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  • NYT Editorial: “Japan’s Dangerous Anachronism”, on State Secrets Law and PM Abe’s intentions to “cast off Postwar regime”

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on January 3rd, 2014

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    Hi Blog. You know things are really getting serious when the Old Grey Lady starts doomsaying. After a milder editorial last April, the NYT has broken the news about Japan’s Extreme (I think we can call it “extreme” without hyperbole) Rightward Swing in an editorial last month. And it does it without worrying about allegedly imperiling “The Relationship”, the typical excuse for pulling punches when it comes to criticism of Japan (e.g., avoid “racist Japan bashing”, and protect our closest ally, hitherto largest sales market outside of the USA, and most successful American-reconstructed Postwar country in Asia). The NYT now sees the “danger” (and calls it that).  It’s time for people to start considering the PM Abe Administration as a regional security risk, and  — Dare I say it? Yes I do — drawing up contingent strategies of containment as one would China.

    This is where we’re heading in 2014. The longer the world averts one’s eyes to Abe’s true intentions over the next two years, the worse it will be for the Japanese, and for Japan’s neighbors. Arudou Debito


    Japan’s Dangerous Anachronism
    Published: December 16, 2013

    The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this month rammed through Parliament a state secrecy law that signals a fundamental alteration of the Japanese understanding of democracy. The law is vaguely worded and very broad, and it will allow government to make secret anything that it finds politically inconvenient. Government officials who leak secrets can be jailed for up to 10 years, and journalists who obtain information in an “inappropriate” manner or even seek information that they do not know is classified can be jailed for up to five years. The law covers national security issues, and it includes espionage and terrorism.

    Just before the passage of the law, the secretary general of the governing Liberal Democratic Party, Shigeru Ishiba, likened those legally demonstrating against the state secrecy law to terrorists in his blog on Nov. 29. This callous disregard of freedom of speech greatly raised suspicion of what the Abe government really has in mind. The Japanese public clearly seems to fear that the law will infringe on press freedom and personal liberties. In a public opinion poll conducted by the Kyodo News Agency, 82 percent of respondents said that the law should be repealed or revised.

    Mr. Abe is, however, arrogantly dismissive of the public’s concerns. “The law does not threaten ordinary life,” he said after the law’s passage. Showing an alarming ignorance of democracy, Gen Nakatani, a senior member of the Liberal Democratic Party, stated that “the affairs of government are distinct from the affairs of the people.”

    The law is an integral part of Mr. Abe’s crusade to remake Japan into a “beautiful country,” which envisions expanded government power over the people and reduced protection for individual rights — a strong state supported by a patriotic people. His stated goal is to rewrite the nation’s Constitution, which was imposed by the United States Army during occupation seven decades ago.

    The Liberal Democratic Party’s draft constitution, made public in April last year, deletes the existing article on the guarantee of fundamental human rights. It adds that the people must respect the national flag and national anthem. It states, “The people shall be aware that duties and obligations accompany freedoms and rights and shall never violate the public order and public interest.” It also says that the prime minister will have the power to declare a state of emergency and suspend ordinary law.

    Mr. Abe’s aim is to “cast off the postwar regime.” Critics in Japan warn that he is seeking to resurrect the pre-1945 state. It is a vision both anachronistic and dangerous.



    PS:  I am loath to quote this source, but even Fox News on New Years Eve turned on its ally: “Yet the visit to the [Yasukuni] Shrine makes many Americans think twice — wherein lies the real danger point in the Pacific — the crazy kid running North Korea, Chinese adventurism or a resurgence of the kind of nationalism that led Japan into war and conquest?”

    13 Responses to “NYT Editorial: “Japan’s Dangerous Anachronism”, on State Secrets Law and PM Abe’s intentions to “cast off Postwar regime””

    1. Jim Di Griz Says:

      What is the credible opposition to right-wing trouble maker Abe?
      Even more of a trouble maker Hashimoto, it seems…

    2. TokyoConcerned Says:

      We can already speculate quite confidently just how troubling the new law might prove. For those of you who follow the NBR debates (, even mild, mainstream Japanese conservatives are noting that the new law, had it been in effect, could have served to stifle the front page news by the Mainichi on New Year’s Day (English version: that that the Chinese PLA had given an explanation of the Chinese air defense recognition zone (ADIZ) to a Japanese delegation including government officials more than THREE YEARS before it was announced last November and had PROPOSED COORDINATION regarding the overlapping areas.

