October 26, 2007; Volume 03, Number 38

of the

Japan Considered Podcast

[Listen to the audio file by clicking here]

Clink Links Below for Today's Topics

Discontent with Japan’s Ministry of Defense
Combining the Moriya/Yamada Issue with Extension of Indian Ocean Refueling Legislation Renewal
Interview with Dr. James E. Auer on Current Japan-U.S. Diplo-Military Issues
Concluding Comments

Good Morning from beautiful Spring Valley. In the Midlands of South Carolina. Today is Friday, October 26th, 2007. And you are listening to Volume 03, Number 38, of the Japan Considered Podcast.


Thanks for tuning in. I’m Robert Angel, creator and maintainer of the Japan Considered Project website. And creator and host of this Podcast. A cloudy – actually rainy – day here in South Carolina. Each week at this time we consider events in the news from Japan. Not every event. Or even every important event. But only those that may help us better understand Japan’s domestic politics and conduct of international relations.

Speaking of the Japan Considered website, click on over. At www.JapanConsidered.com. I’ve finally found time to complete the Podcast Archive files. On the Home Page, click on the “Podcasts” link. There, on the left-hand side of the page, you’ll see a table that gives you instant access to every podcast audio file, and every transcript. From the very beginning to the most recent. Well, the transcripts didn’t begin until January 1, 2006. But all of ‘em there are, anyway.

Also, the “FreeFind” website search box you’ll see at the bottom of the Home Page now is working better than ever. After several re-indexings by the FreeFind spiders. Thanks to those of you who’ve tried it out and e-mailed in your comments. So, now you should be able to find most anything you’re looking for on the site. And with little difficulty. Let me know how it works for you. The e-mail address remains the same: RobertCAngel@gmail.com. As always, I read all of your e-mails and respond directly to as many as possible.

This week again issues of importance to us are piling up. We’ll begin with a quick update on the politics of the Ministry of Defense flap. Or flaps. And how they’re affecting parliamentary debate. And we’ll close with an interview with Dr. James Auer, director of Vanderbilt University’s Center for U.S.-Japan Studies and Cooperation. In their Institute for Public Policy studies. Jim, as usual, helps us better understand the politics of bilateral diplo-military issues.

Once again we’ll have to hold off on the personal profile of Prime Minister Fukuda. We’ve already got a lot to cover in one program. So let’s get started.

Discontent with Japan’s Ministry of Defense

Well, as we’ve anticipated for the past few weeks, what began as the “Moriya Golf” affair is not about to go away. Indeed, it’s become a major – if not the major – focus of attention in Japan’s Diet. As is common in Japan with cases like this, each day Japan’s media publishes new information. Most of which obviously has originated with leaks from interested parties. From the Opposition parties, from the Prosecutor’s Offices, or from those targeted by the investigations. Directly or indirectly. The Moriya affair appears to be following this traditional pattern. And it isn’t pretty.

Japan’s tabloid press and political newsletters began reporting this issue at least three months ago. Around the time of the confrontation between newly appointed minister of defense, Yuriko Koike, and her administrative vice minister, Takemasa Moriya. Moriya, according to those reports, had for some years maintained a close relationship with senior executives of the Yamada Corporation, a firm involved in the facilitation of defense contracts. That relationship involved golf outings, the reports said. Quite a few golf outings, in fact. Of course, everyone reading the reports realized the golf outings themselves were just peanuts. Oops. Poor choice of words. I should say, just a minor aspect of the whole issue.

And for those who didn’t get the point, a number of weekly magazines reported that the Tokyo District Prosecutors Office had targeted the Ministry of Defense and the Yamada Corporation for investigation. Even offices of the Yamada Corporation in the United States. With Takemasa Moriya at the center of the investigation. This, if true, made the issue potentially far more serious.

Well, as it turns out, it appears the reports of prosecutorial interest were true. Former Administrative Vice Minister Moriya now is scheduled to appear on Monday, October 29th, as a sworn witness before a Lower House special committee. To answer questions about his relationship with Yamada. Diet testimony, especially sworn Diet testimony, is not taken lightly in Japan. This is important. And it may not end with appointed senior bureaucrats of the Ministry of Defense. Elected officials, especially those associated with the LDP’s Defense Zoku, are certain to view Moriya’s testimony on Monday with great interest. This issue could well develop into something far more serious.

