Tag Archives: Daioyu

Noise

25 Nov

This week has had an interesting news cycle. From the recent nuclear announcement with Iran, Obama’s affordable care act issues, the long delayed attempt to remove 1500 radioactive rods from the Fukuhshima plant to the Chinese proclamation about air rights over the disputed Senkaku/Daiyou islands.

What I find most interesting about international events is how low the barrier to entry is when it comes to having an opinion about what is going on around the world. Anyone with a pulse make sweeping generalized statements while having little direct knowledge about the region in question. For the record I am not saying I am the expert but what many posit as fact should be more accurately defined as opinion. I would further hazard to say that many of these opinions are not only flawed but dangerously broken.

My father often told me to question another persons information source. Not in an aggressive manner but rather to determine where the so called facts were coming from. Once you get a grasp on someone’s knowledge base you can better interpret their conclusions. James Rickards is clearly a brilliant writer with extensive knowledge of gold and finances but his position towards the middle east is cloudy at best. Its not a snap decision on my part just simply connecting the dots from watching and reading what he says. So if he talks about finance or gold I am all ears, but when he discusses regional politics in the middle east especially Israel I choose to ignore much of what he says.

This goes to the heart of what I wanted to discuss. If you need an accountant or lawyer or even a doctor, you seek someone who is competent to take care of your needs. They provide a service and we hopefully benefit from their experience. Yet politics has no such barrier to entry. Everyone has an opinion about politics based on facts that are flawed in the best of times. Yet governmental policy is such a vitriolic issue that it often causes bitter feelings between the participants. Pointing out weak points seems to exacerbate the issue rather than clarify it. This is because people are wed to their beliefs and it often has little to do with the overriding mutually agreed upon facts of common ground.

Its a sad state of affairs.

So rather than try to poke holes in other people’s beliefs perhaps its best to ask questions about why they have come to those conclusions. In this way we can better understand each other.

Lets start with Iran shall we ?

So firstly we should agree that US foreign policy when it comes to Iran is sordid at best. The US government supported a counter-revolution and installed the Shah who had a pro US position. It was an extension of Kennan’s containment policy and in hindsight was quite effective in limiting soviet influence in the region. If someone doesn’t know these facts than their opinion on Iran has no value because they don’t understand the situation. Now that we agree that Iran is of vital interest to the US and that US foreign policy is geared towards keeping Iran within US influence it was only a question of time before events moved them towards detente.

You may not like this or support its undertaking but it has very little to do with the facts of the situation. The region is now in flux, but it has always been this way and it will continue to remain in this condition going forward. It is not a political zero sum game. The choice is NOT one of Israel or Iran, nor is it Saudi Arabia or Iran. It can be both. Yet many are making statements as if both is not a viable alternative. This is pure folly and is foolish to do so unless you conclude that the solution to the situation is to attack Iran because there is no other choice.

Since I don’t believe that anything positive can come about from attacking Iran the alternative which include negotiations are preferable. Maybe history will prove me wrong but if I have to choose between an Israeli airstrike or detente I choose the later. Finally since Israel has not signed the non proliferation treaty they are not in a position to dictate to anyone about the details of the treaty. Perhaps they should re-evaluate their position and sign the treaty ?

Healthcare is either a right or a privilege. How you answer that question will quite likely determine ones position on the issue. What I find amusing is the argument that somehow people of limited means shouldn’t have healthcare. Either you have it or you don’t. Its something everyone wants as well. The young and healthy perhaps don’t want it but they certainly need it if and when someone happens to them.

Currently the US system is broken. Americans pay more than other countries for health yet don’t have coverage for everyone. We can choose either to fix it or not.

Where was the outrage about healthcare from the right before Obama tried to pass the Affordable care act ? Where was the debate from the Tea Party when Bush passed the Medicare expansion program ? These are not fixing the problem they are only treating the symptoms. Why do liberals accept a less than adequate system of coverage ?

It certainly is a vexing issue, yet those who want the ACA to fail or want to go back to the good old days simply do not understand the problem. Follow the logic; Poor and working class people get sick, they don’t have healthcare so they delay seeing a doctor, eventually the problem gets worse so they go to the emergency room to get treatment, the bill is either picked up by the state or taxpayers anyway or is eaten by the hospital which in turn increases costs. You and I are paying for it anyway. Got it ?

