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SINOGRAPH
World War II haunts Japan's future
There are obvious steps Japan could take to simultaneously recover its primacy in Asia and encircle China, but these would involve certain island sovereignty arrangements with Korea, Russia and Taiwan that would touch on the Japanese establishment's still simmering sense of injustice over World War II. Unless Tokyo can somehow move on from that conflict, the historical baggage will sink its future. - Francesco Sisci (Nov 26, '14)



Japan is the best hope for US 'pivot'
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe possesses the dedication and the means to steer Japan towards a closer alliance with the US and take more responsibility in addressing regional and global threats. As such it makes sense for President Barack Obama to put aside mistrust and embrace the Japanese leader as the best hope to help Washington's moribund "pivot" to Asia deliver its promises. - Dmitry Filippov (Nov 14, '14)

Shelf-life expiring for Senkakus myth
It's a myth that Japan's claims to the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands are incontestable and China's shenanigans around the islands are a manifestation of unprovoked aggression. The United States is in no hurry to correct this misunderstanding this since it gives Washington a chance for leverage against both countries. That opportunity to use the conflict for its own means will not last forever. - Peter Lee (Nov 10, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
Japan must give peace a new chance
Japan has an opportunity to overcome its tendency to narrowly emphasize a Western "security and conditionality" approach to economic aid by strengthening ties with China and South Korea. The chance for that mature choice to carve a tripartite alliance as a major force for development presents itself at the upcoming APEC forum, but would take grasping the nettle of raging territorial disputes. - Edward M Feasel (Nov 4, '14)

Japan returning to nuclear path
After reeling from a double-blow of natural and nuclear disasters in 2011, Japan seemed poised to lead the world’s turn to radical efficiency and renewable energy. A willingness to restart at least some of its remaining nuclear capacity may undermine that progress. - Andrew DeWit (Sep 26, '14)

To be a pilgrim
Novelist Haruki Murakami in his latest novel to be published in English seized on a famous photograph of tight-packed Japanese commuters on dull winter commute to question the value of our perceptions of other people. As a foreigner in any country, even trying to understand the psychology of a host society could be an illusionary task. - Meric Kirmizi (Sep 22, '14)

Atom bomb anniversary spotlights threat
As a tribute to the suffering of the dead and survivors of the first atom bomb, who gathered yesterday, the Hiroshima Peace Declaration aims to strengthen international public demand for negotiations on convention to abolish nuclear weapons by 2020. But the likelihood of this dream becoming a reality is dim. - Suvendrini Kakuchi (Aug 7, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
Healing the 'comfort women' rift
One theory has it that the Imperial Japanese Army's creation of "comfort women" stations during World War II - while irrational, brutal and immoral by today's standards - created a channel for soldiers' rage that may have paradoxically "saved" larger female Asian populations from the rape and worse seen from Shanghai to Nanking in the late 1930s. However controversial, this theory could become a basis for healing the rift between nations. - Yu Bin (Aug 7, '14)

Hiroshima: Counting minutes to midnight
If some extraterrestrial species were compiling a history of homo sapiens, they might well break their calendar into two eras: before nuclear weapons and the nuclear weapons era, which opened on August 6, 1945, in Hiroshima. That was the first day of the countdown to what may be the inglorious end of a species that attained the intelligence to destroy itself but not the capacity to control its worst instincts. - Noam Chomsky (Aug 6, '14)



COMMENT
Is Japan's peace constitution dead?
The Japanese government, with one eye on the United States, recently committed the country's armed forces to use force not only in self-defense but also to help an ally in peril. While Prime Minister Shinzo Abe trumpets reforms as reducing the risk of war, the changes have significant implication and may sound the Last Post for Japan's nearly 70-year-old peace constitution. - John Feffer (Jul 10, '14)

COMMENT
Is new China the old Japan?
As United States Secretary of State John Kerry and China's State Councilor Yang Jiechi today take leading roles for the sixth strategic and economic dialogue, here's a troubling question: Does China today equal the 'old, imperial Japan' of some 70 years ago in its propensity to spark conflict and then war under the guise of 'Asia for Asians'? - Curtis S Chin (Jul 9, '14)

Seeking truth for 'comfort women'
As Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe leads a nationalist campaign to deny Japan acted criminally in World War II, including in the establishment of so-called "comfort stations" that forced an estimated 200,000 women into sexual slavery, a growing global movement is rising with the aim of ensuring that history holds Tokyo in account. - Christine Ahn (Jun 26, '14)