Combining the Moriya/Yamada Issue with Extension of Indian Ocean Refueling Legislation Renewal

Observers with a genuine interest in reform of Japan’s political system will be encouraged by such a high-profile investigation. Investigation of suspected inappropriate relations between government officials and representatives of corporate providers of government goods and services. This line of inquiry gets to the core of the influence of illegal money in politics. A problem of great concern to a majority of Japan’s attentive public. But, this issue of suspected bureaucrat-government contractor untoward relationships has been combined with concerns over Japan’s Indian Ocean refueling operations.

Jim Auer will help us sort through this mess during his interview later in the program. But briefly, Japan’s Diet now is debating renewal of the bill that authorizes Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Forces to refuel ships in the Indian Ocean. Ships involved in the battle against terrorism. Opponents of renewal have charged that some of the fuel Japan provided to U.S. ships has been used to pursue the war in Iraq. And further, that Ministry of Defense bureaucrats have colluded to cover up records of the refueling operations.

Japan’s more left-leaning newspapers and television news outlets have even charged that such cover-up operations within the Ministry of Defense threaten the very principle of Civilian Control. Since uniformed officers are suspected of withholding information from civilian bureaucrats within the Ministry!

It’s encouraging to see the communications media recognize the importance of the principle of “civilian control” of Japan’s military forces. I’d begun to wonder if they’d forgotten the whole thing. Japan’s media made little, if any, mention of it during the Koike/Moriya/Shiozaki dust-up we spent so much time discussing on this program.

During that bizarre episode, a career administrative vice minister, the most senior bureaucrat in the Ministry of Defense, defied his newly appointed elected politician minister. Concerning the minister’s decision that he should retire from the Ministry. Clearly a blatant case of insubordination!

If “civilian control” has any meaning at all, it places Japan’s military forces under the control of democratically elected Cabinet members entrusted with supervision of the Ministry. It was never intended simply to subordinate uniformed officials of the Ministry of Defense to the Ministry’s bureaucratic officials. So, why weren’t Japan’s political journalists concerned about “civilian control” when it involved Minister Koike and Administrative Vice Minister Moriya? Were they unaware of the true meaning of that important democratic principle? Or did political expedience once again overwhelm principle?

We’ll have to ask Dr. Jim Auer to help us with all of this. He’s agreed, once again, to spend a few minutes with us this morning. Few people have had more experience in the field of U.S.-Japan diplo-military relations. You can learn more about Jim and his impressive government and private-sector career by clicking on over to his Japan Considered Project interview. I’ll put a link in the transcript for you. So, let’s get Jim on the SkypePhone.

Interview with Dr. James E. Auer on Current Japan-U.S. Diplo-Military Issues

RCA: Today we’re joined by Dr. James E. Auer. Jim is the director of the Center for U.S.-Japan Studies and Cooperation at Vanderbilt University. In Vanderbilt’s Institute for Public Policy Studies. Good Morning, Jim.

JEA: Good Morning, Bob.

RCA: Thank you for taking the time to join us this morning on the Japan Considered Podcast.

JEA: My pleasure.

RCA: As happened before. I’m in a little trouble here. Having to talk about issues that I know very little about. The first one that comes up, with you on the line, is this confusion we’re seeing in Japan’s parliament these days about the oil refueling issue, and Japan’s contribution, and all of that. Could help sort that out for us?

JEA: Well, I can try. It’s almost as confusing to me as it is to you. I say “confusing,” because Japan got into a lot of trouble, both internally and in its foreign relations, back in 1990 and 1991. When our friend Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. And George Herbert Walker Bush assembled a coalition of 37 nations to repel that.

There was a man by the name of Ichiro Ozawa, who was the chief cabinet secretary at the time, who argued that Japan should do something tangible. Along with the U.S. and its coalition partners. However, the cabinet was led Toshiki Kaifu at the time. And Japan decided not to participate. That caused Japan to suffer again criticism both at home and from the U.S., Europe, friendly Arab countries, etc.

Therefore, when September 11, 2001, came along, Richard Armitage, who was the deputy secretary of state at the time, advised Ambassador Shinji Yanai, in Washington, D.C., that if Japan was going to do something, they should try to act quickly. And do something tangible. The phrase “boots on the ground” came into play at time, if you remember.

