November 21, 2005

Bush in Asia: will his visit help him at home?

With his visit in Asia, will George W. Bush succeed in counterbalancing the difficulties he has at home? Various European media are not convinced.

Of course, the US president can argue that relations with Japan are strong. Indeed, in Kyoto he didn’t forget citing it as a model for Asian countries.
Japan remains the first economic and military power in Asia, the essential anchor for the USA,”in Le Figaro.
However, this honeymoon is fragile. It could suffer from the “probable departure next year of Mr Koizumi, who has done more than anyone to shore up the US relationship through his diehard support of Mr. Bush's agenda, particularly in Iraq,” explains the Financial Times.
It masks also the underlying strains that “stem from unresolved questions about how the alliance should engage with China,” adds the FT.
It tarnishes Japan’s relations with other countries in the region, which have a less conciliatory position. Indeed, in South Korea, Bush is received “as an ally, not a friend. Behind smiles, heavy will be the resentments Le Figaro. Meanwhile, China will be angry with Bush’s calls in favor of democratic rules. If “Beijing is accustomed to visiting US leaders pressing it to allow greater freedoms,” reminds the FT, “China's leaders will be irritated to have Japan and, in particular, Taiwan held up as examples of successful regional democracies.”
The success in commercial issues during the APEC summit is no longer a sure thing, according to Le Monde, which explains that neither South Korea, nor Japan will be easy to convince to open up their agricultural markets.

Posted 12:05 PM | Comments (0)

November 13, 2005

No APEC, No Bush

Member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) began the annual APEC forum Saturday , with the start of the Concluding Senior Officials' Meeting (CSOM).

This week Asia Pacific summit will be attended by US President George W. Bush. Exactly like the one in Mar del Plata and Buenos Aires during this year's Summit of the Americas, President Bush has thousands of protesters here in Busan, South Korea's second largest city, again.

AFP reports following.

Farmers' union leaders said 50,000 of their members would rally in Busan next Friday along with a similar turnout of workers in an anti-Bush, anti-trade liberalization protest.

"No Bush! No War! No Globalization! No APEC!," read a leaflet calling on workers to take part in an anti-APEC rally.


In a statement, the group said APEC had become a tool for US multinationals seeking to expand their dominance in the world market "under the pretext of trade liberalization."

The group leaders also criticised Bush at a rally here for leading a "war of aggression" against Iraq. One protester, wearing a face mask and carrying a mock M-16 rifle, was bound by ropes with a sign attached reading "war criminal."

Photo is also from AFP.

Posted 09:37 PM | Comments (0)

November 05, 2005

US-Japan Alliance: Cold War again?

In response to the report entitled "US-Japan alliance: For future reforms and regrouping" published at the end of last month, People's Daily, the most influential and authoritative Chinese newspaper, Saturday put the review "US-Japan military alliance reflects Cold War mentality" written by Jiang Xinfeng who is a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences and World Military Research Institute.

Jiang elevated sense of vigilance against accelerating Japan-US military integration and called it "full of Cold War mentality".

On October 29, Japan-US "2+2" Security Consultation Committee held a meeting in Washington, which reached an agreement on the adjustment of US troops stationed in Japan and the share of duties between Japan's Self-Defense Forces and US troops, and published the report entitled "US-Japan alliance: For future reforms and regrouping". Intensified Japan-US military alliance is manifested mainly in the following aspects:
First, accelerating Japan-US military integration, enhancing joint combat capability. The report points out that the headquarters of US troops stationed in Japan will set up a Japan-US joint combat command post at the Yokota Airport, move the US ground force first headquarters on the land of America to the Camp Zama and set up there a central quick reaction group headquarters of Japan's land Self-Defense Forces, move the aviation Self-Defense Forces headquarters located in Foochow to the Yokota Airport where the Fifth Air Force headquarters of the US army is located. This is aimed to establish a Japan-US emergency mechanism, strengthen coordinated command between Japanese and US headquarters, realize share of information and enhance ballistic missile defense capability, thereby speeding up the process of Japan-US military integration and improving Japan-US commanding and combating abilities. Military integration is also manifested in the shared use of US troops' facilities in Japan by the two countries. US troops in Japan and Japanese Self-Defense Forces can use civil airports and docks and harbors under emergency situations.

