Blog Archives

As Boris Johnson rattles his sabre and peddles unsettling fantasies, a Chinese minister refers to Britain’s track record: bringing chaos and humanitarian disaster

On Thursday there was a joint meeting between British and Australian foreign and defence ministers, who discussed closer defence and trade co-operation as the UK prepares to leave the EU.

Boris Johnson, Britain’s foreign secretary, said that Britain was stepping up its commitment to the Asia-Pacific region following its dispatch of Typhoon aircraft to Japan and South Korea last year and plans to sail two new ‘vast, colossal’ aircraft carriers through contested Asian waters at a time of rising tensions between China and the US.

Jamie Smyth in Melbourne (FT) reports that Mr Johnson repeated this claim later in Sydney: “One of the first things we will do with the two new colossal aircraft carriers that we have just built is send them on a freedom of navigation operation to this area,”

HMS Queen Elizabeth is due to come into service in 2020 but HMS Prince of Wales is not due until 2023.  They are designed to support F-35 fighter jets, which the UK will not have until 2020, according to the National Audit Office.

Belief in selected tenets of the rules-based international system

Mr Johnson said the aim was to vindicate our belief in the rules-based international system – freely ignored by UK<USA and allies when bombing civilians in several regions – and the freedom of navigation through those waterways which are absolutely vital to world trade.

Will Boris be foreign secretary long enough to implement this  – or will he be long gone?

Euan Graham, an analyst at the Lowy Institute think-tank, said Mr Johnson’s commitment to Asian waters was unlikely to take effect until the early 2020s when the carriers would be ready to sail to the region.

The (‘blond British wombat’) foreign secretary told The Australian newspaper that legal certainty in the South China Sea was important and that Britain had a role to play in the region that would be welcomed by many: “People want the involvement of a country that sticks up for the rules-based international system, that is prepared to deploy its military in the area”.

On Friday CNN reports that Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lu Kang said “certain outside countries are determined to stir up trouble” in the region. Whatever banners these countries or officials claim to uphold, and whatever excuses they claim to have, their track record of bringing chaos and humanitarian disasters through their so-called moral interventions in other parts of the world is enough to make nations and peoples in the region maintain high vigilance.”

 

 

 

h

Downplayed in the media? The advance of small parties in Japan opposing war, poverty and nuclear power

kazuo shii jcp leaderThe Japanese Communist Party doubled its seats in the lower house of parliament as its strong stance against war, poverty and nuclear power provided a clear opposition to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policies. The small rightwing parties that support a more robust security stance were wiped out. (JCP chairman, Kazuo Shii, left.)

Mari Miura, a professor of political science at Sophia University, attributed the lower turnout to the lack of a clear alternative to the LDP, especially with respect to the growth policy, “made the electorate give up on political participation”. But Tomoaki Iwai, a professor of politics at Nihon University in Tokyo, pointed out that the JCP opposition party with 320,000 members and as the third largest party in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly really does: “It will be the choice of disgruntled voters”.

japan nuclear power demoKazuko Takahashi, an 84-year-old pensioner living in Tokyo, said she voted for the JCP because she was worried about changes to Japan’s pacifist constitution. “I don’t want another war. My generation still remembers the war, and I can’t let things return to that.” The Japanese Communist Party (JCP), whose pacifist, anti-nuclear platform provided the clearest opposition to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policies, advocates:

  • the establishment of a society based on socialism, democracy, peace, and opposition to militarism;
  • the achievement of these objectives by working within a democratic framework in order to achieve its goals;
  • furthering the struggle against “imperialism and its subordinate ally, monopoly capital”;
  • staying out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership;
  • replacing a sales-tax increase planned for 2017 with a rise in income tax;
  • opposing the restarting nuclear power plants closed after the 2011 Fukushima disaster;
  • seeking to stop the construction of a new U.S. military base on the island of Okinawa.
  • a “democratic revolution” to achieve “democratic change in politics and the economy”;
  • a firm defence of Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan
  • and “the complete restoration of Japan’s national sovereignty”, which it sees as infringed by Japan’s security alliance with the United States.

