Malaysia is another old time America’s ally to shift away from the US orbit following the Philippines. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak visited China on October 31-November 6 to sign 14 agreements totaling 143.64 billion ringgit ($34.25 billion), including a defence deal. Malaysia agreed to buy four Chinese littoral combat ships. Two will be built in China and two in Malaysia.
The rapprochement has taken place despite the differences over the South China Sea territorial disputes. During the visit, both countries pledged closer cooperation to handle the problem bilaterally to counter US influence in the region.
Najib Razak said Malaysia welcomed the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank which marks a turning point «of peaceful dialogue, not foreign intervention, in sovereign states». Global institutions needed to be inclusive of «countries that were given no say in the legal and security infrastructure that was set up by the victors of the Second World War», he noted.
China has increasingly invested in Malaysia and is implementing major infrastructure and other projects in the country. Chinese companies are widely expected to win a planned $15bn high-speed rail project linking Kuala Lumpur and Singapore – a new rail line on Malaysia’s east coast. With the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in jeopardy, the US seems to have little leverage over Malaysian foreign policy.
The trip marks another potential setback for US Asia «pivot» policy. The event took place against the background of worsening relations between the US and the Philippines. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has made statements about his intent to break the military alliance with the United States and shift to the partnership with China and Russia. He had visited Beijing to defy America just two weeks before Mr. Razak’s trip.
Bridget Welsh, a Southeast Asia politics analyst, said, «This is the new regional norm. Now China is implementing the power and the US is in retreat», adding Washington’s Asia «pivot» was «dead in the water».
Russia-Malaysia relations are also on the rise. In 2017 the two countries will mark the 50th anniversary since the diplomatic ties were established in 1967.
In May, the Malaysian PM visited Sochi, Russia, leading a delegation to the ASEAN-Russia Commemorative Summit. Back then, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, «We will be pleased to develop relations in the humanitarian sphere, in the economy, investments and of course in the military sphere, or in the sphere of military-technical cooperation».
The Russia-produced Sukhoi Su-30MKM is the most advanced fighter in the inventory of the Royal Malaysian Air Force. The contract to deliver 18 jets was signed in 2003 during the Russian president’s official visit to Malaysia. The purchase of Su-34 and Su-35 Russian jets is on the agenda.
Malaysian Defense Minister Hishamuddin Hussein believes his country should «look to the future, to a new era of military-technical cooperation with Russia». Russia took part in the 15th Defense Services Asia Exhibition and Conference on April 18-21, 2016, in Kuala Lumpur to demonstrate the Mi-171Sh helicopter, the T-90MS tank, the BTR-82A armored vehicle, and the Pantsir-S1 air defense system.
Malaysia will explore the possibility of signing a free trade agreement (FTA) with the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).
There are other facts to prove the fact that the US loses its clout in the Asia Pacific region. Japanese banks and development institutions may offer loans to Russian regional banks. Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko told TASS in an interview.
It was also reported that the government-backed Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) will provide about 4 billion yen ($38.5 million) in financing to Sberbank of Russia, in open defiance of Western sanctions. The US and the European Union have effectively banned lending to certain Russian companies and financial institutions, including Sberbank, as part of sanctions imposed on Russia in 2014. The announcement comes before the President Putin’s visit to Japan in December.
The JBIC also plans to make investments into the Yamal LNG gas project. The JBIC is likely to set up a special fund to invest in Russian projects together with the Russian Direct Investment Fund.
The economic cooperation with Russia definitely threatens the Group of Seven’s united front on sanctions. The move will most certainly provoke Washington’s anger but Tokyo finds the development of ties with Russia important enough to risk it. The US influence in the region is not strong enough to prevent Japan from pursuing its national interests.
With the Philippines and Malaysia shifting away from US orbit, Washington is finding itself with increasingly fewer allies in the region. The Asia Pacific «pivot» appears to be another foreign policy failure in addition to the Middle Eastern debacle. In addition, the US faces a major setback as Europe rejects the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
America is a global power in retreat. A new US president will have to face this reality. The events in the Asia Pacific region provide a good example to support this obvious fact. In a very short period of time the US has lost two major allies in the region. Japan defies the anti-Russia sanctions regime. The American century seems to be fading away as other poles of power emerge on the world map.
October 25th is the start of a three-day visit to Japan by the President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte. During his visit, Duterte will meet with Japanese Emperor Akihito and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The leaders plan to discuss a wide range of issues of bilateral cooperation.
The weakening of the US in the region
Duterte’s visit to Japan comes just after a similar trip of the Philippines leader to China. This fits in with a recent trend characterized by the considerable weakening of the position of the United States in the Asia-Pacific region. China’s diplomatic goal is to bring together the US’s traditional allies into their sphere of influence. To this, success can be attributed to the warming relations between Beijing and Bangkok, as well as the recent breakthrough in the negotiations between Rodrigo Duterte and Xi Jinping.
Setting an example
The Philippine leader’s position and his actions in the international arena should be an example for a more powerful neighbor – Japan. In spite of its economic development, Tokyo is very much under the influence of Washington and unable to pursue an independent policy, while Rodrigo Duterte with his actions is guided solely by national interests.
Eurasian direction of Duterte
After the trip to Japan, Rodrigo Duterte is planning to go to Moscow. Thus we can clearly see his geopolitical course. Faced with all the leading leaders in the region ignoring Washington, Duterte declares himself as a consistent supporter of a multi-polar approach. The fact that such can be the situation with a country that isn’t very powerful, without nuclear weapons or huge economic potential, says that the US can not cope any longer with its function as a global leader.
The global mainstream media have loudly hailed the stunning success of the peoples uprising against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership or TTIP in the light of its demise. In the last few years protests broke out all over Europe as the unelected bureaucrats steamed ahead with this unpopular trade deal, even after the results of the largest ever consultation study in the EU Commission’s history resulted in a 97% negative response of 150,000 people.
The emerging movement spawned enormous online activism never seen before, culminating in the largest petition in Europe’s history with a staggering collective of over 3.2 million signatures delivered by passionate foot-soldiers right to the epicentre of where the political elite inhabit in the EU. The beating heart of TTIP activism was Berlin, Paris and London. This is not to forget the huge protest effort made by citizens across almost all of the EU’s major cities.