Second, ensuring the containing power of US troops in Japan when they tend to become more capable and flexible. The agreement focuses on adjusting US troops stationed in Okinawa. The Futenma Airport of US forces in Japan will be moved to Camp Schwab, at the same time, US 7,000-member marine corps in Okinawa will be reduced, the majority of which will be shifted to Guam. On the one hand, this can help lighten the burden on the Okinawa Base; on the other hand, it can make US Marine Corps cope with various situations more flexibly. In addition, although US Land Force First Headquarters to be shifted to Camp Zama does not have subordinated army units, once warfare breaks out in the area from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean under its jurisdiction, the headquarters can instantly dispatch crack troops from the US proper and other places to plunge into battles. Despite reduction in the number of US troops in Japan, due to strengthened commanding and controlling functions of US forces in Japan, the containing power of US troops has become stronger.

Third, the substantial upgrading of Japanese military role has made Japan the frontline of US Asian strategy. The report points out that Japan and the United States will strengthen cooperation in a dozen or so fields such as antiaircraft, ballistic missile defense, anti-proliferation and counter-terrorism, the two sides confirm the need to formulate a joint combat plan for dealing with contingencies and stress that Japan will give US troops "unceasing support". The United States regards Japan as a strong point for realizing its Asian strategy, and Japan, on its part, takes advantage of the opportunity to upgrade its military position and role, so as to take more and deeper participation in regional and global security affairs and raise its status in the international community, and thus accumulate capital for realizing its goal of becoming a political power.

Fourth, its intention to contain China and some other countries has become conspicuous. Japan and the United States have clearly regarded the Taiwan Straits and the Korean Peninsula as their common strategic goals in the Asian region. The present adjustment to US troops in Japan and various military cooperation measures of the two countries mainly aim to cope with armed conflicts possibly occur in the Taiwan Straits and the Korean Peninsula in the future, their intention to contain China is obvious.

Amidst the theme of the UN initiation for the establishment of a harmonious world, the act of the United States and Japan in presenting the new military cooperation agreement which is full of Cold War mentality entirely goes against the trend of the times featuring peace and development. It has not only met with severe criticisms from farsighted personages of Japan, but also has aroused the high vigilance of the surrounding countries. That Japan ties itself to the war chariot of the United States will not make itself more secure, but instead will harm its long-term national interests.

The author Jiang Xinfeng is research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences and World Military Research Institute; Translated by People's Daily Online

Posted 12:32 PM | Comments (0)

Tokyo Governor Ishihara Bashes US

Some of Japanese media reported at a Washington press conference on Thursday, Tokyo's right-wing governor, Shintaro Ishihara said that if the US and China get into a war, then "there is no chance of the United States defeating China in a war. Washington should take measures to contain China economically."

"A war is an attrition of lives," the anti-US novelist-turned politician said, "the US is making a fuss over 2,000 victims of the Iraq war. But since the Chinese do not value life, they would not care if they lose millions of soldiers, unlike the US."

He said that China has successfully tested ICBM missiles and brought nuclear submarines into Japanese territorial waters, therefore "the world situation is more dangerous than it ever was during the U.S.-Soviet Cold War".

Posted 10:16 AM | Comments (0)

October 31, 2005

Pyrite Jubilee

The South Korean-American alliance has been one of the strongest in Asia, if not the strongest, since the 1950s. As Professor Moon Chung-in writes for The Korea Times, however, that bond appears to be in attenuating.

Beginning with the desecration of a Douglas MacArthur statue on the part of some Korean radicals, there is reason to think that the relationship has gone south since the golden jubilee of a few years ago. A laundry list of Korean concerns includes: the continual presence of U.S. bases in the center of Seoul, America's persistence in casting North Korea as an enemy despite the Sunshine Policy's successes on the peninsula, and the general lack of autonomy of the Korean military (which itself dates back to MacArthur's era as the nation's prelate).

Professor Moon makes it clear that the overwhelming majority of Koreans still view their ally favorably, but for a country that has been fettered by imperial powers for several centuries, U.S. policy makers would do well to take note.

He concludes with the following:

But one thing is clear. Seoul and Washington may not be able to sustain the current form of alliance, as a threat-based alliance cannot last long. In the medium- to long-run, the current military alliance needs to be transformed into a comprehensive alliance based on such common values as a market economy and liberal democracy. As in Europe, the comprehensive alliance can pave the way to a collective defense system, multilateral security cooperation, and ultimately a community of security that can assure a collective security system. South Korea and U.S. need to plan a positive transition and resuscitate the alliance by looking toward an entirely new horizon that goes beyond an exclusive bilateral alliance system.