      I’m not a fan of the Chinese Communist Party, and any country that fans belligerent nationalism against the Japanese to divert attention from China’s huge social problems and inequalities (the lack of the rule of law, and lack basic democracy also spring to mind) doesn’t change the fact that the news in the Mainichi puts the lie to Japan’s contention that it had not been consulted. It also doesn’t mean that the ADIZ is acceptable to the global community.

      On the other hand, if the Specified Secrets Protection Act had been n force, would the person who exposed the dissembling of the Japanese government dared to have leaked the information. All of us should regard the democracies we live in as imperfect and working models, and in a marketplace of ideas, be able to debate our political convictions should we wish based on knowing a certain level of facts.

      With the Specified Secrets Protection Act, a huge blanket can be drawn not only over lies and corruption but incompetence. That’s got to be worrying for anyone concerned about holding political administrations and bureaucracies to account. People may see Japan as a very imperfect model, but at least the Mainichi got the story out. Will this be still possible in the future? I don’t think this is a trivial or rhetorical question.

    3. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      Speaking of casting off the postwar regime: Toshio Tamogami, retired SDF officer famous for denying Japan’s WWII aggression, is now running for governor in Tokyo.

      (Link in Japanese here:

    4. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Mark #3

      Yes, with Ishihara’s blessing!

      His only selling point is that as (former) military man, he has the skills to manage the crisis that will be the next Tokyo earthquake. Better cancel the Olympics then…

      Interesting that this former SDF commander thinks that Tokyo needs a military leader- I seem to remember Ishihara telling the SDF that they will need to control foreigners if there is a Tokyo earthquake only last year or 2012, in addition to his statement a few years back that if there was a quake, ‘foreigners would riot’.

      Bearing in mind that after the great Kanto earthquake thousands of NJ (mainly Koreans) were rounded up and murdered, I think this is another nail in the coffin for the apologists claim that the right-wing swing is just a case of ‘one or two’ ‘gaffes’ by a few ‘fringe’ actors on the J-political scene.

    5. John (Yokohama) Says:

      On a related note, interesting bit in the news today.

      “‘No-war pledge’ deleted from LDP’s party position for 2014

      The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has released a proposed party position for 2014, deleting the “pledge never to wage war again” in a turnaround from last year’s stance.

      The party had initially included in its original draft for this year’s party position a phrase saying, “… (the party is) determined to uphold a pledge never to wage war again and the principles of a peaceful country” in connection with officials’ visits to Yasukuni Shrine. The updated draft, which was released on Jan. 8, deletes the statement and instead adds a phrase saying, “… bolster veneration (for the war dead).”

      At an LDP General Council meeting on Jan. 7, some members raised objections to the original draft, saying, “Yasukuni Shrine was established to offer veneration for the war dead. It shouldn’t be mixed up with a pledge never to wage war again.”

      Wataru Takeshita, chairman of the LDP Party Organization and Campaign Headquarters, explained about the deletion of the “no-war pledge” during a press conference, saying, “We put it in the preamble (of the draft).” However, the preamble doesn’t contain a “pledge never to wage war again” but instead states that “maintaining peace is the foundation of our country’s prosperity.”

      Following his controversial visit to Yasukuni Shrine in December, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe explained his reasons for the visit, saying, “I have renewed my determination before the souls of the war dead to firmly uphold the pledge never to wage war again. … I have also made a pledge that we must build an age free from the suffering imposed by the devastation of war.”

      While the LDP’s position for 2013 included the “no-war pledge” in a phrase saying, “We take over the visits (to Yasukuni Shrine), offering our condolences for those who sacrificed themselves to set the groundwork for the country, and renew our pledge never to wage war again and our determination for lasting peace,” the updated draft for 2014 could raise a question about the consistency between the 2013 and 2014 party positions.