When preparing for TTIP negotiations, 560 meetings took place between 2012 and 2013. Just 4% were represented by public interest and civil society. Unashamedly, the Commission allowed 92% of all TTIP meetings to be dominated by lobbyists and corporate trade associations Today, these shadowy agitators amount to over 30,000 grey suits stalking the halls of the Commission HQ in the de facto capital of the European Union in Brussels.
In May of this year Wikileaks confirmed that TTIP amounted to “a huge transfer of power from people to big business.” Greenpeace Netherlands then leaked 248 secret pages of the controversial trade deal between the U.S. and EU, exposing how environmental regulations, climate protections and consumer rights were effectively being “bartered away behind closed doors.” Tensions amongst civil society rose to fever pitch with the devastating news.
Der Spiegel Germany wrote “Protests Threaten Trans-Atlantic Trade Deal” as the leaks became public. With concerted effort activists seemingly brought the trade agreement to the brink of collapse within days. At the same time, Merkel’s grandly staged meeting with US President Barack Obama in Hanover was nothing more than showmanship. It aimed to show the strain of negotiations, as if somehow Germany (and therefore the EU) was going to get a better deal from TTIP and pacify the building rage of her citizens.
As if to rub salt into the wounds a report by TruePublica, published in The European Financial Review confirmed that corruption in the EU trading bloc had now reached 14 per cent of GDP – a staggering €1 trillion. By now 70 per cent of all European citizens believe corruption to be at the heart of their respective governments and the EU Commission itself, and that a corporate coup d’tat is taking the place of democratic principles that Europe fought so hard for over generations.
Then, out of the blue, an unexpected announcement is made last week. The media on all sides of the spectrum is broadly going along with the story that French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and German Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel have agreed that negotiations between the EU and the US on TTIP, have essentially failed. That’s it – the deal is dead. Hoorah!
The Telegraph – “EU’s TTIP trade deal with the US has collapsed, says Germany”
The Independent – “TTIP negotiations should stop, French government says”
ZeroHedge – “The Americans Give Us Nothing”: France Effectively Kills TTIP’
RT – ‘TTIP negotiations between EU and US have de facto failed’ – German economy minister”
Not so fast. You don’t think that the American’s are going to let the biggest trade deal in human history fail just because 97% of citizens reject it do you? No, France and Germany just need a plan. After Brexit, Britain can stay out of the firing line of the protest movement for a while.
So, they looked to Japan. It had the same problem with its version of the trade deal similarly called TPP. Mass protests broke out as the same secret meetings gripped the political foreground. Its Prime Minister “Shinzo Abe, instructed the coalition early in the year not to “forcibly” proceed with the TPP negotiations until after elections, Kyodo News reported. Abe genuinely “feared a voter backlash in the Upper House elections” amid the growing scandal of a 242 page leaked document laying bare the bones of the deal. Having been elected June 11th, Abe now intends to force the deal through “this fall”.
I made enquiries with sources close to the ground on the EU/US TTIP deal along the same lines; was this simply a delaying tactic until after elections in 2017 for France’s Hollande and Germany’s Merkel? The response was not wholly unexpected.
“The seemingly early celebration of the end of TTIP has also surprised us a bit. Despite last week’s statements by the German and French trade ministers and the way these have been portrayed, we are continuing to campaign against the deal.”
In another exchange:
“The declarations of French and German leaders aim to: divert attention away from CETA, reduce the numbers in the streets of Germany on 17th September, put TTIP on hold while elections take place in France, Germany and the USA. The fifteenth round of TTIP negotiations will happen in the first week of October… This has been confirmed by our US friends.”
I then contacted Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO). It is a research and campaign group working to expose and challenge the privileged access and influence enjoyed by corporations and their lobby groups in EU policy making. They have been exposing the misinformation and propaganda of the EU Commission for years.
The CEO response to my same question was emphatic and quite clear:
“Public opposition to CETA and TTIP has led French and German leaders to please voters with words against TTIP. Unfortunately, the next round of TTIP negotiations is scheduled for early October and no EU leader has publicly said he or she will vote against CETA in the EU Council in October. This is clearly not the end of TTIP and CETA, just the beginning of electoral campaigns in France and Germany.”
Germany and France have taken the same stance as Japan on these trade agreements, they are not dead at all – they are lying.
I then spoke to Peter Koenig, an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also former World Bank staff and worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment and water resources and posed the same question. He said:
“Following a debate on PressTV Edition Française, where I was one of the interviewees, the focus was on the German and French Ministers’ expressed conclusion that TTIP negotiations failed. I wrote an article “The TTIP is Dead”, hoping that spreading of this ‘promise’ by the highest authorities of the two key countries in the EU would make sure among the European populace that any deviation from this ‘promise’ would be perceived as a lie and receive strongest public expressions of protest.”
“In the meantime, it has become clear that the TTIP and TISA ‘deals’ are not at all dead. In fact, shortly after the German and French announcements, Jean-Claude Juncker, the unelected President of the European Commission, declared majestically that for him the negotiations are not dead.”
“There are other means to infiltrate the TTIP into the EU, i.e. through CETA and according to Juncker, doesn’t need ratification of each EU members’ parliament. Then there is TISA, the even more secret ‘trade agreement’ between 50 countries around the globe. TISA could easily be used to clandestinely impose TTIP rules on Europe.”
Nick Dearden, Director of Global Justice Now confirmed what Peter Koenig is saying in a Guardian piece “Think TTIP is a threat to democracy? There’s another trade deal that’s already signed”
“TTIP is not alone. Its smaller sister deal between the EU and Canada is called CETA (the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement). CETA is just as dangerous as TTIP; indeed it’s in the vanguard of TTIP-style deals, because it’s already been signed by the European commission and the Canadian government. It now awaits ratification over the next 12 months.
The one positive thing about CETA is that it has already been signed and that means that we’re allowed to see it. Its 1,500 pages show us that it’s a threat to not only our food standards, but also the battle against climate change, our ability to regulate big banks to prevent another crash and our power to renationalise industries.
CETA contains a new legal system, open only to foreign corporations and investors. Should the British government make a decision, say, to outlaw dangerous chemicals, improve food safety or put cigarettes in plain packaging, a Canadian company can sue the British government for “unfairness”. And by unfairness this simply means they can’t make as much profit as they expected. The “trial” would be held as a special tribunal, overseen by corporate lawyers.”