Posted 11:23 PM | Comments (0)

US-Japan, Evolving Alliance, Deepening Isolation?

Former Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage called US-Japan Alliance "the most important one" in the world.
There is no doubt that Japan is one of America's staunchest allies and is a key strategic partner in Northeast Asia.

Japanese and U.S. government officials last Saturday put together an interim report on the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan. The report not only details the relocation of U.S. military bases, but its content is aimed at expanding and strengthening the security alliance between Japan and the United States.

The news was greeted by majority of Japanese politicians and Yomiuri Shimbun welcomed this with Monday's editorial "Major turning point in deepening of alliance".

In February, both nations confirmed their common strategic targets. In the Asia-Pacific region, both countries will work to maintain peace and stability in Japan and the whole region, in light of China's buildup of its military capabilities and North Korea's development of nuclear arms. Both countries will also team up in such areas as international peace cooperation activities and the prevention of terrorism in the pursuit of world peace.

While called an alliance by both sides, much remains to be done in working out concrete action programs for cooperation between the SDF and U.S. forces.

In line with the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan as part of the United States' global reorganization, the two nations agreed on their respective roles and missions as part of efforts to fill the vacuum in the Japan-U.S. security arrangements.

However, Asahi Shimbun warned "the interim report is a source of concern " in Tuesday's editorial.

The United States attacked Iraq in the name of "the fight against terror." It proved, however, that the supposed threat of weapons of mass destruction, the casus belli, was in fact nonexistent. If a similar situation arises, Japan must avoid being automatically dragged into U.S military action.

In its grand strategy, the United States views China as a country that could pose a threat to America's hegemony. But shouldn't Japan ease the possible tension that could build up between Washington and Beijing? Even if Japan takes action in accordance with a U.S. strategy, there should be limits and constraints. Japan should think of its own national interests.

Indeed, there are some concerns within small opposition parties that evolving US-Japan Alliance would be increasing US and Japan's isolation in the world.

Recent online poll conducted by Real time public opinion survey@internet showed almost 60 percenr of Japanese thought the alliance is "essential not only for Japanese security but also for economy, trade, industry and everything".

However, 21.4 percent of Japanese thought "US is untrustworthy as an alliance partner ", and 8.5 percent of Japanese answered "Japan should break up Japan-US alliance and strengthen the alliance between Asian coutries."

Posted 09:53 PM | Comments (0)

October 19, 2005

Yasukuni's impact on the US

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to Yasukuni Shrine became an explosive issue at home and abroad.

Tuesday'd New York Times editorial "Pointless Provocation in Tokyo" sharply criticized Koizumi's visit to Yasukuni.

No one realistically worries about today's Japan re-embarking on the road of imperial conquest. But Japan, Asia's richest, most economically powerful and technologically advanced nation, is shedding some of the military and foreign policy restraints it has observed for the past 60 years.

This is exactly the wrong time to be stirring up nightmare memories among the neighbors. Such provocations seem particularly gratuitous in an era that has seen an economically booming China become Japan's most critical economic partner and its biggest geopolitical challenge.

Japanese leading newspaper Asahi Shimbun analyzed that NY Times editorial represented the US national interests in the East Asia.

No approval was shown by Bush administration or even by pro-Japanese group in the US.
Asahi said deterioration of Japan-China and Japan-Korea relations will destabilize the current six-nation framework including North Korea and the US, and will spoil the regional security in East Asia and US national interests there.

Posted 10:35 AM | Comments (0)

October 18, 2005

The Red Scare, Yellow Peril Style

China's meteoric economic growth figures, combined with it's similarly metereoic ascent into space and sky-high defense budget, has provoked considerable anxiety in the United States. Donald Rumsfeld has called China a threat to Asain peace and stability, citing it's increased military expenditures and claims over Taiwan and assorted island chains. The sabre-rattling has begun to infiltrate the elite media as well - in what must count as one of the most provocative instances of alarmisms since the end of the Cold War, the Atlantic ran the following cover to an article on China's rise by Robert Kaplan:


The article itself, "The Next Cold War - How We Would Fight China," was no less inflamatory. Taking conflict almost as a given, Kaplan discusses Chinese tactics in loaded terms:

China has committed itself to significant military spending, but its navy and air force will not be able to match ours for some decades. The Chinese are therefore not going to do us the favor of engaging in conventional air and naval battles, like those fought in the Pacific during World War II. The Battle of the Philippine Sea, in late June of 1944, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf and the Surigao Strait, in October of 1944, were the last great sea battles in American history, and are very likely to remain so. Instead the Chinese will approach us asymmetrically, as terrorists do. In Iraq the insurgents have shown us the low end of asymmetry, with car bombs. But the Chinese are poised to show us the high end of the art. That is the threat.