      At a convention scheduled for Jan. 19, the party will formally adopt this year’s position, whose final draft states, “We take over the visits (to Yasukuni Shrine), bolster our veneration for and offer our gratitude to those who served as the cornerstone of the country, and renew our commitment to lasting peace.””

      毎日新聞 2014年01月08日 20時56分(最終更新 01月09日 09時32分)






    6. Loverilakkuma Says:

      Hi folks,

      You should expect something interesting coming up this week. One of the leading American Independent media “Democracy Now!” will be covering the news about Japan for three days.(Yes, the Democracy Now!)

      Here’s their entire coverage aired from Tokyo:

      Abe is also in the news topics. You can get it from the link below:

      Additionally, Amy Goodman, an executive director of the program, as well as an independent journalist, will be speaking at FCCJ next Monday(the 20th).




    7. john k Says:

      Perhaps a slight tangent, but worth noting the hypocrisy:

      “..Japan protest over Korean assassin Ahn Jung-geun memorial in China…”

      “..Japan has criticised a memorial built in China to commemorate a Korean independence activist who assassinated a prominent Japanese statesman in 1909….”

      What, a shrine to war criminals, surely not! 😉


    8. Andrew in Saitama Says:

      John K

      Why not? Japan’s first Prime Minister was involved in the burning of at least two foreign embassies in his youth.

      Anyway, more here:

      Korean who assassinated Japan’s first leader honored in China

      Jan 20, 2014

      BEIJING – China has unveiled a memorial to a Korean national hero who assassinated a Japanese official a century ago as Sino-Japanese relations hover at their lowest point in years.

      In 1909, Ahn Jung-geun shot and killed Hirobumi Ito, Japan’s first prime minister and its top official on the then-Japan-occupied Korean Peninsula, at a railway station in the northeast city of Harbin.

      Ahn was hanged by Japanese forces the following year, when Korea also formally came under Japanese colonial rule.

      Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Monday criticized the opening of the memorial.

      “The coordinated move by China and South Korea based on a one-sided view (of history) is not conducive to building peace and stability” he said in Tokyo.

      The memorial hall that opened Sunday at Harbin Railway Station honors Ahn, who is viewed as a hero in South Korea for his resistance against Japanese rule. Ahn shot Ito on Oct. 26, 1909.

      The memorial got under way after South Korean President Park Geun-hye suggested erecting a monument to Ahn to Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting last June.

      “The move is truly regrettable as we had made our stance and our concerns clear to the Chinese and South Korean governments,” Suga said, adding Ahn was “a terrorist who received a death sentence.” He was executed in March 1910.

      Junichi Ihara, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, lodged protests by phone with ministers at both embassies in Tokyo.

      Japan vehemently opposes the monument and has condemned Ahn as “a criminal,” but Chinese and South Korean officials hailed its construction and contend that it was intended not to provoke a diplomatic row, but to promote peace.

      “People have cherished the memory of Ahn for the past century,” Sun Yao, the vice governor of China’s Heilongjiang province, said at the unveiling Sunday, China’s Xinhua News Agency said.

      “Today we erect a memorial to him and call on peace-loving people around the world to unite, resist invasions and oppose war.”

      Tensions with both China and South Korea were ratcheted up last month when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe became the first sitting prime minister since 2006 to visit Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine.

      Abe insisted that he had “no intention at all to hurt the feelings of Chinese or South Korean people” and that the aim of his visit was “to pledge to create an era where people will never suffer from catastrophe in war.”

      In a commentary Sunday, Xinhua wrote that “the opening of Ahn’s memorial is not to inflict pain, but to shed light on the history of Northeastern Asia.”

      “History is the teacher of life,” it said. “Alarm bells shall not go unheeded. With Japan treading a dangerous path once again, the need for vigilance and a joint international effort is clear if we are to prevent a Japanese militarist resurgence.”