What is missing from this statement is that any American corporation headquartered in Canada can sue any nation in the EU via CETA for the same reasons – namely, loss of ‘expected’ profits. They don’t actually have to be Canadian corporations.
As Global Justice also confirms, Canada has itself fought and lost a plentiful and diverse range of legal cases brought by US corporations under the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) for “outlawing carcinogenic chemicals in petrol, reinvesting in local communities and halting the devastation of quarries.” If TTIP doesn’t bring this horrific erosion of democratic power to the shores of Europe, CETA will. ‘Brexit’ will mean for nothing. It will be sold to the British people as a global trade agreement which will be heralded as a great success and supported by much of the media who themselves have a vested interest in such deals.
In the end, does it matter if it’s called TTIP, CETA, TISA and the like, they are all shadowy unaccountable acronyms designed to enrich the few via extreme neoliberal capitalism under the guise of free trade.
Protest sign urging global conservation meeting to address the environmental damage from U.S. military bases. (Photo by Ann Wright)
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has come in for criticism due to its lack of attention to the detrimental effects of wars and military operations on nature. Considering the degree of harm to the environment coming from these human activities, one would think that the organization might have set aside some time at its World Conservation Congress this past week in Hawaii to specifically address these concerns.
Yet, of the more than 1,300 workshops crammed into the six-day marathon environmental meeting in Honolulu, followed by four days of discussion about internal resolutions, nothing specifically addressed the destruction of the environment by military operations and wars.
The heavy funding the IUCN gets from governments is undoubtedly the rationale for not addressing this “elephant in the room” at a conference for the protection of the endangered planet – a tragic commentary on a powerful organization that should acknowledge all anti-environmental pressures.
At a presentation at the USA Pavilion during the conference, senior representatives of the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy regaled the IUCN audience of conservationists with tales about caring for the environment, including protecting endangered species, on hundreds of U.S. military bases in the United States.
The presenters did not mention what is done on the over 800 U.S. military bases outside of the United States. In the one-hour military style briefing, the speakers failed to mention the incredible amounts of fossil fuels used by military aircraft, ships and land vehicles that leave mammoth carbon footprints around the world. Also not mentioned were wars that kill humans, animals and plants; military exercise bombing of entire islands and large swaths of land; and the harmful effects of the burn pits which have incinerated the debris of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Each military service representative focused on the need for training areas to prepare the U.S. military to “keep peace in the world.” Of course, no mention was made of “keeping the peace” through wars of choice that have killed hundreds of thousands of persons, animals and plants, and the bombing of the cultural heritage in many areas around the world including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia.
Miranda Ballentine, Air Force Assistant Secretary for Installations, the Environment and Energy, said the U.S. Air Force has over 5,000 aircraft, more than all the airlines in the United States — yet she never mentioned how many gallons of jet fuel are used by these aircraft, nor how many people, animals and cultural sites the aircraft have bombed.
To give one some idea of the scale of the footprint of U.S. military bases, Ballentine said Air Force has over 160 installations, including 70 major installation covering over 9 million square miles of land, larger than the country of Switzerland, plus 200 miles of coastland.
Incredibly, Ballentine said that due to commercial development around military bases, military bases have become “islands of conservation” — conservation takes place inside the protected base while there are larger conservation issues outside the fence lines of the bases.
Adding to the mammoth size of the military base footprint, Dr. Christine Altendorf, the regional director of the U.S. Army’s Installation Management Command of the Pacific, said U.S. Army bases have 12.4 million acres of land, including 1.3 million acres of wetlands, 82,605 archeological sites, 58,887 National Historical Landmarks and 223 endangered species on 118 installations.
The U.S. Navy’s briefer, a Navy Commander, added to the inventory of military equipment, saying the Navy has 3,700 aircraft; 276 ships, including 10 aircraft carriers; 72 submarines. Seventy naval installations in the United States have 4 million acres of land and 500 miles of coastline. The Navy presenter said the Navy has never heard of a marine mammal that has been harmed by U.S. Naval vessels or acoustic experiments in the past ten years.
Only One Question
At the end of the three presentations, there was time for only one question — and luckily, my intense hand waving paid off and I got to ask: “How can you conserve nature when you are bombing nature in wars of choice around the world, practicing military operations in areas that have endangered species like on the islands of Oahu, Big Island of Hawaii, Pagan, Tinian, Okinawa and bombing islands into wastelands like the Hawaiian island of Koho’olawe and the Puerto Rican island of Vieques and now you want to use the North Marianas ‘Pagan’ Island as a bombing target. And how does the construction of the new South Korean naval base in pristine marine areas of Jeju Island that will be used by the U.S. Navy and the proposed construction at Henoko of the runways into the pristine Oura Bay in Okinawa fit into conservation of nature?”
Interestingly, in the large audience of approximately 100 people, not one of them applauded the question indicating that either audience was composed primarily of Department of Defense employees, or that the conservationists are uneasy about confronting the U.S. government and particularly the U.S. military about its responsibility for its large role in the destruction of much of the planet’s environment.
The Navy representative was the only person to respond to my question. He reiterated the national security necessity for military exercises to practice to “defend peace around the world.” To his credit, he acknowledged the role the public has in commenting on the possible impact of military exercises. He said that over 32,000 comments from the public have been made on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the possibility of artillery firing and aircraft bombing of the Northern Marianas island of Tinian — that has only 2,300 inhabitants.
Despite all odds, someone in Hawaii was able to get an exhibit of photographs of the cleanup of Koho’olawe placed on the third floor of the Hawaii Convention Center. There was no sign announcing the exhibition, just a series of photos with some explanation. In five days of attending the conference, I observed that 95 percent of the conference attendees who walked past the exhibition did not stop to look at it – until I stopped them and explained what it was about. Then, they were very interested.
A crater that was created on the Hawaiian island of Koho’olawe from massive explosions of TNT in 1965. (Photo from Hawaii Archive)
From 1941 to 1990, the island of Koho’olawe was used as a bombing range for U.S. military aircraft and naval vessels. One photograph in the exhibition showed the crater called “Sailor’s Hat” which was made by several massive explosions of TNT in 1965 to recreate and study the effects of large explosions on nearby ships and personnel to simulate in some manner the effects of a nuclear explosion. The crater affected the island’s fresh water aquifer and now no artesian water remains on the island.