His suggestions? Rebuild the NATO alliance to counter China, and build a similar coalition in Asia to encirlce and contain the rising power. And it has found some willing partners - both Japan and India have recently deepened security cooperation with the US.

The response from Chinese sources has been predictable - official media outlets argue the harmlessness of China's growth and try to counter American claims. What is more suprising is that this has been picked up by other media, including in Canada, traditionally one of America's closest allies. In an extensive piece in the Walrus (Canada's most seriously intellecual newsmagazine), Gwynne Dyer argues that is the American strategy of containment, and not China's rise, that threatens regional peace and stability. In his piece, there is no ambiguity about what is at stake, and who is to blame:

If there's anyone left to write the history of how the Third World War happened, they might well focus on June 28, 2005, as the date when the slide into global disaster became irreversible. That was the day when India's defense minister, Pranab Mukherjee, and US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signed a ten-year agreement in Washington on military co-operation, joint weapons production, and missile defense - not quite a formal US-Indian alliance, but close enough to one that China finally realized it was the target of a deliberate American strategy to encircle and 'contain' it.'

It's not clear yet what China plans to do about it, but since June the rhetoric out of Beijing has been unprecedentedly harsh. In mid-July, for example, Major General Zhu Chenghu warned in an official briefing that China is under pressure to drop its policy of 'no first strike' of nuclear weapons in the event of a military conflict with the US over Taiwan. 'We have no capability to fight a conventional war against the United States,' he said. 'We can't win this kind of war.' And so China would deliberately escalate to nuclear weapons: 'We Chinese will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all the cities east of Xian. Of course the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds of [their] cities will be destroyed by the Chinese.

Posted 12:08 AM | Comments (0)

October 13, 2005

What Japan can do for quake victims in Pakistan

Japan offered US$20 million in aid to Pakistan following a powerful earthquake.

Kyodo News agency reported Thursday that Japan also plans to send some 100 troops.

Japan has sent a disaster relief team and an emergency medical team and pledged US$221,000 worth of relief goods, including blankets, tents and water purifiers, to Pakistan.

In addition to these aid, Japan should be able to do more thing as a country which have survived frequent earthquakes.

Yomiuri Shimbun said in October 12th's editorial that Japan can play major role.

Japan should provide not only immediate relief aid, but also long-term restoration assistance to Pakistan.

This does not only mean monetary and material assistance. For example, Japan, a country often struck by earthquakes, is good at making long-term plans for post-earthquake reconstruction. Excellent quake-resistant engineering technology this country has developed also will be very helpful in reconstructing buildings and other infrastructure.

Japan could play a major role in international assistance for Pakistan.

Posted 11:04 AM | Comments (1)

October 10, 2005

Public opposed to extending Japan's mission in Iraq: poll

From Mainichi Shimbun

A whopping 77 percent of pollees were opposed to an extension of Japan's noncombatant mission in Iraq while 18 percent were in favor, a Mainichi weekend poll has found.

In December last year when Japan decided to extend the dispatch of the Self-Defense Force (SDF) to Iraq by one year, 62 percent of pollees opposed the move while 31 percent were in favor. The SDF mission expires on Dec. 14 this year.

Several Japanese politicians even from the ruling coalition say the dispatch of the SDF should be reconsidered if British and Australian forces withdraw from the country in May 2006.

The Mainichi polled 1,068 people on Saturday and Sunday and found that 66 percent of pollees who support the ruling Liberal Democratic Party were in opposition to extending the SDF dispatch.

More than 80 percent of those who support the Democratic Party of Japan, Japanese Communist Party or Social Democratic Party were opposed to the extension.

Posted 06:35 PM | Comments (0)

October 07, 2005

Rumsfeld will bypass Japan amid relocation stalemate

Asahi Shimbun reported on Thursday U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has canceled a visit to Japan planned for later this month because of a stalemate in talks on where to relocate a U.S. military base in Japan.

Bloomberg said Rumsfeld's decision not to visit Japan reflects U.S. frustration over the pace of negotiations on relocating a military heliport in Okinawa quating Koji Murata, a professor of diplomacy at Doshisha University in Kyoto, ``Washington expects Tokyo to take prompt action to promote better U.S.-Japan relations. There's likely to be some disappointment.''

