diplomat Kuni Sato asked Radhika Coomaraswamy, a former special UN rapporteur, to revise her 1996 report detailing the Japanese army’s abuse of so-called comfort women. Coomaraswamy rejected the request. Her report detailed the systematic sexual abuse committed by the military and called on Japan to formally apologize and pay compensation to the victims.

In calling for the revision, the Abe government seized on the decision last August by Asahi Shimbun, the leading liberal paper, to retract a series of articles dating back to 1982 on comfort women. The articles were based on the account of Seiji Yoshida, a former Japanese soldier, who wrote about his assignment to round up hundreds of women on Korea’s Jeju Island as sex slaves for the army. Before he died in 2000, Yoshida admitted to changing aspects of what happened, but did not withdraw his overall story.

Since the Asahi Shimbun’s retraction, Coomaraswamy’s report has come under attack from the extreme right in Japan. However, she stated that while her report cited Yoshida’s story, it was “only one piece of evidence,” with much of the report relying on the testimonies of “a large number of comfort women,” whom she interviewed.

South Korea’s foreign ministry spokesman No Gwang-il criticized the attempt to change the UN report, saying: “Historical truth cannot be concealed even if Japan tries to gloss over the sex slave issue. Only grave criticism from the international community will follow. Seoul will not tolerate Japan’s attempt to blur the truth of history.”

Japan’s right wing has long denied the military’s use of “comfort women” or claimed that the women were not coerced. The Abe government is seeking to revise a limited government apology over the Japanese military’s abuse of women issued in 1993, known as the Kono Statement. It released a report in June calling into question the testimonies of former Korean comfort women, collected before the statement’s release.

Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine last December was the signal for an ideological offensive on a broad front. He appointed a number of known right-wingers to the board of governors of NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster. In February, one appointee Naoki Hyakuta bluntly declared that the Nanjing massacre “never happened.”

Last Friday, the London-based Times reported that NHK banned the use of particular words and references related to the massacre, “comfort women” and the territorial dispute with China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. An October 3 document sets out guidelines for writers and translators preparing English-language material. The term “Nanjing Incident” must be used instead of Nanking Massacre. When referring to the comfort women, the words “sex slaves,” “brothels,” and “forced to” have been banned.

The Abe government’s use of the public broadcaster to pursue its militarist agenda was summed up earlier this year by NHK head Katsuto Momii, another Abe appointee. “It would not do for us to say ‘left’ when the government is saying ‘right,’” he said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent religious “masakaki” offerings yesterday to the controversial Yasukuni shrine that honours Japan’s second world war dead, including convicted war criminals. His decision to make masakaki offerings for the spring festival rather than attend in person to pray is thought to indicate caution because of his government’s efforts to mend relations with China: here.

Japanese women ministers sacked for being not extreme right enough


This video is about the extreme right in Japan.

BBC correspondent in Japan Mariko Oi writes:

Japanese people often fail to understand why neighbouring countries harbour a grudge over events that happened in the 1930s and 40s. The reason, in many cases, is that they barely learned any 20th Century history. I myself only got a full picture when I left Japan and went to school in Australia.

By Ben McGrath:

Two newly-appointed Japanese cabinet members resign

22 October 2014

Two ministers in the cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe resigned Monday after accusations of separate improprieties were leveled at the pair. Trade and Industry Minister Yuko Obuchi and Justice Minister Midori Matsushima resigned only hours apart from each other, after serving in their positions for less than two months. Abe appointed them as part of his September 3 cabinet shakeup.

The resignation of the two women so soon after their promotion to Abe’s cabinet is a sign of a further shift to the right in the government. While the alleged misconduct was the pretext for their departure, a lack of sufficiently right-wing credentials was far more likely to be the real reason.

Matsushima was accused on October 7 by opposition Democrat Party of Japan (DPJ) member Renho Murata of violating campaign laws by handing out paper fans over a three-year period. The fans carried Matsushima’s image as well as brief descriptions of her policies and reportedly cost about 75 cents. However, the DPJ accused her of handing out gifts to voters.

Matsushima stated after she resigned, “I feel sorry that my recent words and actions caused political and administrative stagnation.” She maintained, however, that she had broken no laws.