After Hawaiians stopped the bombing through their protests and by staying on the island during bombings from the 1970s, the U.S. Navy returned Koho’olawe to the State of Hawaii in 2004 after a 10-year clean-up process. But only 66 percent of the surface has been cleared of unexploded ordnance (UXO), and only 10 percent cleared to a depth of 4 feet. Twenty-three percent of the surface remains uncleared and 100 percent of the waters surrounding the island have not been cleared of UXO, putting divers and ships at risk.
Okinawan Environmental Activists
Environmental activists from Okinawa had a booth at the IUCN at which they told about the attempt of the U.S. military and the national Japanese government to construct a runway complex into Oura Bay, a pristine marine area that that is the home of the protected species of marine mammal, the dugong.
The Deputy Governor of Okinawa and the Mayor of Nago city, Okinawa, both of whom have been key figures in the grassroots campaign to stop the construction of the runways and the lawsuits filed by the provincial government of Okinawa against the federal Japanese government, gave presentations about the citizens’ struggle against the construction of the runways.
However, there was no mention of the environmental effects on the marine environment from the construction of a huge new naval base on Jeju Island, South Korea, the site of the previous IUCN conference four years ago. At that conference, IUCN, no doubt at the request of the South Korean government, refused to allow citizen activists to have a booth inside the convention or make presentations like the Okinawans did this year. As a result, the Jeju Island campaigners were forced to stay outside the conference site.
Four years later in the 2016 WCC conference in Hawaii, the Government of Japan and the Province of Jeju Island sponsored a large multi-media pavilion about Jeju island which did not mention the construction of the new naval base and the destruction of the cultural heritage of the site nor the displacement of women divers who had dived at the location for generations.
On Sept. 3, local groups in Honolulu came to the Hawaii Convention Center with signs to remind the IUCN of the U.S. militarization of Asia and the Pacific. Signs and posters from local environmentalists cited the environmental impact from the huge 108,863-acre Pohakuloa bombing range on the Big Island of Hawaii, the largest U.S. military installation in the Pacific; the Aegis missile test center on the island of Kauai; and the four large U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine bases on the island of Oahu.
Other signs referenced the extensive number of U.S. military bases in Japan, Okinawa, South Korea, Guam and new U.S. military installations in the Philippines and Australia.
Ann Wright served 29 years in the US Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel. She also served 16 years as a US diplomat in US Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. She was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan in December 2001. She resigned from the US Department of State in March 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq.
With more than 34 trillion cubic meters, Iran owns the world’s largest natural gas reserves but its share of global trade in gas is less than 1%
Iran is pitching its massive gas sector for trade with Asia where it sees a better market for exports than Europe.
“Gas prices are more attractive in East Asia than in Europe,” Deputy Petroleum Minister for trade and international affairs Amir-Hossein Zamaninia has said.
The country hopes to eventually export natural gas to East Asia, including Japan, he told the Kyodo news agency in an interview on Sunday.
Zamaninia held the prospect of Iran and Japan forming a long-term partnership for the supply of Iranian LNG to the Asian country.
“Japan has a great potential of becoming a major partner for Iran in developing its gas industry,” he said.
The two countries have a chequered history of trade relations. They had to ditch a massive petrochemical project in 1991 as the Iraqi war of 1980-1988 under former dictator Saddam Hussein dragged on.
In 2010, Japan’s state-owned Inpex walked out of an agreement to develop Iran’s South Azadegan oilfield under US pressures.
Tokyo, however, was among the first countries to rush through a series of measures to lift sanctions on Iran before a nuclear agreement with Tehran went into effect.
In August, Japan sent its State Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Daishiro Yamagiwa to Tehran with executives from major trading houses such as Mitsubishi Corp., Mitsui & Co. and Itochu, as well as plant-engineering giant JGC and major banks.
Tehran accounted for 10% of Japan’s oil imports before sanctions cut them to five percent. Japan wants to raise the purchases to the previous level.
“Given that Iran’s oil and natural gas reserves are one of the world’s biggest, there is a possibility that Iran will play a part if Japan seeks to diversify its supply sources,” Kyodo quoted a Japanese gas and oil industry source as saying Sunday.
Zamaninia said Japanese companies are interested in being re-engaged in the Iranian energy sector, especially in the gas sector, adding he thinks Japan’s current policy seems to be focusing less on crude oil.
With more than 34 trillion cubic meters under its belt, Iran owns the world’s largest natural gas reserves but its share of the global trade in gas is less than one percent.
According to an Iranian energy official, natural gas will be the main fuel in the next 20 to 30 years. Zamaninia said within two to three years, Iran will be a major supplier of gas to its neighbors.
Currently, Turkey is Iran’s biggest customer with 30 million cubic meters a day of imports under a 25-year deal signed before the West imposed sanctions on Tehran.
Iran seeks to raise gas production to 1.2 billion cubic meters (bcm) a day in five years, from 800 million cubic meters now. Annual output totals 166 bcm, which is mostly used at home.
The country exports 10 bcm of gas per year. To put it in perspective, Russia exports about 150 billion cubic meters of gas a year.
South Pars in southern Iran is the world’s largest gas field which the country is developing in two dozen phases.
It provides feedstock for a number of petrochemical complexes in an area known the Pars Special Economic Energy Zone (PSEEZ) in Assaluyeh on the Persian Gulf coast.
Yoichi Yamamoto, adviser in charge of the Middle East at the Japan External Trade Organization in Tokyo, says petrochemical products, rather than natural gas itself, might be more attractive for Japanese companies for now.
“To transport gas across the sea, it is necessary to convert gas into liquefied natural gas and use special tankers, resulting in relatively large investment,” he told Kyodo.
“If Japanese companies are to form joint ventures or invest funds in the PSEEZ, petrochemical products produced there would be attractive,” he said.
“They cannot sell all the products in Japan. If they could draw up a business model in which they will sell the products also to third-party countries, I think it would be possible for them to invest,” he added.