Manga provokes bloody Fukushima spat
A popular manga came out fighting when the local government in Fukushima accused it of inflaming fears about the safety of fish in the wake of Japan's worst nuclear disaster, alleging in an issue entitled "The Truth about Fukushima" that the 2011 incident provoked a rash of nose-bleeding linked to radiation. Two opposing camps can be called on to spar over the veracity of the comic strip's claims. - Eiichiro Ochiai (Jun 25, '14)

China frets over Japanese nuclear program
Chinese officials are eyeing Japan's plutonium stocks with increasingly alarm as their East Asian neighbor shifts to the right, suspecting that the real intention is to retain the option of developing nuclear weapons. With territorial issues intensifying concerns, the nuclear issue has potential to further undermine regional security if left to fester. - Hui Zhang (May 30, '14)

Cold War heats up in Asia
Many Western observers believe China has blundered into the United States' clever Asia "pivot" trap, with its aggressive moves driving its neighbors into the arms of Washington and enabling a more forward military presence for the US around China's borders. Beijing has gamed this out and is willing to roll the dice in the South China Sea. Cyberspace, however, is a more disturbing source of friction for the Cold War in Asia. - Peter Lee (May 27, '14)

US, Japan draw closer on 'gray zone' threats
The United States' Quadrennial Defense Review has again emphasized the importance of the Asia-Pacific region and the so-called area-denial threat posed by China. The review's touting of a "new presence paradigm" mirrors Japanese defense guidelines that seek a military presence fulfilling a more dynamic context than traditional, static aspects such as number of troops. - Sugio Takahashi (May 16, '14)

Obama resets the 'pivot' to Asia
Lack of resolve and resources, combined with excessive attention on "militarization" mean that the US "pivot" to Asia as conceived two years ago has already has lost its shine for the most Pacific of American presidents. Barack Obama demonstrated on his recent Asian tour that a "reset" of the US rebalancing strategy is in order, one that focuses more on diplomacy, trade, and interdependency with China. - M K Bhadrakumar (May 9, '14)

China drills its hard-power reserves
China knows its latest attempt to drill in contested oilfields off the Vietnamese coast is a challenge that its Southeast Asian neighbor cannot ignore. Yet the gambit has clear and bigger targets: as practice for a confrontation with the Philippines - the country Beijing really wants to humiliate - and to goad Japan into a protector role that marginalizes the United States. All signs in the South China Sea point to Chinese soft-power sailing over the horizon. - Peter Lee (May 8, '14)

COMMENT
Suspicion undermines US-Japan ties
No clear evidence exists that Barack Obama's visit to Tokyo did anything to build mutual trust with Japan. The US president's displeasure at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's shock statement on his visit to the Yasukuni shrine and suspicions of US motives for pushing for Korean-Japanese reconciliation top a list of negatives that undermine confidence and show the two countries have much more work to do on their alliance. - Kazuhiko Togo (May 7, '14)

Japan tackles the karoshi taboo
After decades of tireless work by campaigners, Japan is finally introducing legislation to tackle karoshi, or death from overwork. While the law promises to defend workers against the traditional authority of their employers, signs have already emerged that it will be deliberately diluted in favor of maintaining the status quo. - Scott North and Rika Morioka (May 5, '14)

Green is the best color for US-Japan ties
US President Barack Obama's visit to Japan last month went according to plan, with pledges to increase military co-operation framed by perceptions of the China threat to Asian security and the nuclear-power backers winning out on energy issues, even as the US military itself has for years identified climate change as the mother of all threats. That is unfortunate since expanding green collaboration would do more for both countries' energy and military security than any other move. - Andrew DeWit (May 5, '14)

Abenomics' arrows fail to penetrate
The "three arrows" of Abenomics - expansionary monetary policy, fiscal stimulus and structural reform - have pierced a vicious circle of deflation in Japan. On other crucial measures, such as tackling the demographic time bomb and ballooning debt, Shinzo Abe has failed to score. - John West (May 2, '14)

Obama looks to ease Japan-China tensions
From a Chinese perspective, the visit by United States President Barack Obama to Japan was the high point of his current tour to Asia. Amid Japan-China tensions and the complexities of the "new type of major country relations" that China and the US are committed to promote, the sigh of relief from Beijing when Obama left Japan was almost audible. - M K Bhadrakumar (Apr 28, '14)