Professor Murata analyzed ``Bush's domestic political situation is quite tough, while Koizumi's domestic situation is quite favorable. The U.S. waited and put off pressing Koizumi until the postal issue was resolved. Now, ashington expects action.''

Sankei Shimbun, a Japanese conservative paper, worried it might cloud the future of U.S.-Japan alliance.

The two allies had planned to draft an interim report on the realignment by the end of October so it could be approved at a summit between Koizumi and U.S. President George W. Bush expected in mid-November. But Sankei said this summit might be cancelled because of realignment issue.

Koizumi, who has been busy with domestic issue such as nation's postal system, has made very few statement on this military realignment issue. Sankei quoted a former Cabinet official as saying that "Koizumi sits on a good personal relationship with Bush," and concluded that it might be difficult to resolve this issue with Koizumi's time.

The current discussions on base realignment are also aimed at improving U.S-Japan military cooperation and giving Japan a bigger role as a strategic hub from which U.S. forces can respond to regional and global threats.

Posted 12:42 PM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2005

Time for amending Japan's pacifist Constitution??

The Yomiuri Shimbun reported Thursday that lawmakers began deliberations at the Diet on a bill stipulating procedures to conduct a national referendum to amend the top law in a significant step toward revising the Constitution in Japan.

According to the Yomirui, representatives of most parties--including the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito as well as the opposition Democratic Party of Japan and New Party Nippon--said they were in favor of such a law. Only the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party expressed opposition to creating such a law, which paves the way to amending the Constitution.

Both of the ruling and opposition parties has been apprehensive about revising the Constitution, especially war-renouncing Article 9, which also bans the threat or use of force to settle international disputes.

However, Japanese people in general appear much more aware of the value of Article 9 than government ministers and lawmakers.

Wednesday's Mainichi Shimbun reported over 60 percent of those surveyed by the Mainichi had said they are opposed to revising Article 9 of the Constitution, even though a majority of the pollees expressed support for constitutional amendment in general. Only 30 percent responded that the clause should be revised.

The article said "The results clearly demonstrate that the majority of people think the pacifist clause should be retained even though the public is increasingly in favor of constitutional amendment amid ongoing discussions in the Diet on such changes."

Asahi Shimbun's poll conducted last April showed the similar result. According to that poll, 51 percent of the respondents said Article 9 should not be changed, in contrast with 36 percent who said it should be revised.

However, the article headlined "Playing the Constitution as a diplomatic card" continued that "the overwhelming majority of those polled also say they support Japan's alliance with the United States."

In fact, 76 percent of respondents to that poll said they approve of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, with only 12 percent disapproving.

Given many influential U.S. politicians including former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, have argued for a revision to Article 9 to allow the Self-Defense Forces to engage in collective self-defense, the article concluded " we can expect the forces urging the amendment to gather momentum by emphasizing the importance of Japan's alliance with the United States."

Posted 10:52 PM | Comments (0)

October 05, 2005

Japanese poll shows anti-Chinese feeling running strong among Japanese

One of Japanese leading newspapers, Mainichi Shimbun's poll published on Thursday shows only 31 percent of 2,418 Japanese feel an affinity for China while 65 percent of those have favorable impression of the US.
It reveals the cooling public sentiment among Japanese against China and the tension between these two countries that is often called politically cold but economically hot.
The article concluded "when it came to China, the impact of anti-Japanese riots on the Asian mainland in April seems to have had an adverse effect on the way Japanese view Chinese."

People who answered that they feel intimacy with China fairy well 4%
partly 27%
not very much50%
not at all18%
People who answered that they feel intimacy with the US fairy well 14%
not very much28%
not at all5%

Posted 11:08 PM | Comments (0)

Reaction to one-year extension for law on terrorism in Japan

Japanese Cabinet on Tuesday decided to extend a special measures law on assisting the U.S. military in its battle against terrorism-but for only a year.
This will be the second time Japanese government has decided to extend the special measures law.
Even though Foreign Ministry and Defense Agency officials in Japan wanted another two-year extension, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi insisted that the time period be for just one year.
In response to this extension, Japanese two major newspapers showed two different editorials.