The scathing attack on Russian foreign policies in the Global Times newspaper on Sunday has no precedents. It goes way beyond the occasional sparring in a spirit of ‘glasnost’. Indeed, China-Russia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Coordination (as it is officially described) is not at all like what it appears. (Read my article in Asia Times Russia-China entente – Lofty rhetoric, shifty discourse.)
The GT article marks a big departure from past Chinese criticism. A note of outright condemnation is appearing. The fundamentals of Russian foreign policies and diplomacy have been called into question.
There are pointed allegations that Russia undermine China’s core interests and seeks to extract “strategic room” out of China’s tensions with the US and Japan.
Russia is presented here as a mirror image of the US – harbouring hegemonic ambitions and imposing its own version of ‘colour revolutions’ in a drive to dominate Eurasia, Eurasian Economic Union and the SCO.
The article makes a hard-hitting reference to the tortuous history of the relations between the two countries to hark back to the vast Chinese territories that are still in Russian possession.
Of course, from the Indian perspective, the article makes a stunning allegation that Russia eyes India as a counterweight to China in terms of a containment strategy:
- Russia is also aiming at its own containment of China by using India, a key force in Russia’s eyes. Fostering another regional power to offset China’s growing influence is what both Russia and the US desire. India’s ambition to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which was foiled by some countries including China, was backed by both Russia and the US.
Evidently, at a time when tensions are rising in China-India relations, Russia’s pro-Indian leaning rankles in the Chinese mind. What explains this level of rancorous indignation?
To my mind, the principal reason could be that Beijing is displeased with Moscow’s unhelpful stance apropos the Permanent Arbitration Tribunal’s recent award on the South China Sea.
We know that just hours before the award was announced at The Hague on July 12, Minister Plenipotentiary (holding ambassadorial rank) of the Chinese Embassy in Moscow Zhang Ziao had called on Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov. The Russian readout merely said the two diplomats discussed “current bilateral and global issues”.
But it stands to reason that the Chinese diplomat conveyed Beijing’s expectations of Russian support apropos the forthcoming South China Sea award. However, for two full days, Moscow kept mum. Probably, the Chinese demarche went up all the way to the Kremlin for instructions.
At any rate, when the Russian reaction came, finally, it was not as a formal statement but instead in the Q&A following a press briefing on July 14 by Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakhavrova. The following excerpts are important:
- Question: On July 12, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague rendered a judgment on the jurisdiction of certain islands in China’s economic zone. What do you think about the decision, and what is Russia’s attitude towards China’s policy in the South China Sea?
- Maria Zakharova: We would like to note the following in connection with the July 12 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague concerning the well-known lawsuit filed by the Philippines. It is our position that the states involved in territorial disputes in these seas should honour the principle of the non-use of force, and that they should continue to search for a diplomatic settlement based on international law, mainly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. They should act in accordance with the spirit of ASEAN and PRC documents, specifically, the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and the guidelines for following the declaration that were coordinated in 2011.
- We support ASEAN and PRC efforts to draft a code of conduct in the South China Sea. I will remind you that Russia is not involved in territorial disputes in that region, and that it has no intention of getting involved. We consider it a matter of principle not to side with any party. We believe that the concerned parties should conduct negotiations in a format they define. We also believe attempts to interfere in a resolution of territorial issues in the South China Sea by external parties to be counter-productive. We support the role of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in ensuring the rule of law during activities in the world’s oceans. Moreover, it is important that the provisions of this universal international treaty be applied consistently and in a way that will not jeopardise the integrity of the legal system stipulated by the convention.
Clearly, the remarks not only fell far short of an articulation of support for China, but rather clinically distanced Moscow from identifying with Beijing’s position. Furthermore, it underscored thrice the centrality of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The China-Russia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Coordination failed to pass the litmus test here. If the “forever” partnership expected the two big powers to be supportive of each other’s core interests, when the time came for Moscow to stand up and be counted as China’s friend, it scooted. The Chinese bitterness shows.
Beijing understands the Russian game plan to ingratiate itself into favour with the West. A possible rapprochement between the US and Russia, which the Kremlin is desperately seeking before President Barack Obama leaves office, creates uneasiness in the Chinese mind.
Meanwhile, Beijing’s comfort level on the South China Sea situation as such has significantly risen. The Chinese diplomacy has rather successfully weathered a potentially ugly situation stemming from the July 12 award. The summit meetings of the ASEM and ASEAN in successive weeks refrained from criticising China.
Most important, the US is tamping down tensions. National Security Advisor Susan Rice is currently in Beijing. Obama hopes for some substantial takeaway from his meeting with President Xi Jinping in September during the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China, which will be his last encounter with the Chinese leader.
Moscow may have miscalculated the geopolitical fallout of the July 12 award. The GT article is a stark reminder to the Russian side that its need of China is greater than the other way around. The article is here.
According to a new report, the Japanese government worked in concert with TEPCO to purposely cover up the meltdown at Fukushima in 2011.
“I would say it was a coverup,” Tokyo Electric Power Company President Naomi Hirose announced during a press conference. “It’s extremely regrettable.”
Masataka Shimizu, president of TEPCO at the time of the earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent nuclear disaster, told employees not to go public with the term “meltdown” — allegedly in capitulation to pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office.
For two months, TEPCO officials euphemized the meltdown in public statements as “core damage,” even as they had full knowledge of the true extent of the catastrophe. Though a few company officials initially used the term “meltdown,” it abruptly vanished from public discussions just three days after the disaster struck.
According to the report, Shimizu rushed a note to Vice President Sakae Muto as he held a press conference that warned him against using the word meltdown.
“Considering this fact, it is presumable that the Prime Minister’s Office requested Shimizu to be careful about admitting to a meltdown in public,” the report states, as Japan Times noted.
Though the three lawyers who authored the report did not find direct evidence, they surmised it was “highly likely” governmental pressure was behind the amelioration of information about the scope of the disaster.
As CBS News reported, former officials from the Prime Minister’s Office denied all allegations a cover-up had taken place. In fact, former government spokesman and current secretary general of the opposition Democratic Party denounced the report as “inadequate and unilateral” — particularly as the lawyer-authors are allied with the current ruling party.
Attorney Yasuhisa Tanaka, who headed the panel investigation, admitted TEPCO likely didn’t intentionally cover up that a meltdown had occurred, saying,
“Looking at the situation back then, we think it was too difficult for Tepco to use the term meltdown because even the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency couldn’t use it,” because of pressure from the government, Japan Times noted.