Japan joins nuclear horror show
The United States and Russia are nuclear horror shows when it comes to the waste, haste, shortcuts, and accidents inseparable from the birth of nuclear science in the crisis atmosphere of the Cold War. Events after the 2011 Fukushima disaster demonstrate Japan's atomic energy strategy under Prime Minister Abe to be just as gruesome. - Peter Lee (Apr 28, '14)

Part-time drive risks stability of Japan
Japan's reliance on part-time employees - they now constitute about 40% of the labor force - and the resulting imbalance between the lives of regular and non-regular workers is starting to threaten social reproduction and Japan's long-term social stability. - Scott North (Apr 25, '14)

Aging Japan seeks more foreign workers
Desperate for more workers to support a construction boom, Japan has proposed to expand its controversial foreign trainee program to permit more unskilled labor from Asia to work in Japanese companies for five years from the current three years. - Suvendrini Kakuchi (Apr 24, '14)

Obama runs China's pivot gauntlet
Barack Obama embarks on a pivot promotion tour of Asia today with a certain smugness that the political and economic foundations of a China-containment regime have been laid. But with overt confrontation in East Asia from Beijing signaling its preparedness to manage relations in more hostile ways, the US president has no reason to feel other than the beginning of the end for the American Century is upon him. - Peter Lee (Apr 22, '14)

Japan warns Beijing over ship seizure
Japan has warned that the seizure by China of a container ship owned by Mitsui OSK Lines for its failure to respond to a wartime compensation order may damage bilateral economic ties to the extent that it "may rock the foundation of the 1972 joint statement's spirit that normalized Japan-China diplomatic relations". (Apr 22, '14)

Crimean conquest shows China the way
While Chinese hawks know that Russia's annexation of Crimea is not an easily transposable template for forcible takeovers, those advocating a harsher line on maritime territorial claims likely view the crisis as both a precedent and a window of opportunity. With Washington and Brussels focused on Moscow's next move, miniature "land-grabs" could be attempted in the South China Sea at reduced cost. - Euan Graham (Mar 31, '14)

COMMENT
Understand Abe, but focus on Japan
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the ruling class reject admissions of guilt for past atrocities as they believe these restrain Japan through "self-humiliation". Instead of focusing on Abe, the US could nurture links with the sizeable number of Japanese who reject World War II revisionism. This would empower "doves" in the political hierarchy, and help the US better understand Japan. - Grant Newsham (Mar 17, '14)

COMMENT
Rethinking disaster militarism in Asia
Disaster relief has increasingly become part of the justification for increased US troop deployments in the Asia-Pacific region. While massive and permanent presence enables the US military to be the “first and fastest” to respond to sudden calamity, such "disaster militarism" must give way to a more human response. (Mar 12, '14)

Asia pivot comes back to bite the US
US media are sniping at "provocative" acts by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, seemingly ignorant to the fact that Abe's refusal to embrace Asian unity is a direct consequence of the empowerment of Tokyo's hawks by the US "pivot to Asia". Instead of the united front against China the US envisioned, it has an alliance in flux that's ripe for testing by Beijing. - Peter Lee (Feb 25, '14)

COMMENT
Silver-lining to Japan's energy crisis
Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has been smart enough to see opportunity in its difficulties with a power supply that makes his country the world's biggest energy importer. The struggle serves as the basis for a new relationship with India, has reinvigorated diplomacy with the United States and has deepened cooperation with energy-exporters - even Russia. As such, Japan's energy crisis can be considered a blessing in disguise. - Aiko Shimizu (Feb 24, '14)

US blind to barbs in Japan defense plan
The United States is supporting Japanese plans for "collective self-defense", which are described as the biggest shake-up in relations since World War II and would permit Tokyo to manage its own security ties with Asian allies. The US believes the plans ensure Tokyo's loyalty to Washington while keeping Japan's military ambitions constrained by the pacifist constitution. This ignores the instrument's potential uses against China. - Peter Lee (Feb 13, '14)

Abe tunes up to militant beat
Building trust with major trade partners in Asia, much less with the international community, is not a major theme of the Shinzo Abe administration in Tokyo. The beat of war drums is more his style, exemplified by the prime minister's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine and his veneration of his grandfather, World War II commerce and industry minister Nobusuke Kishi. - Nancy Snow (Feb 13, '14)

Japan's brutal work culture takes a toll
Although fatigue from overwork is blamed for Japan's falling birth rate and high suicide and social withdrawal rates, neither the government nor the people seem willing to address the harsh work-life imbalance. Unless Tokyo starts to hold businesses accountable for employee abuse, there's a risk the economy will be worked into an early grave. - Heenali Patel (Feb 10, '14)

