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JIIA Commentary Archive

Komori Article

US Embassy Translation 

Japan-dispatched Official Anti-Japanese Essay
Commentary by Sankei special correspondent Yoshihisa Komori

SANKEI (Page 5) (Excerpts)
August 12, 2006

It has become increasingly crucial for Japan to dispatch its messages to the
world. It has always been important for Japan to properly explain its case
and to clearly present its views to the international community. At a time
when China and other countries are heightening their criticism of Japan for
a "revival of militarism" that is quite the opposite of the reality in
Japan, it is indispensable in terms of Japan's national interests for it to
rebut such charges.

At this juncture, I thought that the JIIA Commentary, an English-edition
newsletter that JIIA (Japan Institute of International Affairs, which is
under the jurisdiction of the Foreign Ministry) began this spring was coming
out at just the right timing to send such a message. Living in Washington, I
could receive their dispatch by e-mail and read the research on the
institute's website. The commentary would be regularly sent in the form of
essays written in English.

However, on reading some of the essays, I was astonished by the contents.
The essays unilaterally condemned the thinking of the government and ruling
camp, as well as a majority of views in Japan as dangerous, and categorized
the attacks on Japan by China and other countries as proper.

Look at the title of the essay in the May entry,  "How Japan Imagines China
and Sees Itself." The essay starts out: ""Japan watchers (in foreign
countries) increasingly blame the deterioration in Sino-Japanese relations
on Japan, describing Japan's China policies as mindless and provocative,
self-righteous and gratuitous. But in the country itself, there is scant
awareness that Japan is perceived (by some countries) as being
nationalistic, militaristic, or hawkish."

The vast majority of Japan watchers in Washington who are familiar also with
China see the current tense situation between Japan and China as due to
"China's confrontational stance" and as "a clash between the strategic
interests of Japan and China," as well as
a "China's anti-Japan national policy." Moreover, in the same essay, such
false claims are made as, "It is internationally perceived that Japan is
seen as being militaristic."  In a BBC broadcast late last year of its
international opinion poll, the people of 31 out of 33 countries chose Japan
at the top as "the country that has the best influence on the rest of the
world." The exceptions on the list were China and South Korea. The departure
point for JIIA's overseas dispatch is a view that is just the opposite of
international opinion.

The same essay contained the following passages:

"'China is a threat, because it is China.' This seems to be the underlying
assumption prevailing in Japan's national security circles."

"Critics see in Prime Minister Koizumi's stance on Yasukuni a lack of
repentance for past imperial aggression in Asia, about which Japan has long
been silent."

Both quotes are absurd remarks that are the opposite of the truth. The
thrust of the essay rejects moves in the direction of Japan becoming an
"ordinary country" from the aspect of its national security, which can be
said to be the majority view in Japan, rejecting and denouncing them as
dangerous "hawkish nationalism."

The English-language essay is filled with biased words such as calling those
who support paying homage at Yasukuni Shrine the "cult of Yasukuni." The
word "cult" is a derogatory term used to mean a fanatical religious group
such as the Aum Shinrikyo believers in Japan.

The essays contains much too many sensational, emotional and insulting words
of the kind frequently used generally by the Western left or by China to
bash Japan, such as calling the thinking of Japan's pragmatists "ahistorical
imagination" and claiming "selective amnesia" regarding the war by the
Japanese people.  In that sense, the essay can be called "anti-Japan."

The Japan Institute of International Affairs or JIIA is a public institution
that is operated by subsidies from the Japanese government. Its current
director is Yukio Sato, a former diplomat who once served as ambassador to
the United Nations. The opinions in JIIA's international dispatch could be
taken as the official views of the Japanese government, ruling parties, and
majority of Japanese.

Although the English-language essay in question contains a statement that
"these are the views of the author alone," Director Sato has stated that the
intention of the JIIA Commentary was to broadly make known the "thinking of
Japan about Japan itself and toward international affairs." Looking at the
name of the author of the essay, I was even more astounded, and yet at the
same time, convinced, for the author was Masaru Tamamoto, the English editor
at JIIA. Tamamoto* is a long-time residence of America and is well known as
a radical leftist scholar who has often attacked the policies of the
Japanese government. In a Washington seminar in 2003, I myself heard him say
such comments as, "The abduction issue with North Korea has already been
resolved, but the Japanese side is using it as an excuse to keep a hard-line
foreign policy stance"; and, "Japan should never dispatch the Self-Defense
Forces to Iraq; such a dispatch will never occur."

That Tamamoto is not only the author of an essay sent out to the world by
JIIA, he also is the senior editor there. In the April edition, he took up
the topic of criticism by Foreign Minister Taro and others of the lack of
democracy in China, and under the title, "Japan discovers democracy," he
poked fun at Japan's diplomacy toward China now discovering that the country
lacks democratic values.

What is the reason for entrusting Japan's international messages to someone
with extreme views who rejects Japan's current diplomacy and security
foundation? I would like to send on open letter questioning Director Sato,
attaching this column.

Masaru Tamamoto, editor of the JIIA Commentary, was born in Tokyo and
educated in Japan, Switzerland, Egypt and the United States. He received his
B.A. degree in international relations from Brown University and his M.A.
and Ph.D from Johns Hopkins University. At Princeton, he was a MacArthur Foundation fellow in international peace and security (1988-89)

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