Sensing blood, the right-wing tabloid Shukan Shincho last Thursday leveled charges at Obuchi of misusing funds. She is accused of using 26 million yen ($245,600) in political funds to provide theater tickets for her supporters as well as having a support group purchase 3.6 million yen ($35,000) worth of goods from businesses run by her sister and brother-in-law.

Corruption charges and scandals, however, are routinely used in bourgeois politics in every country as a means of removing rivals and carrying out policy shifts. In the case of Obuchi, she appears to be have been targeted by the extreme right for being a “moderate.”

Obuchi, 40, was a rising star in the ruling Liberal Democrat Party (LDP), coming from a long line of LDP politicians. Her grandfather held a parliamentary seat and her father Keizo Obuchi is a former prime minister. Obuchi “inherited” her father’s seat, entering parliament in 2000. She became a cabinet minister in 2008 at the age of 34 and held the powerful Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) in the recent reshuffle. The Nukaga faction of the LDP to which she belonged was touting her as a possibility to become Japan’s first female prime minister.

Obuchi told the press on Monday that she was unaware of any wrongdoing. “As minister of METI, it’s unforgivable for my personal issues to cause economic policies and energy policies to stagnate. I resign here and would like to put all my effort into regaining everyone’s trust by investigating these doubts.”

Obuchi and Matsushima were among five women added to Abe’s cabinet last month. That figure was hailed by the bourgeois media as proof of Abe’s supposed commitment to gender equality. Rather, the purpose of the cabinet reshuffle was to solidify support for Abe as he prepared to ratchet up his agenda of remilitarizing Japan and attacking the working class.

Fifteen of the 19 cabinet ministers belonged to the far-right Japan Conference or Nippon Kaigi. Nippon Kaigi, founded in 1997, promotes the lie that Japanese imperialism “liberated” East Asia from the West in the run-up to World War II and denies the horrendous war crimes that occurred, such as the Rape of Nanking, in which estimated 300,000 Chinese soldiers and civilians were massacred. They also promote “patriotic values” in education and are opposed to gender equality.

Neither Obuchi nor Matsushima are members of Nippon Kaigi, unlike the other three women Abe selected in September: Sanae Takaichi, Eriko Yamatani, and Haruko Arimura. The three ministers visited the notorious Yasukuni war shrine on Saturday, a symbol of Japanese militarism.

Moreover, Shukan Shincho, which reported the allegations against Obuchi, is known for its militarist stance towards China and North Korea. Obuchi’s Nukaga faction is known to favour a more conciliatory approach and closer ties to Beijing.

Obuchi can only be considered “a moderate” within the context of an extremely right-wing cabinet. While not a member of Nippon Kaigi, she does belong another right wing grouping that advocates visits to the Yasukuni Shrine. Rather than visiting personally she usually sends one of her staff, an aide told Reuters.

Who exactly was involved in leaking details about Obuchi and Matsushima is not known. The result, however, is a cabinet that is more solidly committed to a right wing agenda of militarism, confrontation with China and austerity.

Significantly, two of the remaining female ministers—Internal Affairs Minister Sanae Takaichi and Eriko Yamatani, the head of the National Public Safety Commission—remain in their posts despite damning evidence of connections to ultra-right groups in Japan.

A photo of Takaichi posing with Kazunari Yamada, the leader of a neo-Nazi party in Japan, surfaced shortly after her appointment. Tomomi Inada, Abe ally and LDP policy chief also appeared in a photo with Yamada. Yamatani was seen in a photograph with Shigeo Masuki, a leading member of Zaitokukai, a group which has called for the killings of ethnic Koreans living in Japan.

Abe is increasingly unpopular as a result of declining living standards, his push to restart the country’s nuclear reactors and the government’s reinterpretation of the constitution to allow “collective self-defense,” that is, Japanese involvement in US wars of aggression.

Since coming to office, public support for Abe has fallen from 70 percent, which was largely due to anger with the DPJ, to 48.1 percent, including a decrease of 6.8 percent from September, according to Kyodo News.

Yet Abe is under pressure to implement more draconian economic measures. The economy shrank by 6.8 percent in the second quarter, leading to demands from big business to implement the second increase in the sales tax to 10 percent next October, and to slash the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent over the next few years.

Obuchi’s replacement at the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, Yoichi Miyazawa, is a former finance ministry official. This ministry has been demanding increased taxes to make up for the loss of corporate tax revenue, something which Miyazawa has strongly supported, while the METI opposed it.