But, Japan did not put boots on the ground. But it did put ships in the ocean. And fairly quickly passed a special law authorizing the dispatch of ships to the Indian Ocean to refuel U.S. and other countries’ navies, who were participating in anti-terrorism operations in the area. The first two ships arrived in November or December of 2001. Two or more ships, including an oil tanker each time, have been there ever since.

This mission is very much appreciated. The law authorizing it says nothing about the fact that these refueling operations can only be used for Afghanistan. It just authorizes refueling in the Indian Ocean. And the law has been renewed several times since 2001. it presently expires on the first of November this year. And it was the intention of the Abe Government, and now the Fukuda Government, to renew it.

But suddenly, with the Democratic Party of Japan getting a majority in the Upper House on July 29th, the same Mr. Ozawa who wanted Japan to do more in 2001 has suddenly stepped forward to say that it’s not authorized for Japan to take action in 2007. So he is opposing extension of this law. Or even this new law that the Fukuda Administration has put forward, somewhat watering down the operation to make it a little more exclusively refueling rather than any other kind of other patrolling.

I just can’t understand why the Democratic Party of Japan, or anybody else, thinks that this mission, which is a non-combat mission. Refueling is not a combat mission. Is something that Japan cannot perform. I think if Japan stops doing it, it will subject itself to at least disappointment from the United States, if not criticism. And I think a good deal of international criticism. The United Nations itself has passed a resolution commending Japan for carrying out this activity recently.

RCA: Is it possible that this might affect Japan’s bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

JEA: Well, it certainly doesn’t make its case any stronger. This again is an impressive measure for Japan. But compared to what we call “normal nations,” Japan’s participation is quite minimal. The ships in the Indian Ocean are not there to fight. Simply to provide logistic support. Japan did have 700 Ground Self Defense Force soldiers in Samawa, Iraq, for several years. Those have been withdrawn. And does have some cargo airplanes of the Air Self Defense Force in the Middle East, which fly supply missions in and out of Iraq.

But none of these forces are there to fight. They are only to provide non-combat support. The 700 soldiers who were there for several years had to be protected by the British, by the Australians, and by others, so they could carry out these non-combat missions. But they were not allowed to defend themselves. So it really is, by international standards, a pretty minimal contribution on Japan’s part. Especially given the fact that Japan has to import virtually all of its oil from the Middle East.

RCA: Before you joined us on the program, I mentioned that there’s a great flap now in Japan’s communications media, or part of it, about the question of civilian control of Japan’s military. How does this come up? And is there anything about this oil refueling business that actually threatens this civilian control principle?

JEA: Well, this could be a very, very long answer. But the quick answer is that I don’t think there is any serious, substantive allegation here at all. The Japanese Self Defense Forces, which from a legal perspective in Japan …. As you know, Bob, Japan doesn’t have military forces. It has self defense forces. Which it maintains are acceptable in a constitution that bars military force from Japan. These Self Defense Forces are, technically speaking, one of twelve categories of special civilians. Such as police, judges, members of the Diet, etc.

The word “civilian,” in fact, did not exist in the Japanese language prior to 1945. When the new constitution was being drafted and implemented, the Australians or the British. I forget which. Insisted that there be a clause in the constitution that cabinet ministers be civilians. In Japan, prior to 1945, either you were military or you were not. So, they created a word from two Chinese characters, “bunmin,” which means “civilian.”

But any kind of civilian control that exists in Japan is interpreted to mean to control the Self Defense Forces. Well, if anything, I would say the Self Defense Forces are over-controlled, rather than under-controlled. There is a career civilian bureaucracy in the Internal Bureau of the Defense Ministry, the Naikyoku. And the members of the Naikyoku, I think, like to think that they are the civilian control of the military. But the true civilian control is – the way it should be – by the Minister of Defense, the Prime Minister, and by the Diet, through the budgetary process.

As I said, the law authorizing this refueling authorizes the refueling to be done in the Indian Ocean and doesn’t specify for what purpose that refueling would take place. But the argument in the Diet from the Democratic Party of Japan has been that this fuel is being used without authorization to refuel U.S. ships which are not only engaged in operations in Afghanistan, but in Iraq as well. And for reasons I cannot understand, the Government has insisted that every drop of fuel that’s being delivered is only being used in operations in Afghanistan, rather than for operations in support of Iraq.

