Japanese Departures

Thanks to the clarion calls of the immortal James Brown, it has become clear: I’m back, and Yukio Hatoyama has indeed “gotten up off of that thing,” relieving pressure by resigning.  More importantly, the U.S.-Japan alliance is again, as NPR reports, “in limbo.”  You could see the writing on the wall, clearly, when Obama visited Japan last year — the tentative nature of the interaction and particularly the vascillating language by both sides on the Okinawa base issue presaged Hatoyama’s collapse on the issue.  Can a future politician tame the tempest?  It may very well be that Koizumi, reviled though he was by many, will end up being the longest-serving Japanese Prime Minister in my adult lifetime!

Given that discussion of the Hatoyama collapse in the U.S. just might center around the health of the Japanese economy, it’s worth noting a two other things: 1) the question mark over American forces in Okinawa doesn’t strengthen the U.S. hand in threatening North Korea (the Marine Expeditionary Force on the island being the presumptive occupying force in the advent of a DPRK collapse) and, probably more importantly, 2) this presents a challenge and opportunity for China to reach out to Japan.

The CCP leaders seemed quite fond of Hatoyama and were reprising Zhou Enlai’s attitude toward Japan (led by Hatoyama’s grandfather, fittingly enough at the time) during the mid-1950s: Downplay disagreements, seek economic cooperation for mutual benefit and, ultimately, to displace American influence from Japan.

I don’t believe that the CCP thinks that the Americans can be so easily dislodged from Japan, or that Japan can just fit neatly into the Chinese tributary orbit, but, the night before Hatoyama’s resignation and on the cusp of the aftermath of Wen Jiabao’s visit there, China Daily put the matter rather nakedly.  I’ll quote the editorial in full:

It is time for Japan to Re-engage with Asia [China Daily, June 1, 2010]

Japan must turn around, shed off its Western image and be more Japanese. It needs to be proud again but not as before like having a samurai mentality. Most importantly, Japan must see itself independent of the USA and its stranglehold. Japan must determine its own path and future.

Japan’s future? Japan has a future and that is with Asia and China, not with the USA. As things look, the USA is holding back Japan’s future. With Japan’s ‘inborn’ innovation and creative ability, Japan should have been a top country, much better than its present position.

China and Japan have much in common but because of politics, the relationship could not move faster and better. Historical matters, territorial disputes, suspicions and fear are the obstacles to better ties.

Both countries see the need to improve ties, trade and political relations. Trade and politics go hand in hand. One cannot realistically have good trade relations without good political relations. Good political relations can only be possible when mistrust and disputes are removed while understanding and respect are enhanced. So when negatives are already in place, it takes great efforts on the part of leaders to meet regularly and try to reach agreement.

Today, China, ROK and Japan are meeting. It will be fruitful when leaders show maturity, frankness, good faith and other positive attributes in their talk.

I wish all our leaders’ success and that Asia will one day find unity and peace.

Asia for Asians, unite for true peace and growth.

How about them apples?  And ending with Japan’s old slogan of the East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere gives it a particularly nice touch.

In one of the more intelligent and far-sighted online commentaries I’ve read in the past few weeks, Peter Lee writes:

The DPJ [Democratic Party of Japan] government is now in full retreat from its original non-aligned strategy. It aroused Chinese ire by tweaking Beijing on the issue of its nuclear arsenal, then leaked the news of Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi’s rage to the international press to gain desperately needed political and diplomatic capital.

Instead of moving the US Marine air base off Okinawa, Hatoyama clumsily and without reference to his cabinet reaffirmed the pro-US deal negotiated by the previous Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) government that keeps it on the island, to the dismay of Hatoyama’s coalition partners and the disgust of the Japanese electorate.

It appears inevitable that the successor to the Hatoyama government will remain committed to the US alliance.

The Obama administration may be somewhat beguiled by the vision of Korea rising, but it remains committed to the Japanese alliance and is doubtless wary of Seoul’s growing desire to assert itself militarily – a recapitulation of threats by previous LDP governments in Japan to unleash the Self-Defense Forces.

And, just in time, Huanqiu Shibao arrives to pull us back into cultural diplomac, in fact, what it calls “cartoon diplomacy” via translation/summary of an Agence France-Presse dispatch:

法新社5月31日文章,原题:中日发起“卡通”外交 撇开外交较量,日本和中国周一同意联合举行动漫和电视剧节以推动民间文化交流。日本外务省官员说,中国国务院总理温家宝星期天抵达东京开始为期三天的访问,和他的日本对手鸠山由纪夫在会议上达成上述协议。这名官员说,两国初步计划将在下年相互专门举办节日或者活动周来介绍各自的荧屏文化,比如动漫或者电视剧。该官员说,“我们接受中国的提议,因为它将为我们提供促进文化交流的机会。” 作为努力增进文化理解的一部分,中国总理温家宝说,自己喜欢观看日本获奖影片《入殓师》(Departures),是由鸠山推荐给他的。(冯丽译)

Of course, now that Hatoyama has signaled his retreat, there’s sweet, sweet irony in the fact that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said how much he loved the gift given to him by the Japanese P.M.: the Japanese film “Departures [《入殓师》].”

All I can say is “Thank God,” because after all, nothing says “Sino-Japanese Friendship” quite like a visionary cellist.  Or, as these Chinese netizens argue, getting the next Japanese P.M. to Nanjing for the ultimate apology.

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