In the 2013 upper house elections the JCP became ‘a new 11-seat force’ and recovered the right to submit bills to the Diet, granted to parties with 10 seats or more. It acquired seats in the electoral districts of Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto, receiving a total of 10.79 million votes.

David Pilling (FT) also adds news of the advance of the pacifist Komeito party – currently the junior partner of the ruling coalition, commenting that, “in terms of the security policies that are dearest to Mr Abe’s heart, the seats gained by Komeito, a party with a strong Buddhist support base, are just as worrying”. He believes that Mr Abe will now almost certainly have to abandon the ambition of abolishing Article 9 of the constitution.

Will the May 2015 election in Britain see small parties, working for the public good, gain ground?

.

Food: important as a global trading commodity – or essential to a country’s food security and sovereignty?

 

Beleaguered food producers in Britain – underpaid to boost supermarket profits, beset by threats to commandeer land for projects such as HS2 and hydraulic fracturing, urged to merge into factory farm units, use GM animal feed and seeds and export so as to import cheap food produced by dubious methods – will have a fellow-feeling for hitherto more cherished farmers in Japan.

 

Bundling harvested rice

Bundling harvested rice

Prime Minister Abe earlier pledged to protect Japan’s “beautiful” rice fields and “safe, delicious food”, but despite this, he has joined negotiations for the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership. Today an adviser to Abe’s 2006 government urges Japan to lower its tariff barriers on agricultural products  – and so force other countries to lower their tariffs on Japanese manufactured goods.

In March, after several thousand farmers had protested in Tokyo, Hitoshi Kondo, who works for Japan Agriculture (JA), the well-organised and effective national network of farm co-operatives, explained the concerns of food producers on Japan’s typically tiny farms:

“If products from the US or Australia enter the market, there’s no way we can compete. Farmers will go out of business and the environment will be ruined. We don’t want to be sacrificed for the sake of cars and electronics.”

Abe’s former adviser, Takatoshi Ito, points out that Japanese farmers are among the most protected in the world, with half of average incomes coming from subsidies and price supports compared with one-fifth in the EU and one-10th in the US.

Japan Agriculture warns that if Japan joins the TPP, “we may no longer be able to eat the safe, secure domestic food that has nourished our lives” and the agriculture ministry has said that if trade barriers are lifted Japan’s agricultural output could shrink by half.

Mr Abe is said to be about to issue a prime minister’s directive to change the law so that non-agricultural corporations are allowed to own agricultural land. At present, only small-scale farmers can do so. Japan’s general trading companies, such as Mitsubishi and Mitsui, would probably seize the opportunity to produce, distribute and export agricultural products under one roof.

Larger-scale farmers need not lose out on either jobs or income . . .

Ito adds that those who have only small plots of land with a high cost of production . . . can be compensated for their land, which could then be absorbed into much larger and more productive units with lower costs.

So there’s the plan in both countries and many others in the grip of greed: wealthy landowners, processors, exporters, transporters and speculators have everything to gain. Small and medium producers, who do the actual work, and people who want wholesome food, lose.

 

Was the role of the revolving door in Japan disastrous?

 Recently PCU reported Russia’s attempt to break the link between politicians and the oil industry and now Japan Today records that the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry [METI] has urged senior ministry officials, vice-ministers and deputy vice-ministers and those at the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, not to take posts at power companies. 

The damaged nuclear power plant in Fukushima

 Undue influence? 

In the past, many ministry officials have been given highly paid post-retirement jobs at utilities. Tokyo Electric Power Co, the operator of the crippled power plant, had employed Toru Ishida, a former head of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy under METI and there has been widespread public suspicion that such ties between the ministry and the power companies have compromised Japan’s regulation of nuclear facilities and contributed to the country’s worst nuclear accident. 

Michiyo Nakamoto in Tokyo, writing for the Financial Times, reports: 

“The government expects the officials to avoid a practice that is known in other countries as the “revolving-door”, with senior officials leaving government to take up better-paid jobs in the industry they have previously regulated”. 

.

In Britain we go much further: officials, advisers, former ministers, MPs and Lords take such positions.

 As  ‘hokkaidoguy’ comments in Japan Today:

“Unfortunately, this isn’t just a Japanese problem. I’d call it universal.”