The finance ministry supports increasing the sales tax which is opposed by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, one of Abe’s closest allies. The addition of Miyazawa to Abe’s cabinet is a clear indication that the government intends to impose new economic burdens onto the working class.

The overall agenda of the Abe government is an extremely right-wing one. As opposition grows, Abe and his ministers will no doubt further stir up nationalism and militarism, especially against China and North Korea, in a bid to project social tensions outward.

Japan’s new METI minister says will restart reactors deemed safe — Reuters: here.

Japanese government honours war criminals yet again


This video says about itself:

11 September 2013

Aug 15, 1945 – Japan officially surrendered and thereby ended World War II. Every year nationalistic rightwing groups gather to protest the Peace Anti-War demonstrators at the controversial Yasukuni Shrine. Yasukuni Shrine dates back to the mid-19th Century and it is a shrine for the souls of all those who died serving the Emperor. In 1978 the spirits of Class A war criminals were enshrined there and subsequent official government visits there have often sparked outrage with Asian countries who suffered from Japan’s actions in WWII.

On the anniversary of Japan’s surrender, a peace protest is organized which marches near the shrine.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

China protests at Japanese PM’s latest WW2 shrine tribute

Shinzo Abe sends ornaments to Yasukuni shrine, regarded by victims of wartime atrocities as symbol of militarism

Friday 17 October 2014 09.25 BST

China’s foreign ministry has expressed serious concern after the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, sent a ritual offering to Tokyo’s Yasukuni shrine, where war criminals are honoured among 2.5 million casualties from the second world war.

Dozens of legislators prayed at the site in the latest staging of a ceremony that has repeatedly drawn rebukes from Japan’s neighbours.

Yasukuni honours war criminals, including Hideki Tojo, among the millions it commemorates. Many Asian victims of Japan’s wartime atrocities, especially China and the Koreas, see the shrine as a symbol of militarism.

“China is seriously concerned about and resolutely opposed to the negative tendencies which have appeared in Japan regarding the Yasukuni shrine,” the Chinese foreign ministry said.

Abe last visited Yasukuni in December, triggering anger from China and South Korea. On Friday, he sent a set of Shinto-style masakaki ornaments to mark the shrine’s autumn festival, one of three major events when Japan’s conservatives come to pray there.

The chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said Abe made the gesture as a private citizen based on his personal belief.

A group of 110 legislators and 80 aides prayed at the shrine for the war dead. Cabinet members were mostly expected to stay away. The internal affairs and communications minister, Sanae Takaichi, told reporters she would attend, while Yauhisa Shiozaki, the minister of health, labour and welfare, offered religious ornaments similar to Abe’s.

Not really surprising for Ms Takaichi, as she has connections to open neo-nazis.

Abe is in Italy for the Asia-Europe meeting and is scheduled to return to Japan on Saturday.

Nagasaki mayor criticizes Japanese government militarism


This video is called Shock Doctrine in Japan: Shinzo Abe‘s Rightward Shift to Militarism, Secrecy in Fukushima’s Wake.

From Associated Press:

Japanese defence policy questioned on 69th anniversary of atomic bombing

Mari Yamaguchi

Published Saturday, August 9, 2014 7:59AM EDT

TOKYO — The mayor of Nagasaki on Saturday criticized Prime Minister Shinzo Abe‘s push toward Japan’s more assertive defence policy, as the city marked the 69th anniversary of the atomic bombing.

In his “peace declaration” speech at the ceremony in Nagasaki’s Peace Park, Mayor Tomihisa Taue urged Abe’s government to listen to growing public concerns over Japan’s commitment to its pacifist pledge.

Thousands of attendants, including U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and a record number of representatives from 51 countries, offered a minute of silence and prayed for the victims at 11:02 a.m., the moment the bomb was dropped over Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945, as bells rang. They also laid wreaths of white and yellow chrysanthemums at the Statue of Peace.

The U.S. dropped two atomic bombs on Japan in August 1945, prompting Tokyo’s World War II surrender. The first on Hiroshima killed 140,000 people and the Nagasaki bomb killed another 70,000.