Japan holds to dangerous
plutonium separation plan

Japan has yet to settle on a new nuclear policy in the wake of the Fukushima disaster and closure of its 50 nuclear power plants. Yet operation of the massive Rokkasho facility to separate plutonium in spent nuclear fuel appears to be moving forward with little official reconsideration. - Masako Toki and Miles Pomper (Feb 7, '14)

Identity complex dogs Japan, South Korea
China's cooperation with South Korea in opening a memorial hall in Harbin last month to honor Ahn Jung-geun, the Korean independence activist who in 1909 assassinated the Japanese colonial governor of Korea, symbolizes the historical obstacles to forward-looking Japan-South Korea relations. It also illuminates the power of deeply held and contradictory notions of national identity. - Brad Glosserman and Scott Snyder (Feb 7, '14)

Going public with the China-Japan dispute
A formal diplomatic tool known as "public talks" would give China and Japan a chance to publish their differing interpretations of history worldwide, with "dialogue documents" distributed that also give Tokyo and Beijing an opportunity to pose questions, state negotiating positions and cover international conflicts. Critics may decry the lack of secrecy, but so far, internalizing the national wounds has only helped them to fester. - John Connolly (Feb 6, '14)

Japan hawks ruffle dovish feathers
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's formula to confront China and estrange it from its neighbors by creating security alliances throughout Asia and pushing security concerns to the center of the US-Japan relationship is getting more than a little help from US establishment hawks, who see more money in tension than in peace. But the Obama administration is quietly pushing back. - Peter Lee (Feb 5, '14)

Green challenge to the US 'Asia Pivot'
As the Obama administration's "Asia Pivot" shifts military might to the Asia-Pacific to counter China, it is also wreaking environmental havoc on the region's cetaceans, coral reefs, migratory seabirds, and marine ecosystems. Activists are fighting back against the environmental footprint of American forces. - Koohan Paik (Jan 28, '14)

When the suicide pilots said goodbye
Amid continuing political tension between Japan and its former East Asian colonies, China and the Korean peninsula over its war past, a Japanese museum is planning to register the last letters of Japan's famed World War II suicide pilots as a UNESCO Memory of the World document. The Peace Museum of Kamikaze Pilots says the letters show they did not hate the enemy but wanted to protect their country. - Suvendrini Kakuchi (Jan 27, '14)

India, Japan walk Chinese tightrope
India cemented ties with Japan by making Shinzo Abe the first Japanese prime minister to be chief guest at its Republic Day parade. Yet as Tokyo seeks to rope in Indian support over what it terms "recent Chinese provocative actions", New Delhi's pan-Asian take is not quite what Japan is looking for. - Narayani Basu (Jan 27, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
China-Japan rivalry overstated in Africa
Simultaneous visits to Africa this month by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi descended into a fight over who has the continent's best interests at heart. That China is increasingly modeling its economic activities in Africa on what it has learned from Japan suggest their approaches to Africa are not radically different. - Seifudein Adem (Jan 23, '14)

Japan cuts distance from its military days
Territorial tensions between China and its neighbors in the East and South China Seas presented Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with an opportunity to demonstrate leadership in Asia. But his decision to ignore widely held opposition to any high-level visit to honor war criminals at the Yasukuni Shrine could seriously undermine the charm-offensive - and Japan's bid to isolate China. - Richard Heydarian (Jan 21, '14)

Abe's rightward shift risks his legacy
Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo's rightist tendencies and influences are in full flow and his recent controversial shrine visit to honor war heroes and war criminals alike is a clear distraction from the true challenges he faces in 2014. Should the nationalistic Abe lose support from moderates in and outside Japan, he will also lose a legacy that is within grasp. - Andrew L Oros (Jan 8, '14)

China sticks to collision course
Belief that China's uncompromising behavior in the South and East China Seas is an expression of national interest that can be softened through cooperation and international mediation is off the mark when Beijing will listen only to military force and political isolation. It should therefore come as no surprise that Japan aims to increase its military options while seeking closer security ties with the US and Asian partners. - Stefan Soesanto (Jan 7, '14)

Japanese premier takes a reckless gamble
The Japanese prime minister knew his visit to the Yasukuni war shrine in December would exacerbate already fraught tensions with China and South Korea; he likely calculated that this was outweighed by the domestic political gains. Formal attendance at the shrine symbolizes patriotic defiance against outside interference, helping build public support that will help in pushing through controversial economic and defense reforms. - Senan Fox (Jan 6, '14)


 
 

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