You and I cannot escape from paying for other peoples care. Its really as simple as that. If you prefer a system where you don’t pay for other people I suggest you spend some time in urban India where poverty is so pervasive that people die on the streets because that is what we are going to get in the US with a no government coverage policy. Its the same flawed subjective thinking that concludes that all government is bad, yet we enjoy police, fire, road, passport and a variety of social services courtesy of our collective tax dollars.

Can government be smaller ? You bet it can, but lets cut fat not bone or muscle.

Its a broken system. There are no good old days, and hampering people’s access to healthcare makes the problem more expensive. MORE expensive not less. Yet we hear very little about solutions from either side. A pathetic situation self inflicted situation with both parties to blame which is bound to get worse.

Fukushima is a situation I have written about before that I prefer to not cover right now but there are problems with the cleanup that I will address at another time.

Last but certainly not least is the East China Sea. Warning this is more of a rant but clearly the current structure is not capable of handling the demands being put upon it. Chinese, Korean and Japanese politicians are addressing their collective domestic audiences without much regard to the region nor the consequences from conducting poor policies.

Some would suggest that this issue is about energy, yet if it were really about energy why aren’t the Japanese or any other power trying to tap into the area ? Perhaps there isn’t as much “energy” as is being claimed because if there were it would be tapped and flowing into the market by now. If it is Japanese as Mr Abe claims then go ahead and unilaterally begin mining it. Yet I see no action or discussion about doing so.

In my opinion the issue is not about energy it is about influence in the region. Energy is a strawman that everyone buys into because it appears to explain the problem. This is coming from someone who has been closely watching the region situation for a decade. You may disagree with my position but how much time have you spent on studying it and what is your information source. Pulling it out of your butt is not a viable argument either.

China has taken the next step in the escalation of words by proclaiming that the air space above the disputed area are now subject to Beijing’s rules. They have imposed a domestically legal aircraft registration system that will classify all aircraft as either legitimate or “registered” or illegal or “not registered”. The Japanese have objected yet they already have such a system in existence and use it to label Chinese entry as incursions.

Which side is right ? I can’ t say but looking at the region I would conclude that Japan might be better served by trying to work with the Chinese rather than against them on this issue. Its the same broken zero sum game mindset that belongs to a forgotten age or flawed mindset that views uninhabited islands as owned by far of regional powers. Where is the harm is collectively developing the area, registering both air recognition systems and working towards common goals ?

Its absent, but if I were going to put chips on the table I would most likely go with China. They are a rising power, soon to be the biggest market in the world and it would suit Japan’s future generations to seek common ground with such an empire rather than to squabble over crumbs. Yes that’s right, I just qualified the islands as crumbs. Compared to the domestic auto industry in China the energy from the area is a relatively small market. Yet the Japanese opt out of being a major part of that market by adhering to a broken foreign policy that gains very little at the expense of longer term benefits.

Sending in marines or threatening to do so does not improve the situation it simple pushes both sides towards escalation. If that is the goal then both parties are doing a fabulous job of it.

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Blunderific

16 Aug

Its been far too long since I posted on this humble little blog with the big attitude, but the gaffes, mistakes and blunders around these parts continue to pile up so I thought it best to address some of them here and now.

Its amateur hour at the office of the deputy prime minister and former PM Taro Aso who went on record stating that the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan could learn something from the Nazi’s. To be fair the subject he meant to address was how a German government party was able to transform the country. However are we to believe that nobody checks his statements or was he speaking off the cuff ? So we are dealing with either incompetence, idiocy or perhaps both ? It took less than one news cycle for the criticism to escalate to the point where a retraction and apology was forthcoming. Hardly surprising and in fact rather par for the course round these parts.

The naming of the new Japanese naval helicopter carrier Izumo is also bound to become a classic dipshyte maneuver. Izumo also happens to be the name of a cruiser used by the Japanese during both the first and second Sino Japanese wars where it no doubt killed plenty of Japans enemies in such places as Shanghai and other coastal cities. Gee what a great name selection, lets choose a title that is perhaps most likely to piss off our neighbors. Then the Japanese can blame them for not understanding their culture. Talk about having ones head your ass.