The anniversary comes as Japan is divided over the government’s decision to allow its military to defend foreign countries and play greater roles overseas by exercising what is referred to as collective self-defence. To achieve that goal, Abe’s Cabinet revised its interpretation of Japan’s war-renouncing constitution.

Pacifism, enshrined in the constitution, is the “founding principle” of postwar Japan and Nagasaki, Taue said.

“However, the rushed debate over collective self-defence has prompted concern that this principle is shaking,” he said. “I strongly request that the Japanese government take note of the situation and carefully listen to the voices of distress and concerns.”

Polls show more than half of respondents are opposed to the decision, mainly because of sensitivity over Japan’s wartime past and devastation at home.

Representing the Nagasaki survivors, Miyako Jodai, 75, said that Abe’s government was not living up to expectations.

Jodai, a retired teacher who was exposed to radiation just 2.4 kilometres (1.5 miles) from ground zero, said that the defence policy that puts more weight on military power was “outrageous” and a shift away from pacifism.

“Please stand by our commitment to peace. Please do not forget the sufferings of the atomic bombing survivors,” Jodai said at the ceremony.

The number of surviving victims, known as “hibakusha,” was just more than 190,000 this year across Japan. Their average age is 79. In Nagasaki, 3,355 survivors died over the past year, while 5,507 passed away in Hiroshima.

Abe kept his eyes closed and sat motionless as he listened to the outright criticism, rare at a solemn ceremony.

In his speech, he did not mention his defence policy or the pacifist constitution. He repeated his sympathy to the victims and said Japan as the sole victim of nuclear attacks has the duty to take leadership in achieving a nuclear-free society, while telling the world of the inhumane side of nuclear weapons.

The speech had minor tweaks from last year’s, after Abe faced criticism that the speech he delivered in Hiroshima on Thursday was almost identical to the one from the previous year, Kyodo News reported.

See also here.

Nuclear Attack on Japan was Opposed by American Military Leadership: here.

The Japanese government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe released its latest defence white paper this week, setting the stage for further boosting Japan’s military capacities, directed unmistakeably against China: here.

Pope Francis calls for global ban on nukes in Nagasaki visit: here.

Australia’s Abbott helps Japanese militarism


This video from the USA is called Shock Doctrine in Japan: Shinzo Abe‘s Rightward Shift to Militarism, Secrecy in Fukushima‘s Wake.

By Patrick O’Connor in Australia:

Australia and Japan extend military ties

9 April 2014

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott used his visit to Japan on Monday to reach an agreement with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to “elevate the bilateral security and defence relationship to a new level.”

Abbott and Abe discussed expanding combined Australian-Japanese military training and improving “interoperability” between the two countries’ militaries. They also resolved to reach a “framework agreement” on cooperation on military science, technology, and equipment, with initial joint research developed on submarine-related technology. Japanese and Australian defence and foreign ministers are due to meet in Tokyo in June to work out further arrangements. “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,” Abbott declared.

Few details have been released on what the “framework agreement” on technology and equipment will entail, but the Sydney Morning Herald reported that it “will facilitate the development of cutting edge military science, and even the exchange of new generation weapons between the two countries.”

The discussions and agreements underscore Japan and Australia’s active collaboration with Washington’s drive to militarily encircle and diplomatically isolate China. Both right-wing governments, behind the backs of the Australian and Japanese people, have supported the Obama administration as it leads the preparations to wage war against China in order to preserve the strategic dominance of US imperialism and its allies.

Abbott’s meeting with Abe formed part of a regional tour of Japan, South Korea, and China. Billed by the government as a “trade tour”, Abbott has led a delegation of government ministers and corporate executives to the three Asian countries. The trip was timed to coincide with the announced agreement of an Australia-Japan free trade agreement, which has been hailed in the Australian corporate media. Tariffs on 97 percent of Australian exports to Japan will be progressively reduced or removed, including for previously closed off beef, seafood, and wine markets. Japan will provide some openings for Australian finance and business services.

Sections of Australian agribusiness, however, including rice, sugar, and pork, have been scathing of the Abbott government’s failure to win significant concessions benefitting their operations. National Farmers’ Federation president Brent Finlay declared: “We are disappointed with the overall outcomes for agriculture with a number of sectors facing marginal improvements or limited commercial gains.” Mineral exports to Japan, which constitute almost 89 percent of merchandise imports, are already subject to few tariffs.