That agency had been Japan’s nuclear watchdog in March 2011, at the time of the disaster.
Notably, five years after the catastrophe, TEPCO revealed the existence of a company manual in which a meltdown is ‘official’ once 5 percent or more fuel rods have suffered damage. But, as Japan Times explained:
“As of March 14, 2011, Tepco estimated that 55 percent of the fuel rod assemblies in reactor No. 1 and 25 percent of those in reactor No. 3 were damaged but did not declare they were damaged until May that year.”
In euphemizing the meltdown, TEPCO and the Japanese government left countless civilians in peril; despite evacuations, many had been reluctant to leave their homes and might have done so sooner had the full scope of a meltdown been clear.
TEPCO remains embroiled in controversy over secrecy and alleged incompetent handling of the cleanup of Fukushima. In February this year, three former TEPCO executives were charged with negligence over the disaster.
Japanese local assembly candidates who oppose the presence of a US military base on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa have won the majority of seats in prefectural elections.
The anti-US base candidates won 27 of the 48 seats in the Sunday elections, up from the 23 seats that they held previously.
The election results are likely to strengthen the drive against plans to expand the US-run Futenma air base, and to intensify the battle between the central government and Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga, who also opposes the US base.
The Japanese government has been seeking to build off-coast runways for Futenma in the town of Henoko, which is also on Okinawa, as part of a longer-term plan to entirely transfer the base to Henoko.
The relocation has to happen based on a 1996 agreement with the US to move the base to a less heavily-populated area on Okinawa.
Locals, however, oppose both the plans for the airstrip construction and the mere presence of the base on their island. They want it totally removed from Okinawa.
Following the announcement of the election results, Onaga described them as a “great victory.” The central government, however, insisted that it will remain committed to the plans for the relocation of the base.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has said the base is crucial to maintaining the alliance between his country and the US.
“There is no change to our stance that the shift to Henoko is the only solution when we think about maintaining the deterrence of the US-Japan alliance and removing the risks of the Futenma airbase,” he said at a press conference.
Public outrage against the base was intensified in May after a former US Marine and a base employee was arrested in connection with the death of a 20-year-old local woman.
The arrest prompted officials to impose a month-long night-time curfew on US forces based on the island, as part of a “period of unity and mourning” over the killing.
More recently, a 21-year-old naval officer from the base was arrested for drunken driving, during which she caused a “serious three-car accident with injuries.”
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida filed a protest with US ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy about the Sunday’s development, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding the American envoy apologized for the incident.
The island, which was the site of a World War II battle, is home to some 30,000 US military and civilian personnel under a decades-long security partnership.
President Obama heads to Japan this week for an historic visit to Hiroshima, site of the world’s first use of a nuclear weapon, and one of the United States’ most enduring shameful acts. The corporate media has hailed the visit as an important step in strengthening bilateral relations between the US and Japan. Indeed, it certainly is that as the US seeks to reassert its hegemony in an Asia-Pacific region increasingly being seen as the sphere of influence of China.
However, Obama’s arrival in Japan also highlights the deeply hypocritical and cynical attitudes of US policymakers, and President Obama himself, when it comes to the relevant issues. He is not expected to formally apologize for the needless slaughter of more than 200,000 Japanese citizens (mostly civilians), nor is he going to address the lingering policy-related effects of the war such as the highly unpopular US military occupation of Okinawa. In fact, it seems Obama is unlikely to touch on anything of substance. But there are indeed numerous subjects which merit close scrutiny.
First and foremost, one must consider the fact that for 70 years the United States has maintained a permanent military presence in Japan, one which is deeply reviled by the majority of the people of Japan, especially the citizens of Okinawa who regularly and continuously protest the US occupation. And while Obama and his counterpart, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, will discuss the continued friendship and partnership between the two countries, the reality is that it remains a master-client relationship. There will likely be much discussion of past, present, and future, without any admission of guilt either on the side of the US for its horrific war crimes nor by Japan for its unrestrained aggression against China, Korea, and the rest of the Asia-Pacific. As Kurt Vonnegut would say, “So it goes.”
Interestingly, the question of nuclear weapons will likely also not be addressed in a substantive way. There may indeed be some discussion of the subject in general terms, but it will be veiled in the typically flowery, but utterly vacuous, Obama rhetoric. Given the opportunity, an intrepid reporter might venture to ask the President why, despite winning the Nobel Peace Prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples [and] vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons,” he has presided over an administration that will spend more than $1 trillion upgrading, modernizing, and expanding the US nuclear arsenal.
Perhaps even more uncomfortable might be a question about why the allegedly anti-nuclear president who waxed poetic about disarmament as a student at Columbia University has spent two terms in office providing tens of billions in aid to nuclear-armed Israel, raising the amount of US aid to Tel Aviv to historic levels. In 2014, the Obama administration also enthusiastically signed a new nuclear deal with the UK which, according to Obama himself, “intends to continue to maintain viable nuclear forces into the foreseeable future… [America needed to aid Britain] in maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent.” So much for disarmament.
And while Obama and his coterie of spin doctors shape his anti-nuclear legacy with talk of a nuclear deal with Iran – a country that has no nuclear weapons – the cynicism is impossible to ignore. Obama has in fact done everything to promote nuclear proliferation including the absolutely insane new US missile “defense” system in Eastern Europe which, almost by definition, forces Russia to upgrade and expand its own arsenal, including its nuclear stockpile (still the largest in the world) as a countermeasure.
And then there’s the irradiated elephant in the room: Fukushima. The ongoing cover-up of what’s really happening in Fukushima lurks in the background of all discussion about nuclear issues and Japan. No one should hold their breath for even a whisper about this still unfolding environmental catastrophe which the Japanese government has gone to great lengths to dump down the memory hole.
Rather than formally apologizing to the Japanese people for the grave crimes of the US Government, Obama will instead frame his position as “looking forward, not backward,” a hollow platitude that calls to mind the utterly reprehensible decision by Obama not to investigate or prosecute the Bush administration criminals involved in torture. Rather than a heartfelt expression of regret, Obama offers the Trans-Pacific Partnership and an escalation of tensions with China. Rather than working for peace as one might expect of a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Obama instead will continue to champion his “pivot to Asia” strategy which has yielded little in terms of progress but much in terms of US military presence.