For the record I know the relevance of Izumo for Japanese people, but giving the largest warship built since WW2 such a name simply tempts derision, taunts neighbors, mocks those professing detente as well as harms what little regional goodwill that remains. The reaction has been swift and justifiable to the condescending nature of the ships name. Hopefully the deterrence it provides will more than make up for the damage its caused to relations between Japan and China.

Now of course it is Obon season here in Japan which means its Yasukuni shrine time. I won’t go into details about the place because you can learn about it yourself, but it is a magnet for creating ill will all across East Asia. Thus it is a no win situation as far as international relations and greater regional stability are concerned. Therefore its a great reason for Japanese government officials to visit there. Hey lets torpedo any and all good will gained in the region by having the Government officials visit the shrine.
Or perhaps the LDP can further strain foreign affairs by having the PM call a news conference where he can discuss the importance and significance of Yasukuni to the Japanese people. Never mind how non Japanese will take such a stance. We already know what the disastrous reaction will be after numerous such discussions over the years. After all outsiders cannot possibly understand such a delicate matter so why bother worrying about it ? Lets just shoot from the hip because its done so much good for them in the past. Its laughable how easy it is for these clowns to damage an already tension filled situation with “good intent”. Actually it might be more prudent to have Mr Aso get up there and go back to the Nazi card. That way it might not piss off the Asians as much as the Jews and Europeans.

What is my point some of you may ask ?

Simply this

Those who argue that Japanese are misunderstood miss the point entirely. The issue has very little to do with how Japanese perceive themselves, this is about how her neighbors see them.

Until the little light goes on in an otherwise empty refrigerator nothing good will come from LDP posturing. Less talking, better yet NO talking is preferable to what is being said and very likely what is going to be said over the coming weeks.

The ink isn’t even dry

13 May

An LDP policy chief has opened declared that visiting Yasukuni is the right of every Japanese person and that a treaty signed by China and Japan that normalized relations specifically states a position of “non interference” between the 2 countries when it comes to internal affairs. This kind of statement is almost comical if it weren’t so tragic. I think the LDP’s foreign policy is now officially lets kick the hornets nest and then play in traffic.

Sad and pathetic is how I would categorize this rash and foolish statement.

If you want to visit the shrine then do so, but to openly court your regional neighbors in doing so is just folly pure and simple. I find it difficult to think of a decision or statement by a politician that could do more damage to regional stability than this one. I take that back, if the sitting PM were to make such a statement it would be far more damaging, the fact that its only a party policy boss makes it so much more palatable.

Hang on folks, this one is bound to get more interesting.

The comedy continues

23 Apr

I guess for Americans dealing with the Boston bombing news other issues have fallen off the priority list, but I can assure you that Korea remains a big problem here in East Asia. So where is the comedy in this situation you ask ? Well I can honestly tell you that at this point I am never surprised by the propensity of the Japanese to shoot themselves in the foot.

Today it was announced that the Korean Foreign Minister was cancelling his high level talks with the Abe government as a protest over Japanese cabinet ministers visiting the Yasukuni war shrine earlier in the month. You would think that it would be in both countries best interest to at least discuss trade, finance and other issues after the major announcement by the Bank of Japan to further its quantitative easing policy. For those who didn’t already know the Koreans and Japanese are fighting over a very similar export market share and I doubt the Koreans sit by and let the Yen continue to devalue without taking similar action with the Won.

So deputy prime minister and former prime minister Taro Aso publicly decides to visit Yasukuni and nobody takes the the time to inform him that he might want to wait until AFTER the high level Korean talks ? Seriously ? Who is in charge of Japanese policy Mickey Mouse ? No wait don’t answer that question because Mickey might do a better job of it than the current administration. Its a laughable situation and very illustrative of how puerile and ignorant the Japanese are when it comes to how they handle foreign policy. Perhaps they already knew that the talks with Korea wouldn’t garner any traction but why schedule them in the first place ?