However, today’s Australian Financial Review editorial noted significance of closer strategic ties that had been quietly sealed. “While trade has taken up most of the headlines, Australia has also signed up to what seems an open-ended defence cooperation agreement for Japan. This is important support for Tokyo which is now locked in an increasingly tense rivalry with Beijing,” it stated.

The first point of the Abbott-Abe joint communiqué that dealt with “security and defence cooperation” stated that the two leaders “reaffirmed the importance of strong US engagement in the Asia-Pacific region and expressed their strong support for the US rebalance.”

Abbott was invited to participate in a special meeting of Abe’s National Security Council, created last December to give the prime minister greater central control over foreign and defence policy, promoting even closer coordination with Washington. The Australian PM is the first world leader to be invited to a National Security Council meeting in Tokyo. According to the Japan News, Abbott spent an hour “exchanging opinions on Asia-Pacific regional circumstances” with Abe, Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that the first item on the agenda at the meeting was Japan’s dispute with China over the Diyaou/Senkaku island territories. Tensions over the islands have been deliberately inflamed in recent years, together with other previously localised territorial disputes between China and its neighbours, by the Obama administration as part of its drive to ratchet up pressure on Beijing.

Abbott gave the usual pro forma denials of any attempt to target China. “Our security cooperation [with Japan] is for universal values,” he declared, “it’s not against any specific country.”

In reality, the Abbott government has picked up where the former Labor government left off in its whole-hearted support for the provocative US “pivot” against China. The prime minister last year proclaimed that Japan was Australia’s “closest friend in Asia”, adding that Tokyo was “a fellow member of the US alliance network.” Abbott has enthusiastically backed the remilitarisation of Japan, under the guise of becoming a “normal country”—provocative language that the PM this week repeated in Tokyo. Last year the Abbott government aggressively denounced China after it expanded its air defence identification zone in the East China Sea. In doing so, Canberra implicitly endorsed Japan’s territorial claims in the region against Beijing.

Abe has eagerly embraced the Abbott government. His own government has moved to eliminate constitutional and political restrictions on the size and capacity of the Japanese military, at the same time promoting militarism and attempting to whitewash the criminal history of Japanese imperialism in East Asia. Australia plays a significant role in Abe’s calculations. When he was previously in office, he launched the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (“Quad”) in 2007, a military cooperation arrangement involving Japan, the US, India, and Australia. Just before returning to office, Abe wrote in November 2012 on the need to create a “Democratic Security Diamond”, stretching from Australia, India, Japan and the US state of Hawaii, with the four countries working together to dominate the strategically crucial maritime area.

Abbott is currently in South Korea, where he is attempting to bolster US efforts to defuse tensions between Tokyo and Seoul and ensure joint cooperation against China. The Australian prime minister also told President Park Geun Hye that the former Labor government should not have cancelled a $225 million order for K9 Thunder field howitzers. Abbott declared the decision “capricious” and said his government would instead be an “absolutely reliable, trustworthy partner whose word is our bond.” Today he visited the demilitarised zone that separates North and South Korea. He echoed US rhetoric against North Korea, declaring the country an “outlaw state which is a threat to world peace.”

Abbott is now en route to Beijing, where he is seeking to progress negotiations on a China-Australia free trade agreement.

Amid the on-going confrontation with Russia over Ukraine, President Barack Obama arrives in Japan tomorrow on the first leg of a tour of Asia that will also take in South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines. Obama’s overriding aim is to signal his intention to press ahead with the “pivot to Asia,” which seeks to ensure US hegemony throughout the region: here.

US President Barack Obama has set the stage for formal talks today with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe by provocatively telling the Yomuiri Shimbun that the US is fully committed to supporting Japan in any military conflict with China over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea. Obama landed in Tokyo yesterday on the first leg of his Asian trip, which includes South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines: here.

The Australian government used up more than 130 pages of correspondence talking about a viral web plug-in that replaces pictures of their Prime Minister with ‘cute kittens’: here.

This week’s Australian budget is a stark warning to workers internationally of the sweeping social reversal being demanded by international financial capital in every country. In what has been depicted as the “lucky country,” which seemed to escape the 2008–2009 global financial crisis, the framework has been set for dismantling every aspect of the welfare state established following World War II: here.

Enhanced by Zemanta