Asahi Shimbun, which is known liberal, said in their October 5th's editorial "We are not surprised at Koizumi's caution. The fighting has ceased in Afghanistan. The country has an elected president and parliamentary elections were held last month. The nation is on its way to reconstruction, at least after a fashion, and these developments certainly warrant a close re-examination of how Japan should help Afghanistan. Is the MSDF(Maritime Self-Defense Force) presence in the Indian Ocean really necessary? If it is effective, how so? How long should this continue? Is this the best form of cooperation for Japan to offer? The Diet must address these questions when it starts deliberations on the government bill."

On the other hand, the Yomiuri Shimbun, which is supposed to be relatively conservative, said in the same day's editorial that "We would like to stress again that a permanent law should be enacted on international peace cooperation activities conducted by the Self-Defense Forces."
In their editorial, Yomiuri even referred to Article 9 and said "MSDF ships have been dispatched to the Indian Ocean since December 2001 based on the Antiterrorism Law. They have been refueling British, French and U.S. aircraft carriers, frigates and other naval vessels that stop and inspect suspicious ships in international waters. From an international viewpoint, refueling such ships effectively means exercising the right to collective self-defense.
If the SDF helps troops of another country in danger, it may be considered as exercising the right to collective self-defense or the kind of use of arms prohibited by the Constitution.
The government is responsible for making clear rules on the right to collective self-defense and the use of arms.
Japan must try to release itself quickly from the spell of the constitutional interpretation of Article 9. "

Posted 06:51 PM | Comments (0)

September 22, 2005

Australia's Anti-Terrorism Offensive: Unease Down Under

While the U.S. continues to debate the possible civil liberties implications of the U.S. Patriot Act, a similar act is causing great unease among human rights groups in Australia, according to the Korean newspaper OhmyNews. In early September, Australian Prime Minister John Howard proposed a body of new measures, which he termed a response to the London subway bombings last July. The new anti-terror laws would strengthen the hand of law enforcement by permitting the detention of suspects up to two weeks without charges; facilitate surveillance of individuals for up to a year by (among other things) forcing them to wear tracking devices; and create a new crime of "indirect incitement" to terrorism.

The story’s author, Tessa Morris-Suzuki, editor of the online journal Asia Rights, asserts that such initiatives are not an effective response to terrorism.

“After 9/11,” writes Morris-Suzuki, “experts around the world repeatedly emphasized that responses to terrorism must involve two strands. The first is a security response: stricter surveillance of airports and other likely terrorist targets, increased information gathering about likely terrorist groups etc. The second is the long-term response, tackling the root causes of terrorism.”

"Governments …have been quick to come up with security responses to terrorism, but are much more reluctant to take the difficult steps necessary to tackle the long-term, root-cause side of the agenda…."

"Al Qaida and its allies… are doubtless delighted to see the steady erosion of free speech and human rights, and the increasing marginalization of Islamic communities in developed countries. Every retreat of the front-line defenses of free speech and human rights is an advance for their own brand of bigotry and totalitarianism. ‘Standing firm against terrorism’ requires a determination to deny them that satisfaction.”

Among the regional powers that will no doubt be watching developments closely in Australia are Thailand and the Philippines—identified by the U.S. government as primary new operating centers for al-Qaida and its allies.

Posted 01:20 AM | Comments (0)

September 12, 2005

A comparison with Japan

According to the French Le Monde's correspondent in Japan, the comparison between “Typhoon Number 14” and Katrina is striking. He draws part of his observation from two titles which appeared on the first page of some Japanese dailies on September 7th. “Katrina: likely 10,000 dead” said one while the other read “Typhoon in Japan: 9 dead.” Although the winds were slightly less frightening in Japan, both hurricanes were of comparable strength.

If 1995 Kobe earthquake was a disaster that overwhelmed the government, the French newspaper points to the orderly response.

“Communities self organized the distribution of food and sanitary tasks, while supermarkets asked their clients to respect a voluntary rationing. No looting, robbery or violence was to be deplored in the ruined city. Even the underworld, with the greatest Japanese crime syndicate, Yamaguchi Gumi, officially an “association”, whose headquarters is in Kobe, organized help to prove its civic sense."

Posted 11:42 PM | Comments (0)

April 08, 2005

Australians view US as a threat to peace

U.S. foreign policy poses as big a threat to world peace as Islamic fundamentalism, while the rise of China is the last on a list of potential threats, according to a survey on public opinion in Australia, one of Washington's closest allies in the Asia-Pacific. The results of this comprehensive survey have surprised foreign policy analysts in Australia and underscore the problems facing the Bush administration as it tries to improve the international image of the United States.