Further darkening the waters its now being reported that up to 80 Japanese nationalists are en route to visit the disputed Daioyu-Senkaku islands. While I am sure they do not have official government sanction to visit the area you can be sure that privately these kinds of excursions are met with a supporting nod and words of affirmation in upper echelon circles within the government of Japan.

I wonder what other neighbor the Abe government can piss off before the month is out ?

Prices are up ?

24 Feb

Since the LDP swept back into power the Abe government has proudly and often stated that their goal is to increase inflation. As to why the public at large would actually vote for such a proposal is somewhat disheartening and is probably more closely related in a desire to change government from the NDP rather than support for the LDP. Among the people I have talked with, many of them have expressed a desire to do something which is in itself holds some merit. For those of you who don’t quite understand the Japanese mindset, the choice between doing nothing versus something here often results in doing nothing. A lot of time, attention and money is spent in meetings discussing things that are never done, so the fact that people are telling me that they WANT change and WANT something to happen is a leading indicator of more “news” to come.

Perhaps had the general voting public better understood what the Abe government wanted they might have opted for the do nothing approach. In an effort to boost exports the yen has dropped quite significantly. Yet trade has not improved published numbers show an across the board dip in exports. Perhaps that is somewhat attributable to China being approximately 20% of Japan’s market while the Abe government talks tough on the disputed islands. Once again a clear foreign policy failure by the Japanese government who has shored up its domestic support with “China is the problem” comments at the expense of its corporate overseas earnings. I suppose we should wait another quarter or two to see how things transpire but I am not hopeful that things will change.

The drop in the yen’s strength dovetails nicely with an increase in the Japanese governments buying of US debt. So perhaps with tacit agreement by the US, Japan has devalued the yen in an effort to boost sales. We will see soon enough if this is a winning formula. I believe it is perhaps short term “winning” tactic but a long term losing strategy. Japan has not addressed its core issues going forward and is simply creating more debt in the public sector. Further with March 15 tax day approaching, many of the government programs will expire. For example if one wants to buy a “light” car and you want to take advantage of some government support, you need to purchase your car prior to March 15. Last time I checked I heard that qualified candidates might get up to about 800 bucks back on a new car. Cash for clunkers anyone ?

Actually my wife and I will be buying a new light car in the next few weeks so I will try and post something about the experience.

With the yen dropping in value, import prices are rising. Bananas, Gasoline, Meat are all already up in price or scheduled to rise. Yay, your average blue collar family now has less money to spend on education, paying off loans etc. Meanwhile the alleged export boost has failed to materialize. I can’t say how long it will take for the voting public to recognize that they have voted against their own best interests but if the pattern holds true I would say by August or Christmas at latest Mr Abe will start feeling the pressure to announce elections.

Now is the time for him to act. I believe he is going to get the BOJ and finance department changes he wants, further weakening the yen. He has been open in his declarations about the LDP plan so far and he knows better than anyone that his support will fall off going forward. He has to move forward with the LDP blueprint and hope that it shows results.

What has me scratching my head is how inflation among the things the general public consumes is going to benefit the Japanese people. Prices are still too high here and that is after 20 years of deflation. I am certainly not wishing the LDP ill will as my adopted country needs to change course but I honestly don’t believe that Abe’s decisions are best for the Japanese people. Maybe I will be proved wrong, but I doubt it.

Turn on the “new” nukes

6 Jan

The news is a few days old but its official. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has done on national TV and clearly stated that he supports the building of “new” atomic reactors.

He clarified his position by stating that the new nuclear power plants would be improved and that his government should build energy trust with the Japanese public.

http://enenews.com/prime-minister-japan-will-be-building-nuclear-power-plants/comment-page-1

Its a very unpopular position to take as the Fukushima crisis, poorly attempted coverup and criminal neglect has soured the population against nuclear power. Japan does not have any real energy sources and must import it from places such as Indonesia, Russia and Australia.

The nuclear special interest groups bring deep pockets, jobs programs and provide energy for Japans consumers so in the long run it was only a question of time before the atomic power door was opened. Still it should immediately reduce Mr Abe’s support numbers nationwide and bring opposition parties closer together in an effort to oust the LDP from power asap.

