The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 50. 2011  

December 12, 2011  
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In This Issue

We're now well into our annual fundraising appeal to allow us to continue to make Asia-Pacific Journal available to all at no charge. We've  reached $5,200 toward our target of $10,000 which will allow us to continue to expand post-3.11 coverage of Japan and the Asia-Pacific and to operate for the coming year. Thanks to readers, authors and associates who have already responded to our appeal. We hope to hear from many more of you in the final weeks. We ask that you consider a donation of $25, $50, $100. To contribute, click on the above hot link, or  
go to our home page. Library subscriptions, permitting unlimited duplication of Focus articles, are available at $40/year to institutions. If you use Focus in courses, please contact us about an institutional subscription at our website. You can also support the Journal by buying books through our Amazon account by clicking on a book cover on our home page or in an article. A small payment for any book ordered (not just those listed here) when placing your order is credited to the Journal.

Our home page has two new features. One is a regularly updated guide to the more than 100 articles we have published on the 3.11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power meltdown which is transforming Japanese politics and society, and is reshaping issues of nuclear power and energy policy in that nation and globally. Articles are arranged topically. In addition, we have added a guide to some of the most important, and liveliest, online and print sources on 3.11 including blogs and websites. Secondly, the list of articles now indicates all articles available in Japanese translation or original, as well as other languages. Please draw the attention of colleagues and friends to our comprehensive coverage of 3.11.

Many of our most important and widely read articles appear in What's hot and they bring a diversity of sources and reports from Ground Zero in Tohoku and Tokyo. "What's hot" offers breaking stories and provides information beyond the headlines, to cast them in broader perspective. What's hot is regularly updated, at times on a daily basis, and we invite you to consult it and contribute to it. Find it at the top of the homepage.

We encourage those who wish continuing coverage of the earthquake and aftermath to follow Fukushima on Twitter and the English and Japanese coverage at the Peace Philosophy Facebook page:


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We have begun our fundraising appeal to allow us to continue to make Asia-Pacific Journal available to all at no charge. $10,000 will allow us to continue to expand post-3.11 coverage of Japan and the Asia-Pacific and to operate for the coming year.  We invite supporters, authors and readers who find the journal useful to join our sustainers by making a small contribution to support technical upgrades, defray technical, mailing and maintenance fees, and help us to expand outreach. As we have expanded our output since the 3.11 earthquake and tsunami, our costs have risen sharply. Recommended support level: $25 ($10 for students and residents of developing countries); $40 for institutions including libraries, research centers, government offices. If you experience difficulty in subscribing, write to us with the error message at 

Fred A. Wilcox, Dead Forests, Dying People: Agent Orange & Chemical Warfare in Vietnam  



Making their way through Vietnam's dense jungles, U.S soldiers heard a cacophony of squawking birds, chattering monkeys, and insects buzzing like high voltage wires. But after C-123 cargo planes swooped low over the trees, saturating them with Agent Orange, the ground was littered with decaying jungle birds, paralyzed and dying monkeys. Clusters of dead fish shimmered like buttons on the surface of slow-moving streams. Years later, veterans will recall being soaked, like the trees, when aircraft jettisoned their herbicides. They will remember feeling dizzy, bleeding from the nose and mouth, suffering from debilitating skin rashes and violent headaches after being exposed to Agent Orange, an herbicide contaminated with TCDD-dioxin, a carcinogenic, fetus deforming, and quite possibly mutagenic chemical.

Vietnamese caught in the path of herbicide missions complained that they felt faint, bled from the nose and mouth, vomited, suffered from numbness in their hands and feet, and experienced migraine-like headaches. They said that farm animals grew weak, got sick, and even died after being exposed to defoliants. In late 1967, following a period of massive use of Agent Orange in Vietnam, Saigon newspapers began publishing reports on a new birth abnormality, calling it the "egg bundle-like fetus." One paper, Dong Nai, published an article about women giving birth to stillborn fetuses, with a photograph of a dead baby whose face was that of a duck. There were accounts of babies being born with two heads, three arms and 20 fingers; babies with heads like sheep or poodles; babies with three legs.  The Saigon government argued that these birth defects were caused by something called "Okinawa bacteria." Peasants whose families had lived on the same land for generations said they'd never encountered such strange phenomena. The US dismissed these complaints as communist propaganda.

This article, by the author of two authoritative books on the subject, tells the story of Agent Orange in Vietnam and the consequences for the Vietnamese people and US GIs.

Fred A. Wilcox is the author most recently of Scorched Earth: Legacies of Chemical Warfare in Vietnam with an introduction by Noam Chomsky. His other works include Waiting For an Army To Die: The Tragedy of Agent Orange, Fighting the Lamb's War: The Autobiography of Philip Berrigan, Dissidents and Disciples: Creating Hope in the Emperor's Apocalyptic World, Uncommon Martyrs: How the Berrigans and Friends are Turning Swords into Plowshares, and Chasing Shadows: Memoirs of a Sixties Survivor. He is an associate professor in the writing department at Ithaca College.

Recommended citation: Fred A. Wilcox, 'Dead Forests, Dying People: Agent Orange & Chemical Warfare in Vietnam,' The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 50 No 3, December 12, 2011.