Now, think about this. The U.S. Navy does not have so many ships that it can say “These 100 ships are for protecting the United States mainland, these 50 are protecting Japan, these 50 are protecting South Korea, these 50 are for Afghanistan, and these 25 are for Iraq. Even a ship sitting off the coast of Afghanistan can be supporting operations there. But it can be indirectly, at the same time, supporting operations in Iraq. And to the extent that keeping peace in the Indian Ocean and the Middle East is in Japan’s national interest, those ships simultaneously are acting in Japan’s defense interests as well.

So, the debate is one that belongs in a university. Not in a national government trying to deal with a realistic strategic policy.

RCA: Well, I know that I’d never get you to agree to say it. But it just looks to me like this is pure and simple “politics.” Domestic politics wagging the international dog.

JEA: I think you are exactly right. Again, Mr. Ozawa, the present leader of the Democratic Party, when he was in the LDP in 1990, was one of the strongest voices as chief cabinet secretary for Japan becoming an active participant. And Ozawa has also argued that, in fact, in Afghanistan, Japan could do much more. That it could theoretically send troops there. Because Afghanistan is approved by the United Nations.

RCA: Are you talking about his Bungei Shunju article?

JEA: Yes. Now, he’s not getting much traction on that. And I think he’s soft-peddling that. I hate to say this. But I think the man is a pure opportunist.

RCA: He certainly will have an opportunity to explain his position on Wednesday. When he and Prime Minister Fukuda go at it during interpellations in the Diet.

We’ve already used more time than you agreed to give us. But I have one more question. You may not even want to talk about this. It’s another point of confusion. I’ve seen it for years. The debate that’s sometimes reported in the Japanese press about the apportionment of the cost of U.S. military forces in Japan, and their location. What’s that all about now? And how, if in any way, is it related to the larger picture here. Is this significant?

JEA: Well, Japan has, since the late 1970s, borne a significant share of U.S. forces in Japan’s costs. Costs of utilities; costs of Japanese labor on the bases, etc. And this money does come out of Japan’s defense budget. But remember that Japan’s defense budget is still less than one percent of GNP. Japan does not allow itself to do combat operations outside of Japan. Japan does not allow itself to exercise so-called “collective self defense.” And therefore, to the extent Japan is threatened by North Korea, which I think is a very real threat. To the extent that Japan worries about the future course of China. Which I would if I were Japanese. Japan relies for its security on the United States. Therefore Japan, picking up these costs for the United States, is a very, very wise investment on Japan’s part. Particularly, at a time when this refueling operation in the Indian Ocean may have to stop, at least for a matter of months, because of the situation with the Opposition controlling the Upper House, for Japan to even consider reducing that cost of supporting U.S. forces in Japan at this time seems to me to be a very, very unwise and risky thing for Japan to do.

RCA: May it’s just part of the annual national budget O-Matsuri. You know, the preparations for the budget.

JEA: And you know that a fairly large number – six or seven thousand marines – are scheduled to be moved from Okinawa to Guam. The U.S. has asked Japan to bear a good bit of the cost for doing that. There has been some media and Diet criticism of that as well.

Well, first of all, these forces in Guam are not going to be removed from the area of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. They will still be doing the same kind of support operations that they would be doing if they were based in Okinawa. The U.S. is more than happy to keep them in Okinawa. The only reason it has agreed to move them from Okinawa to Guam is because Prime Minister Koizumi very strongly asked the United States and President Bush to do it. So, if we’re doing it at Japan’s behest, and these forces are still acting in Japan’s behest, it seems to me to be very reasonable to ask Japan to bear a good bit of the cost of doing it.

RCA: Once again, Jim, we thank you very much for your words, and your analysis here. I hope to be talking with you again soon.

JEA: Always my pleasure, Bob.

Concluding Comments

Once again we’re slipping into old habits, and running well over time. But, given the avalanche of complaints in the past, I simply can’t overlook our closing clip of bluegrass. Well, the potential for that, anyway. So, here’s a very brief example of the guitar artistry of Tony Rice. It’s from “Night Flyer” on his “Native American” album. I’ll put a link in the transcript to his website for those of you who don’t already own your own copy of the album. Listen to this and wonder just how in the world somebody gets a guitar to sound like this!

[bluegrass clip]

Goodbye All. Until next week.