In the past Mr Abe has been very vague about many of his positions so for picking up the atomic energy baton and waving the flag this humble blogger can at least understand and support his decision. He actually visited the Fukushima power plant on December 29 and quite likely got a full dose of how “safe” it is now that things have been “cleaned” up.

Now if he can only speak more carefully about foreign policy things might cool down. Recently he has gone public with his wish to “reframe” Japan’s post WW2 apology. The East Asian regional powderkeg simply exploded with reactions. The Koreans in particular have a strong and deep feeling of resentment about the entire issue and it is my understanding that Japanese textbooks do not fully or accurately depict the occupation which further angers the Korean people. The Chinese too who always appear eager to point fingers elsewhere were quick to condemn the statement.

Why is Mr Abe even discussing this ? Its a losing strategy on the international front and his rural and nationalist supporters in Japan are already onboard with his election. It makes little sense and is another confirming indicator that he is flawed leader.

So in the past week Mr Abe has stirred the atomic energy hornets nest, which was more of a required move to take and at the same time has opened a giant can of worms in the region with his “forward” working statement as regards East Asia.

Can’t wait to see what next week brings.

LDP singing the same old tune

22 Dec

LDP singing the same old tune

Tonight on NHK news there was a round table interview of an LDP representative. There were a series of questions about the nation of Japan and the LDP’s plan for the future.

If you wade through the obfuscation the answers were very simple.

The LDP is going to borrow large amounts of new debt to fuel major construction projects across the country. Earlier this week the new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had a meeting with the Bank of Japan Governor Masaaki Shirakawa. Shirakawa has an M.A in economics from the university of Chicago and is a DPJ approved nominee who was appointed by LDP prime minister Fukuda. At the time the DPJ controlled the upper house of parliament and kept the BOJ position open for 3 weeks which was a major gaffe and the first time since WW2 that Japan hadn’t had a bank governor.

Mr Shirakawa is most likely going to be replaced as soon as the LDP can muster the time and effort to do so. As a result of what will probably be Shirakawa’s pink slip and the BOJ awaiting its marching orders Abe did most of the talking. The BOJ will fall into the LDP line of promoting inflation, deregulation and economic growth. It then delivered another round of stimulus which has become rather SOP in Japan these days. It will also stand ready to open the spigots of further monetary easing early next year.

The LDP is going to begin construction of new nuclear power plants. This was an easy issue to see through as its only a question of time before the government begins to pressure the various prefectures to turn on their idle power plants. This flies in the face of what appears to be public sentiment, however this blogger feels that Japan is really in a difficult position when it comes to energy consumption. The main obstacle for the LDP to overcome is policy wonk insistence that active faults lie beneath nuclear power plants all across the country. So there will be a gradual insistence from the top that “things are fine” or if they are not “we can restructure things so they will be fine”. Thus overcoming DPJ policy that led to almost every plant closing as they phased in their usual maintenance programs.

How will the younger educated urban people feel about this ? It should be very interesting to see how things shake out going forward. I am hoping it gets testy as it is very unlike Japanese to cause others to lose face. After the Fukushima fiasco, lies and criminal mismanagement I doubt the public will approve of the LDP’s decision. Changes will start brewing shortly after the LDP forces through the policy. It is probably the right decision in the long run but as usual the party doesn’t rule by consensus but rather by edict. It will most likely be their undoing.

Further indicators include the appointment of LDP policy chief Akira Amari as minister in charge of the economic revival. Amari is a well known pro nuke guy. Amari will head the Council on Economic and Fiscal policy which the LDP will use to pass further regulation measures. In a country where regulation is paramount I for one am looking forward to how things will turn out. Will Amari be up for the task ? At 63 years old I would say the jury is still out but I wouldn’t bet on him staying too long.

It appears that Mr Aso who is himself a former Prime Minster will be put in charge of the ministry of Finance as well as becoming deputy prime minister. This blog has a rather negative spin on Japanese politics but I do hold hope for Mr Aso. He is quite capable and unlike Abe knows how to lead. Further posts appear to be held for Mr Tanigaki and Ishihara. Ishihara is a firebrand nationalist politician who has a lot of support from the Japanese conservatives because he speaks his mind and supports popular positions on among other things the Senkaku islands that I wrote about earlier in this blog.