 Read more . . . 
Andrew DeWit, Japan's Nuclear Village Wages War on Renewable Energy and the Feed-in Tariff

The effects of the Fukushima shock continue to spread. Throughout the eventful summer, one of those consequences was the turn away from nuclear power with a dramatic emphasis on renewable power and the feed-in tariff (FIT) to deploy it fast. The FIT policy was championed by former Prime Minister Kan Naoto as well as the CEO of Softbank, Son Masayoshi. They and others in the political, business, non-profit, and academic communities strongly endorsed a legislative bill to expand Japan's handicapped FIT to geothermal, wind, biomass and small hydro. The bill was passed on August of 26 with explicit constraints on the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry's (METI) capacity to hamstring renewables in favour of nuclear power and on behalf of the nuclear village. Notably, the bill took price setting out of METI's hands. But now METI and its allies in the nuclear village are trying to get that clout back in their hands. This article charts the struggle in progress.

Andrew DeWit is Professor of the Political Economy of Public Finance, School of Policy Studies, Rikkyo University and an Asia-Pacific Journal coordinator. With Kaneko Masaru, he is the coauthor of Global Financial Crisis published by Iwanami.

Recommended citation: Andrew DeWit, Japan's Nuclear Village Wages War on Renewable Energy and the Feed-in Tariff,
Asia-Pacific Journal December 8, 2011.

 Read more . . .
Peter Lee, A New ARMZ Race: The Road to Russian Uranium Monopoly Leads Through Mongolia

The people who brought about Chernobyl are pressing to become the world's leading source for nuclear power equipment, materials, and services.

Russia's quasi-state nuclear power authority, Rosatom, has ambitions of becoming the world's one stop shop for nuclear plants, uranium fuel, and spent fuel services.  Currently accounting for 20% of the world's nuclear power stations and 17% of global nuclear fuel fabrication, Rosatom wants to double in size, and become the dominant player in uranium ore and spent fuel in the process.

The United States-which counts the Russian nuclear weapons reset as one of its few unambiguous geopolitical wins-thus far is apparently happy to turn a blind eye to Russia's uranium ambitions, even when Russia's quest for the strategic ore leads it into some strategic hotspots, and when the implications for nuclear accidents grows.

In places like Kazakhstan, Canada, Niger, Australia, the United States, and Mongolia, Rosatom's (AtomRedMetZoloto) Uranium Holding Co. or ARMZ is seeking to dominate worldwide uranium production. What will be the consequences?

Peter Lee writes on East and South Asian affairs and their intersection with US global policy. He is the moving force behind the Asian affairs website China Matters which provides continuing critical updates on China and Asia-Pacific policies. His work frequently appears at
Asia Times.

Recommended citation: Peter Lee, 'A New ARMZ Race: The Road to Russian Uranium Monopoly Leads Through Mongolia,' The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 50 No 2, December 12, 2011.

  Read more . . .
Higuchi Takehiro and William Underwood, Overseas Hibakusha Lawsuit: Lee Keun-mok's Legacy

Lee Keun-mok (李根睦), a Korean former labor conscript who was forcibly taken to Hiroshima and became an atomic bomb victim at the end of the Asia-Pacific War, died last July at the age of 87. Lee was a plaintiff in a lawsuit claiming it was illegal for hibakusha living outside Japan to be excluded from benefits under the national Atomic Bomb Survivors' Support Law. The Japan Supreme Court agreed with Lee's position in November 2007. One month before his death in South Korea, Lee filed a new lawsuit with the Osaka District Court seeking the same payments for medical expenses that hibakusha living in Japan receive. We retrace the path of Lee's struggles.

Recommended citation: Higuchi Takehiro and William Underwood, Overseas Hibakusha Lawsuit: Lee Keun-mok's Legacy, The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 50 No 4, December 12, 2011.

Read more . . .

Sheldon Garon, Postwar Japan's National Salvation

Japan waged one of history's most total wars. Its defeat in August 1945 was no less total. Some sixty-six cities lay in ruins, the targets of wave upon wave of B-29 bombers. This proud nation-which had so successfully maintained its  independence against  nineteenth-century Western imperialism-suffered immediate military  occupation by the Allied forces.

This would seem an inauspicious time for the government to call upon the people to make further sacrifices. Committed to democratizing Japan, the American occupiers sharply criticized the "virtually compulsory" features of the wartime savings campaigns. Nor was the populace capable of saving much. Rampant inflation eviscerated the savings so dutifully put aside in wartime. Families withdrew remaining funds to buy food at exorbitant prices on the black market.  Japanese uncharacteristically engaged in dissaving. Household saving rates plunged into negative territory. Depositors in the supposedly state-guaranteed postal savings system suffered additional losses. Bombing and fires destroyed the records of nearly fifty-two million accounts  held in postal facilities. For many depositors it took years to restore their original accounts (only 62 percent of which had been successfully reclaimed by the end of 1957). Moreover, the Ministry of Finance's Deposit Bureau had invested a large chunk of the people's savings in Japan's colonies and occupied territories. We speak today about American banks holding "toxic assets." Imagine what happens when your bank-the postal savings system-makes huge loans throughout the empire, and then the empire itself disappears following Japanese surrender in 1945? More than 6 billion in overseas investments vaporized, and   postal depositors were compelled to indemnify the state for a portion of the losses. If that were not enough to blast public trust in financial institutions, the government partially froze all other savings deposits in March 1946 in an effort to reduce the money supply and convert Bank of Japan notes into "new yen."

Under the circumstances, we would hardly expect a defeated and occupied nation to revive the punishing savings campaigns of wartime. Yet that was precisely the course taken by the government of the New Japan, as it was rebranded once again.

Sheldon Garon is the Nissan Professor of History and East Asian Studies at Princeton University. In addition to Beyond Our Means: Why America Spends While the World Saves, his books include Molding Japanese Minds: The State in Everyday Life and The State and Labor in Modern Japan.
Recommended citation: Sheldon Garon, 'Postwar Japan's National Salvation,' The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 50 No 1, December 12, 2011.

Read more . . .