      — Source on the opening claim, please.

    9. Andrew in Saitama Says:

      Hirobumi Ito’s involvement in the torching of the British embassy in 1861 is fairly well known. Reischauer and Craig mention it Japan: Tradition and Change, pp. 129-30.
      Japan Wikipedia is even more specific, placing Ito as one of three people who actually lit the fire.
      He was also involved in the planning of at least one assassination.

      The attack on the American embassy is not well documented. I first heard of this on TV (a Japanese history professor)
      This book makes a similar claim:

      I hope this helps.

    10. john k Says:

      This is interesting. For all of Abe’s, well shall abide by the law rhetoric he keeps venting in regards to the “islands” etc. Well, here is some Law for him, yet they don’t like it:

      “..S Korea and Japan clash over sea’s name in Virginia textbooks..”

      “..Virginia’s house of delegates has passed a bill requiring all school textbooks to include the Korean name for the stretch of water..”

      So rule of Law and democracy in action:

      “..Ultimately, South Korea’s view prevailed, the house of delegates approved the proposed legislation with a vote of 81-15…”

      But of course:

      “..But Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said his country would continue to lobby for the title “Sea of Japan” to be acknowledged globally…” Sigh!, business as usual then !!

      — You left out the best part — overt threats from the GOJ: “Japan’s ambassador to the US, Kenichiro Sasae, also wrote to the state Governor Terry McAuliffe, warning that if the bill was passed it could damage economic ties between Virginia and Japan.”

    11. XY Says:

      Backers of Toshio Tamogami’s mayoral run are calling on others to attend a birthday celebration for Hitler. The violent hate group Zaitokukai have already signed on.

      (Tamogami was former Chief of Staff of the ASDF.)

      新聞 あかはた





    12. Loverilakkuma Says:

      A recent article on Japan’s State Secrecy Law appeared in the Huffington Post. It suggests Japan’s absurdity of blaming the US for their decision.

      I call it the irony of copycat hysteria.

      Japan Focus: The government of Japan attributed the need for additional security legislation almost entirely to the United States. Government spokespersons asserted that U.S. government (USG) officials were clear that they would not be able to share classified information with Japan until and unless the legislation was enacted.19 In his press conference on December 9, 2013, Prime Minister Abe left no doubt:“(V)arious countries around the world have explicit rules regarding…state secrets. For that reason Japan would be unable to receive information from such countries unless it establishes rules for managing such kinds of secret information.”20 However, while U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy endorsed the development of Japanese security policy, stating “[w]e support the evolution of Japan’s Security Policies, as they create a new national security strategy, establish a National Security Council, and take steps to protect National Security Council, and take steps to protect national security secrets…”21 this does not support the assertion that the USG warned that it could not share secret information unless a new secrecy law was enacted.

      The Japanese government has not backed up this claim by pointing to any public statement by an American government official to this affect. It has also not said specifically which USG official conveyed the message to the Japanese government and when. Such specificity would permit attempts to verify that such a statement was made. Even if a USG official had made such a statement it is very doubtful that he or she would have insisted on the specific provisions which are the basis of public opposition to the legislation that was enacted…

    13. mdo7 Says:

      @10 John K,

      Sorry if I’m reviving this again. But it looks like Japan is at it again over the East Sea/Sea of Japan name issue link below (and there’s a news video that talk about it) courtesy of Arirang TV:

      Arirang News-Japan uploads more videos renaming East Sea

      Japan has released more video clips online that criticize Korea’s efforts to promote the use of the name “East Sea” for the body of water between the two countries.
      Tokyo’s Foreign Ministry uploaded a series of six-minute-long promotional videos earlier this month in seven more languages,.. claiming the name “Sea of Japan” is the globally established title. The videos posted on YouTube contain the same claim made in clips released last year in Korean, Japanese and English.
      The two countries have been at loggerheads over the name of the sea for decades. Korean maps designate the waters the “East Sea” as it is a much older name than the “Sea of Japan” which Tokyo created in the early 20th century during its colonial rule of Korea.

      *article end here*

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