President Obama’s visit to Japan, like his allegedly great successes in Iran and Cuba, will change nothing. Obama will say a few words, then leave Japan. He’ll soon leave office with a still more dangerous world than when he entered: more nukes, more wars, more destruction. And this from our Peace Prize President.
Eric Draitser can be reached at email@example.com.
Japan has submitted an official letter of protest to the US diplomatic mission in Tokyo over the brutal murder of an Okinawan woman, which is suspected to have been carried out by an American.
On Thursday, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida summoned US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy to the Foreign Ministry and handed over the letter after the police arrested the 32-year-old suspect.
The body of Rina Shimabukuro, who had been missing since late April, was recently found in a weed-covered area in southern Okinawa. Police have found DNA matching the dead woman’s in a car belonging to Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, a former US Marine, who lives in southern Okinawa and works at the US Air Force’s Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan’s southernmost prefecture.
The police, accordingly, suspect the man of having murdered the victim and disposed of her body.
“It is extremely regrettable that the very cruel and atrocious case occurred,” Kishida told Kennedy, according to Nippon Television Network.
Okinawa has become known as the site of enduring tensions with the US forces deployed there, and hence a lasting source of conflict between Washington and Tokyo. Pacifist inclinations as well as security and safety concerns have prompted the Japanese to protest against the deployment.
Multiple cases of misconduct by US forces have raised anti-American feelings among the islanders.
Back in 2013, two American sailors admitted to raping a woman in Okinawa a year earlier in a case that sparked huge anti-US sentiments in Japan.
In 1995, the gang rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan girl by US servicemen also sparked mass protests.
They met in Hiroshima, Japan, in the first city on Earth that had been subjected to nuclear genocide. They were representing some of the mightiest nations on Earth: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States – the so-called Group of Seven (G7). And at the end of their encounter, they called for “a world without nuclear weapons”.
I am talking about the foreign ministers of seven countries with the largest economies on Earth.
Read carefully the names of these countries, one by one! For decades and centuries, the world has been trembling imagining their armed forces and corporations. Lashes administered by their colonial rulers have scarred entire continents, tens of millions were enslaved, and hundreds of millions killed, billions robbed.
Even now, if we all listen carefully, we can clearly hear the victims screaming, in agony: the native people of Canada and United States, the colonized people of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. For centuries, the entire world has been in shackles, on its knees, humiliated, plundered and destroyed.
G7! How many billions of victims from all corners of the world, made those countries so ‘grand’?
To ensure that the pillage could continue uninterrupted, the West together with those “honorary whites” (a term that the South African apartheid regime invented exclusively for the Japanese people) created several aggressive and belligerent pacts, including NATO, calling them, of course, “defensive” alliances. It came as no surprise: remember that in the lexicon of the Empire of Lies, war is called peace, while aggression is always defined as defense. But this I have already described in detail, in my 820-page book “Exposing Lies of the Empire”.
Now foreign policy tsars of the “G7” were standing shoulder to shoulder again, in Hiroshima, of all places, and only a few days after the 71st anniversary of the nuclear blast. Making predictable declarations and self-glorifying speeches.
The weather was good, partly sunny, with excellent visibility. But was the world really able to see through the thick fog of Machiavellian cynicism and lies, dispersed all over the Planet by those grinning rulers of the world?
On April 11, 2016, the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) issued a written declaration on nuclear disarmament:
“We reaffirm our commitment to seeking a safer world for all and to creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons in a way that promotes international stability”.
Seriously? No one around those ministers fell; nobody was seen to be rolling on the floor, shaking from uncontrollable laughter. Obviously, a joke repeated thousands of times loses its luster.
But that was not all. The text of the declaration continued:
“This task is made more complex by the deteriorating security environment in a number of regions, such as Syria and Ukraine, and, in particular by North Korea’s repeated provocations.”
What exactly were we reading? What was between the lines? Were we being told that the United States needs all of its 6,970 nuclear weapons to antagonize Syria and North Korea, while sustaining the fascist regime in Ukraine?
Just to put things into perspective: two Communist countries with nuclear capability have really negligible stockpiles of nuclear weapons, compared to the West and G7. China has 260 and North Korea (DPRK) approximately 15. In comparison, France has 300 and the U.K., 215.
In 2016, the population of China stands at 1.382 billion, while that of France is less than 65 million. China has more than 21 times more people to defend, but despite that, France has more nuclear weapons.
The comparison gets even more ridiculous between North Korea and the U.K.
The figures quoted above are the latest “official” statistics, taken from the World Nuclear Weapons Stockpile Report, updated as recently as on March 2, 2016.
It would also be appropriate to recall that North Korea has never invaded any foreign country. Also China (PRC), apart from two brief border clashes, has never been involved in any large-scale military conflict. Not once has it colonized or destroyed a foreign land. Both France and the U.K. have been plundering on all of the planet’s continents, for centuries. Later, in the 20th Century, the United States ‘took over’ the reigns of imperialism from the old and ‘traditional’ European colonialist empires.
One statement is actually correct: there is that deteriorating security environment in a number of regions, but only due to the covert as well as direct aggressions of NATO and the G7 countries.
But it would be even more honest to declare: “We are sorry, we really cannot disarm, because if we would, it would become much more difficult to loot and to control the world.”
Before dispersing, the G7 party did what its members enjoy doing the most: lashing at China.
As Reuters reported:
“Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies said they strongly opposed provocation in the East and South China Seas, where China is locked in territorial disputes with nations including the Philippines, Vietnam and Japan… Earlier on Monday, the G7 foreign ministers said after meeting in the Japanese city of Hiroshima that they opposed “any intimidating coercive or provocative unilateral actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions”.”
The US is habitually implementing that ‘good old’ British ‘divide and rule’ strategy. In Asia, it uses its ‘client’ states, particularly the Philippines, Japan and South Korea to isolate and provoke both China and DPRK. This policy is so dangerous that many here believe that it could eventually trigger the Third World War.