U.S. Image Sags In Australian Poll
Published: March 29, 2005
As the point person in the Bush administration's campaign to improve America's image in the world, Karen Hughes may face a more difficult challenge than she imagined and discover that she will have to travel far beyond the Middle East. A poll released Monday in Australia, long known for friendly relations with Americans, found that only 58 percent of the population had a positive view of the United States.
That put the United States behind China (69 percent positive), and not even in the overall Top 10 countries, regions or groups that Australians respect. They have a more positive opinion of France (66 percent) and the United Nations (65 percent), according to the poll, which was commissioned by the Lowy Institute for International Policy, a research institute with a generally center-right orientation.
The survey indicated that Australians think their leaders have been too willing to sign on with America's foreign policy ventures and should listen to the United Nations more, and are evenly divided over whether the greatest threat to the world today comes from American foreign policy or Islamic fundamentalism.
The poll surprised many here because the American-Australian relationship has long been considered special by both countries.''I have to say that the results of the survey have jolted some of my assumptions,'' said Allan Gyngell, executive director of the Lowy Institute.
The poll was based on interviews with 1,000 Australians, and had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points. The results are online at

Posted 03:57 AM | Comments (0)

February 22, 2005

The Economist (Part I): Special Report on Anti-Americanism

This week's print issue of the Economist (Feb. 19-25, 2005) has a three-page analysis of world perceptions of America and Americans, in the aftermath of two recent polls (one conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, previously discussed here; and another from the BBC). The article is premium content, but the site sometimes runs free-access days sponsored by advertisers (as is the case today, Feb. 22). In any case, it's an intelligent, well-written analysis of the current state of anti-Americanism around the globe -- well worth locating in print if you can’t get it online. (Excerpts inside.)

Though anti-Americanism spans the globe, the phenomenon is not everywhere the same. It mutates according to local conditions, and it is seldom straightforward.
No wonder. Most people's feelings about America are complicated. "America," after all, is shorthand for many other terms: the Bush administration, a Republican-dominated Congress, Hollywood, a source of investment, a place to go to study, a land of economic opportunity, a big regional power, the big world power, a particular policy, the memory of something once done by the United States, a set of political values based on freedom, democracy and economic liberalism, and so on. It is easy to be for some of these and against others, and some may wax or wane in importance according to time, circumstance, propaganda or wishful thinking. So it should be no surprise that some people can hold two apparently contradictory views of America at once. The incandescent third-world demonstrator, shrieking "Down with America!" in one breath and "Can you get me a green card?" in the next, has become a commonplace.

The piece begins with France, which it calls "the locus classicus of anti-Americanism." One source of anti-Americanism here, the author writes, is

the rivalry between France and America, based on their remarkably similar self-images; the two countries both think they invented the rights of man, have a unique calling to spread liberty round the world and hold a variety of other attributes that make them utterly and admirably exceptional. Jealousy also plays a part ... French anti-Americanism tends to rise when France has just suffered a setback of some kind, whether a defeat at the hands of the Germans, a drubbing in Algeria or the breakdown of the Fourth Republic.

The author then goes through many of the world's nations, from Angola to Vietnam, examining the state of anti-Americanism and identifying underlying causes in each:

In Iran, for example, anti-Americanism is a tool exploited by the regime "to divert attention from its many failures."

In Indonesia, it’s "largely an armchair affair."

The piece concludes by pointing out that recent polls show anti-Americanism in many cases may have much to do with the reelection of George W. Bush and policies specific to the current administration, then saying:

That is the, perhaps short-term, view of some non-Americans. It is accompanied by another view, increasingly common among pundits, which holds that America is losing its allure as a model society. Whereas much of the rest of the world once looked to the United States as a beacon, it is argued, non-Americans are now turning away. Democrats in Europe and elsewhere who once thought religiosity, a belief in capital punishment and rank hostility to the United Nations were intermittent or diminishing features of the United States now see them as rising and perhaps permanent. Such feelings have been fortified by Mr Bush’s doctrine of preventive war, Guantánamo, opposition to the world criminal court and a host of other international agreements. One way or another, it is said, people are turning off America, not so much to hate it as to look for other examples to follow—even Europe’s. If true, that could be even more insulting to Americans than the rise in the familiar anti-Americanism of yesteryear.

Posted 02:08 PM | Comments (1)

But where is the world’s navel?

In a quite acid op-ed piece, one of the most respected El País’s editorialists pokes fun at the anti-American discourse, so common in Europe, and in Spain these days.