Look for Mr Abe to focus on economics first, and then trying to fix the numerous other issues facing this country. He may quite possibly try and reform the constitution which will have a very interesting affect on the regional powers who carefully watch the Japanese. The last time Mr Abe was in office, his term was most known for a series of scandals, outrage and mismanagement leading to his leaving office and eventually the DPJ taking power.

With 40% of seats in parliament being controlled by the urban voting block I believe that Abe can keep the pork machine doling out enough jobs to keep the rural 60% of seat holders economically satisfied. I think that ultimately the major factor will be if something non economic gets in the way of the LDP’s deregulation and constitutional plans for change.

Senkaku – Diaoyu dispute in perspective

9 Dec

It took me awhile to get around to posting this as I found a collection of videos on you tube from a website I sometimes frequent. It involves precious metals and investing which is something near and dear to me heart so sadly this blog went without attention as it had from early last year until this December when I brought it back from the dead.

So lets take a closer look at the situation currently simmering in the South China Sea. The Diaoyus or as the Japanese call them the Senkaku islands are a group of empty rocks 102 nautical miles from China and 230 NM from Naha in Okinawa. Perhaps it has energy resources in the sediment below the disputed area but it most certainly has fishing resources. So is this potential conflict point worth fighting over fishing access ?

In this bloggers opinion it is not.

Sadly the entire brewing fiasco has been packaged and sold to both the Chinese and Japanese people as some sort of sovereign rights issue. While on its face the islands are disputed and are someones national “lands” they are marginal locations at the best of times. One does not need an island in order to fish the surrounding area and if there are energy resources in the sea bed why have they not been studied and or developed ?

The truth is that this is toxic blend of nationalistic fever, mixed with a bread and circus mentality. It is packaged, marketed and consumed by both the nations people. I can understand why the Chinese are following such a path but for the Japanese it makes little sense to me. Then again I probably have a better grasp on the Japanese mindset than that of the Chinese but from my perspective the Chinese are pursuing a win win strategy.

The Chinese have a number of issues on their plate including but not limited to;
1. A rapidly developing economy based upon urban living and factory floor production
2. A 1.2 billion population in transition from rural to urban employment and in need of jobs
3. A CCP government that just announced a new national leader
4. The realization that China has arrived on the International scene as a major player yet lacking some of the critical elements that make a country “great”.
5. A profound need by the CCP to find a scapegoat in order to deflect domestic tension away from them
6. The unique and lengthy historical context of China and her peoples
7. A feeling of national pride as China is now the 2nd largest economy on the planet

I am sure there are more than the 7 I just listed but I think it clearly illustrates the Chinese situation.

The Diaoyu Islands are in fact the perfect remedy for issues 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It allows the CCP to sit back and allow protests against perceived Japanese “aggression” by the rapidly growing urban working classes in Eastern China. It is far preferable to have protests directed at the Japanese than against the CCP and her loyal albeit occasionally corrupt local party politicians. It allows the government to transition to their new party boss, put their plan into place and implement the changes the party deems necessary to achieve their 10 year goals.

The people of China are now fully entering the consumption phase of the development plan initially put in place by Deng Xiaoping. They feel their rising strength both fiscally and as a growing super power yet they lack a gravitas necessary to fully emerge on the world scene as the counter weight to the US colossus. Trading and development projects continue at break neck speed both domestically and on an international basis. They continue to develop, practice and refine their approach. The country has the world second largest navy and is working to secure China’s access to the energy and resources she needs to continue her development.

The CCP needs time to complete their plans for China and the Diaoyu incident is a perfect circus to feed the people and steer them away from domestic instability. National pride is the unifying emotion now proudly espoused by the Chinese people. Those who maintain the fight for individual freedoms or protest against China’s human rights violations seem overwhelmed by the nationalistic fervor now existing in the country.

I will discuss the Japanese situation at a later time as this post is starting to become lengthy