This time, China has fired back, almost immediately. At a news briefing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang declared:
“If the G7 wants to continue playing a major role in the world, it should take an attitude of seeking truth from the facts to handle the issues the international community is most concerned with at the moment.”
The Western military build-up in the Asia Pacific region, the military maneuvers conducted jointly by the US and South Korea, as well as the continuous militarization of Japan, are definitely some of the topics that are making most of the Asian continent both ‘concerned’ and frightened.
Predictably, the DPRK remained the main punch bag of the G7. The ministers never explained exactly why the world should be petrified of North Korea. Such fear should apparently be taken for granted, especially after the long decades of intensive and vicious Western and South Korean propaganda.
But back to the statement of the ministers:
“We condemn in the strongest terms the nuclear test on January 6 and the launch using ballistic missile technology on February 7, March 10 and March 18 conducted by North Korea. It is profoundly deplorable that North Korea has conducted four nuclear tests in the 21st century.”
Of course, building defenses against the combined NATO and G7 aggressions is one of the most deplorable crimes, it calls for capital punishment!
Shamelessly, after spreading verbal toxins, all seven ministers went to the grounds of the monument and museum dedicated to the victims of “Hiroshima A-bomb”.
The Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida led the pack. Under the bizarre leadership of his government, Japan has been doing its absolute best to betray Asia, and to antagonize its neighbors. In the most servile and shameful way, it has fully accepted the Western dictates, increased the volume of its own hysterical propaganda campaign against China and DPRK, and has begun to bolster its military.
Why? Just to please its masters, those ‘noble and superior Westerners’!
By now, Japan is not even what its Prime Minister Shinzō Abe wants the world to believe that it is: a conservative nation governed by a nationalist government.
Japan has no spine, just as it has no foreign policy. It fully takes orders from the United States. And as I was told repeatedly by one of the employees of the NHK: “No major media outlet in Japan would dare to broadcast anything important, related to international affairs, that hasn’t appeared previously on at least one of the major US networks.”
Looking at Japan’s past, “conservative nationalists” used to be, for instance, some of the greatest writers like Yukio Mishima, a man who ended his life in 1970 by committing a ritual suicide, protesting Japan’s unabashed submission to the West. Japan’s Prime Minister Abe is definitely a ‘conservative’, but is he really a Japanese nationalist? He is defending the interests of Washington much more than those of his own country. Perhaps, “honorary white and one of G7 leaders” would be the most fitting term to define him.
Now, according to the official NATO website: “Japan is the longest-standing of NATO’s “partners across the globe”.
It is also one of the nations that are shamelessly plundering the world through its brutal corporations.
And so they stood there – seven ministers from some of the most aggressive countries on Earth.
They stood on the turf that was, more than 70 years ago, burned to ashes, in just a few seconds after the nuclear explosion.
They said again and again how much they would like to disarm, how much they would like to see the world free of nuclear weapons.
What they didn’t say was that they never would disarm, voluntarily.
And they never clarified how they actually made it to that exclusive G7 club: because of the unbridled plunder during their colonial history, and because of the modern-day global corporate pillage, as well as their mining and oil “investments”. And of course because of the “world order”, imposed by force and all sorts of weapons, nuclear and conventional, on the rest of the Planet.
Instead of Group of Seven, this pack should be simply called ‘GS’ – the Group of Shame.
The ministers stood for some time in front of the flame burning at the monument to Hiroshima A-bomb victims. They posed for the cameras. Then they went away, sat down at some table, and wrote the official declaration on nuclear disarmament, ‘explaining’ why they cannot abandon their tools of coercion. And that declaration turned out to be nothing more than yet another monumental pile of lies!
Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His latest books are: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire” and “Fighting Against Western Imperialism”.
Senior Japanese journalists have denounced PM Shinzo Abe’s government for its recent clampdown on press freedom after the communications minister threatened to revoke their licenses for biased coverage last month.
Five Japanese journalists called a press conference to express their concerns over the government’s tightening grip on media.
“In Japan today, rather than the media watching the authorities, the government watches the media,” said Shuntaro Torigoe, a former news anchor on Japanese TV Asahi, adding that the Abe government “is most nervously checking what the media say, because what’s said on television affects his support ratings.”
Last month, Japan’s minister of internal affairs and communications, Sanae Takaichi, repeatedly warned broadcasters that they must produce “politically neutral” news coverage in compliance with the country’s broadcast law if they didn’t want to lose their licenses.
Despite growing concerns that such remarks can have an adverse effect on the press freedom, Takaichi’s words were reiterated by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who supported the ministry’s stance, calling her comments “common sense.”
Following the remarks, Hiroko Kuniya, a prominent Japanese journalist, was ousted after 23 years of working as a popular primetime show host for public broadcaster NHK [Japan Broadcasting Corp]. After her last appearance on the show she commented on the departure by saying that “expressing things has gradually become difficult.”
Among other victims of the government`s crusade on media were veteran anchors Ichiro Furutachi, 61 (TV Asahi Corp), who stepped down last December and Shigetada Kishii, 71 (Tokyo Broadcasting System). Kishii announced he would leave the channel on March 31. He believes the broadcasters are being pressured by the government to sack outspoken anchors to stem the flow of criticism.
Last year, Kishii publicly opposed the government’s security policy legislation, which stipulates that Japan’s armed forces will be able to engage in the military operations overseas in defense of an ally, including the US, under attack. Despite being labeled “war legislation” by the public, it was approved by Abe’s government, triggering mass protests.
Article 174 of Japan’s broadcast law allows the minister of internal affairs to suspend operations of any station that fails to comply with the neutrality clause. However, media professionals didn’t see the minister’s words as a simple reminder, but rather a dangerous attempt of suppressing the media.
“It sounds as if the government can suspend the activities of broadcasters or remove newscasters just because they criticized the government,” said Soichiro Okuno, an MP for the Democratic Party of Japan.
“It was a remark that could even topple the government in a Western democracy,” wrote Akira Ikegami in a newspaper column last month.
Japan’s remilitarization has become the center topic of the national agenda under Abe’s government with many opposing the authorities’ efforts to broaden the mandate of Japan’s self-defense force and relocate a US military base on Okinawa. Nearly 30,000 people joined the mass rallies against the government’s plan to relocate the base, while hundreds of students marched through the streets of Tokyo protesting “war legislation” in February.