Hermann Tertsch underlines the pleasure that some people take in giving lessons to the Americans. Isn’t Bush a “rufián” (scoundrel?) Aren’t they “esquisitos” (exquisite?)

In the mean time important things are happening elsewhere. Bush is in Europe, but Latin America looks towards China; Tokyo and Washington just signed an important defense pact related to common threats in the Pacific “the probable new geostrategic center of the world.”

“Our villain was clearly wrong when he thought he could reorganize the world all by himself. We keep being wrong when we think we are its navel.”

Un rufián entre exquisitos

Ya está aquí. Ya tenemos entre nosotros al gran rufián del nuevo siglo, George W. Bush, al que en Madrid unos equiparan a Hitler, y en París, otros al camboyano Pol Pot, el gran villano responsable directo de que los terroristas islamistas asesinen a la población en Irak, de los muertos de hambre en Sudán, de que no se alertara a tiempo del tsunami en Indonesia y de la malaria africana, de robar a los pobres para enriquecer a los ricos. Ha llegado, al iniciar su segundo mandato como gran jefe del Imperio del Mal, con la peor de sus sonrisas porque esta vez no viene a amenazarnos como otras veces, sino -algo mucho más perverso aún- a intentar embaucarnos. Pero aquí, en una Europa cada vez más convencida y autosatisfecha con su papel como Reino exquisito del Bien y exportador neto de bienaventuranzas al mundo entero no nos vamos a dejar engañar. Sabemos que, lejos de haberse caído del caballo, de confesar y expiar sus pecados, errores y perversiones, Bush está aún lejos de aceptar el hecho incontrovertible de que nuestro gran eje de la bonhomía ha tenido y tiene siempre razón cuando se opone frontalmente a él y a su política. Adalides de la franqueza y el talante y el diálogo hasta con los enemigos declarados de la democracia, los europeos sabemos que Bush, igual que Condoleezza Rice -traidora ha de ser siendo negra y mujer en la siniestra corte de allende el Atlántico-, viene a lograr los mismos fines monstruosos con diferentes argucias. Y además no han pedido perdón.

Estos vienen a ser -y perdón por la burda caricatura en la que nada he inventado yo- los trazos gruesos de argumentación que se han prodigado en la prensa europea estos días con motivo de la gira europea del presidente de los EE UU. Los políticos europeos por su parte -nobleza obliga- destacan en público como éxito propio el nuevo tono del presidente norteamericano hacia la Unión Europea, pero con igual énfasis dejan claro quién ha de cambiar su política de forma radical para recibir la bendición de esta gran Tabla Redonda del humanismo que se consideran.

Nadie defiende aquí a la Administración de Bush de unas acusaciones más que fundadas de indigencia política, de sus aberraciones retóricas, de los graves desastres de su gestión en el Irak de posguerra, ni sus reformas fiscales tan ajenas al llamado "conservadurismo compasivo" -detestable término- que en su día propugnó. Muchas serían las rectificaciones justificadas y bienvenidas por todos los que creen que un buen funcionamiento de la alianza transatlántica es vital para la seguridad de EE UU y la UE, y más para la de esta segunda. Pero no deja de tener gracia la autosuficiencia con que responden algunos de los grandes adalides del mundo multipolar a los intentos de la nueva Administración norteamericana de cerrar heridas.

Quienes durante más de dos años han celebrado con mayor o menor disimulo las dificultades de EE UU en Irak y apenas han ayudado simbólicamente a poner fin a una situación que amenaza la seguridad de Europa más aun que a la de EE UU, ahora adoptan una pose de superioridad moral que fácilmente puede volverse contra todos y la imprescindible cooperación en Oriente Medio, ahora que surgen esperanzas tanto en Irak -gracias a los esfuerzos y muertos iraquíes y norteamericanos- como en Palestina, en gran parte gracias a la muerte de aquel adoptado favorito de la Europa biempensante. Los errores, exquisitos humanistas, no son sólo del villano tejano.

Y mientras aquí se da lecciones a Bush, Washington y Tokio han firmado un importante pacto de defensa para hacer frente a amenazas comunes en el Pacífico, probable nuevo centro geoestratégico del mundo, e Iberoamérica mira a China. Está claro que nuestro villano se equivocó cuando se creyó poder reorganizar por su cuenta el mundo. Nosotros nos seguimos equivocando cuando nos creemos su ombligo.

Posted 10:52 AM | Comments (0)