Tag Archives: Fukuda Yasuo

Demonstrations in Tokyo During Hu Visit: Could Be Worse

From Reuters:

But even as Hu spoke, about 200 protesters waved signs outside the university gate saying “Free Tibet” and “No Pandas, No Poison Dumplings,” the latter referring to Hu’s offer to lend two pandas to a Tokyo zoo and a row over Chinese-made dumplings laced with pesticide that made several Japanese people ill.

When I was in Japan recently, the contaminated jiaozi/gyoza scandal was one of the first things most Japanese friends asked me about on learning I now live in Beijing. It seems like a bit of progress if anti-China demonstrators (who weren’t particularly numerous) are complaining about human rights and food safety rather than history-related issues. Anti-U.S. slogans were not as substantial when I happened upon a much larger demonstration on Sept. 11, 2004, at Tokyo’s Omotesando.

“I just want to say ‘Free Tibet’. I want to say ‘No’ to China‘s oppression of human rights,” said 29-year-old Atsushi Hanazawa, who carried a guitar along with a Tibetan flag.

Again, this makes Japanese protesters in a similar position as many around the world. No comment on who’s well informed.

Some Waseda students were more concerned about getting to class. “I can’t get through the gate. It’s a pain,” said 18-year-old Takuhiro Waki of the protest.

About two dozen right-wing activists yelled anti-Chinese slogans such as “Hu Jintao, Go Back to China.” Earlier, some right-wing Waseda alumni protested against Hu’s speech in a blog.

There’s the nationalism. But two dozen? Pretty weak from people who get crowds twice that size in front of sound trucks on anonymous Tuesdays near busy train stations and somewhat regularly clog the streets near the Chinese embassy.

Nearby around 50 Chinese students held their own rally, yelling “Go, China” in Chinese, “Sino-Japanese Friendship” in Japanese, and “Yes, We Can” in English.

“When I hear the anti-Chinese slogans, I feel that the Chinese people’s character has been maligned,” said 28-year-old Chinese graduate student Cao Shunrui.

There’s a little more nationalism, perhaps, from the other side. I’m not sure what to make of that, but the “Sino-Japanese friendship” message is considerably more helpful than some of the vitriol on both sides in U.S. campuses, from Grace Wang’s experience at Duke to a few dozen other reported rallies.

Hu later shed his suit jacket to play ping-pong at Waseda with popular players from both countries, but Fukuda, 71, declined to pick up a paddle.

“I’m glad I didn’t play ping-pong with him,” Fukuda told reporters. “He’s very strategic. I thought you can’t be too careful.”

I wouldn’t play him either. If he’s playing with popular players, he’d kick my ass. Unless Prime Minister Fukuda has been training, it’s probably wise to save the embarrassment and watch a friendly match.

Top Japanese Officials Not Among Politicians Visiting Yasukuni

Tis the season for Yasukuni Shrine visits. Between 62 (per Mainichi) and more than 150 (per AP) Japanese lawmakers visited the shrine on the traditional occasion of the spring holiday. But Jun Okumura notes that none of the very top leaders were among them:

The AP report does tell you that “Prime Minister Fukuda did not attend”. What it doesn’t tell you, though, is that Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura, Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumura, and Shigeru Ishiba also didn’t go. Call them the Big Four–the Chinese authorities told the Koizumi administration that if they stayed away, it would be okay with them (if not with the South Koreans). Prime Minister Koizumi wouldn’t listen, but the Abe administration did. So has the Fukuda administration, but that’s no surprise; there aren’t that many people in the LDP to Mr. Fukuda’s left, as far as foreign relations is concerned. No. The real news is that no Cabinet member joined the Yasukuni-fest, and how often do you see that happen?

Japan's New Foreign Policy: Step Back and Focus on Asia

Fukuda tells the Washington Post that Asia is Japan’s top responsibility, sending a signal to the United States on Japan’s expired Afghanistan refueling mission. This is also a departure from Abe and Aso’s aspiration to “Eurasian” reach.

It wasn’t too long ago that then-Foreign Minister Aso Taro declared that Japan would work for an “arc of freedom and prosperity” (自由と繁栄の弧) reaching across the Eurasian landmass. Aso’s rhetoric, which was to set out a foreign policy framework for the newly minted premiership of Abe Shinzo, made some people uncomfortable because of its echoes of history—no doubt partially because of Abe and Aso’s general hawkishness.

Now, after the implosion of the Abe government and the rocky start for Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo, a man who was initially seen as an agent for stability, Japan is changing its foreign policy footing. Ahead of Fukuda’s first visit to the United States as prime minister, he gave an interview to the Washington Post. “I believe the heaviest responsibility for Japan is to see to it that there is stability and prosperity in Asia,” Fukuda said, while also calling the U.S.–Japan alliance the “very foundation” of his foreign policy.

Japanese-U.S. ties have been destabilized (if only slightly) recently by the refusal of the Japanese legislature, where the upper house is controlled by Japan’s opposition, to renew Japan’s refueling mission in support of a primarily U.S. military action in Afghanistan. Predictably, this drew attention from U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on his trip to Asia last week. But as Tobias Harris writes, changes in China loom large in the U.S.–Japan alliance. Here’s Tobias, quoting Gates’ speech last week at Sofia University in Tokyo:

Most pressingly, the alliance has yet to coordinate an approach to China. To some, it is a bulwark against China. To others—and I think it’s safe to include Mr. Gates in this category—the stronger the U.S.–Japan alliance, the better able it will be to reach out to China and work on incorporating China into the regional security architecture. As Mr. Gates says of China, “I do not see China as a strategic adversary. It is a competitor in some respects and partner in others. While we candidly acknowledge our differences, it is important to strengthen communications and to engage the Chinese on all facets of our relationship to build mutual understanding and confidence.”

Fukuda’s emphasis on Asia, if not an isolated statement, could represent at least an orientation toward improving its relations with regional powers. It certainly would seem to reflect the reality of Japanese politics over involvement with U.S. military action.

Footnote: Gates’ not-adversary-but-competitor line also reminds me of Obama, for what it’s worth.