The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 4. 2012   

January 23, 2012   
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Thank you to the many who supported our campaign. We're pleased to report that your response to our fundraising appeal has been successful and Asia-Pacific Journal available to all readers at no charge. We've  reached our target of $10,000.

We take a certain pride in our coverage of events in Fukushima and Tohoku over the last year and urge you to have a look at what we've done. Your support allows us to continue to expand post-3.11 coverage of Japan and the Asia-Pacific in the coming year as Japan continues to face the gravest challenges since its defeat in war nearly seven decades ago. Of course, it remains possible to contribute if you've not already done so. Click on the above hot link, or go to our   
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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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Richard Falk, War, War Crimes, Power and Justice: Toward a Jurisprudence of Conscience    


Ever since German and Japanese leaders were prosecuted, convicted, and punished after World War II at Nuremberg and Tokyo, there has been a wide split at the core of the global effort to impose criminal accountability on those who commit crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and war crimes on behalf of a sovereign state. The law is always expected to push toward consistency of application as a condition of its legitimacy. In the setting of international criminality the greatest danger to widely shared values is posed by those with the greatest power and wealth, and it is precisely these leaders that are least likely to be held responsible or to feel threatened by the prospect of being charged with international crimes. The global pattern of enforcement to date has been one in which the comparatively petty criminals are increasingly held to account while the Mafia bosses escape almost altogether from existing mechanisms of international accountability. Such double standards are too rarely acknowledged in discussions of international criminal law nor are their corrosive effects considered, but once understood, it becomes clear that this pattern seriously compromises the claim that international criminal law is capable of achieving global justice.


In a sense the pattern of double standards was encoded immediately after World War II in the seminal undertakings at Nuremberg and Tokyo that assumed the partially discrediting form of 'victors' justice' in the weak sense of the term. The strong sense of victors' justice involves imposing punishment on those who are innocent of substantive wrongdoing beyond the misfortune of being on the losing side in a war. The weak sense is that the implementation of international criminal law is undertaken only against individuals on the losing side who are indeed responsible for substantive wrongdoing, while exempting seemingly guilty individuals on the winning side. This results in double standards that weaken claims to be acting on the basis of the rule of law. Nevertheless, the possibility often, but not always, exists of sentencing procedures that can be sensitive to different degrees of criminality. Some efforts can and should be made to close the gap between law as vengeance and law as justice. The prospects of securing justice vary from case to case and tribunal to tribunal, depending on the context and auspices.

Yet even a weak sense of victors' justice is not a minor flaw, its unacceptable inequality of enforcement aside. It may act to exempt even the most severe and harmful forms of criminal behavior from legal scrutiny, and thereby badly confuse our understanding of the distinction between criminal and non-criminal activity. Surely the indiscriminate bombings of German and Japanese cities by Allied bomber fleets-no less than German and Japanese indiscriminate bombing of Britain and China-and the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were 'crimes' that should have been investigated and prosecuted if the tribunals had been truly 'legal' in the sense of imposing individual accountability on both victors and vanquished for their combat operations. This article reviews the issues from the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials to the present with particular attention to questions of impunity and justice.


 Read more . . .
APJ Feature,  Gregg Levine Critiques Frontline Fukushima Documentary

On January 17, PBS documentary program Frontline ran a feature on the Fukushima nuclear meltdown entitled Nuclear Aftershocks. It is available online here. The show has generated buzz, but also drawn significant critiques. The most powerful criticisms come from author Gregg Levine, writing on the website my FDL.

January 22, 2012.

Naik-chung Paik, The Post Kim Jong-il Era and the 2013 Regime in South Korea

The sudden death of North Korean National Defense Commission chairman Kim Jong-il was a major event for the whole of the Korean Peninsula. Even western media that ordinarily pay little attention to the Korean Peninsula dedicated major coverage to it, issuing a torrent of commentary on how events would proceed in the "post-Kim Jong-il era." Everyone is naturally curious to see what shape the Kim Jong-un era will take.

But another question comes to mind: Which will be the greater variable, the leadership change in the North or the 2013 regime in the South? Certainly, the sudden passing of their leader would be the biggest event for our fellow Koreans in the North. But in terms of the long-range outlook for the Korean Peninsula as a whole, an even more important issue may be the success or failure of the 2013 regime-in other words, whether we in the South can make the year 2013, when the next administration takes office, into as great a turning point for South Korean society as it previously experienced in the aftermath of the June democratization struggle in 1987.

January 22, 2012.

Steve Rabson, Henoko and the U.S Military: A History of Dependence and Resistance

Attention in Japan and elsewhere has focused recently on the seaside village of Henoko (Ryukyuan: Hinuku) in northern Okinawa where a powerful protest movement has stymied the Japanese and U.S. governments from building an offshore air base.1 Attempting to ameliorate outrage in Okinawa after three U.S. servicemen raped a twelve-year-old schoolgirl in 1995, the governments in Tokyo and Washington announced an agreement in 1996 to close Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, located in the middle of Ginowan City. However, the agreement stipulated that a "replacement facility" be built in Okinawa "within five to seven years."  Yet, after more than fifteen years and numerous bi-lateral declarations reiterating the two governments' determination to build the base, construction has yet to begin. In 2006 they announced a related agreement to transfer 8,600 of the 18,000 Marines in Okinawa and their 9,000 dependents to Guam, but this is conditioned on relocation of Futenma MCAS to Henoko and remains on hold.

Residents of Henoko, where two American bases are already located, have mounted opposition to the proposed air base at the ballot box in referenda and local elections, on the streets in protest demonstrations, in the media with informational campaigns, and in civil disobedience at the proposed offshore construction site where flotillas of protesters' boats have blocked ships contracted by the Japanese government from completing on-site surveys. Yet, some fishermen in Henoko have assisted in the surveys, receiving charter fees from the government, which has also agreed to consider compensation for the households of fishermen if the base is built. Though reluctant to implement it, the Japanese government retains the options of forcibly removing protesters from the area and seizing the portion of ‘ura Bay targeted for base construction, or simply overruling opposition by all levels of Okinawan politics.

This is only the latest variation in a policy of "carrot and stick" (Japanese:"ame to muchi," candy and whip) imposed in Okinawa for more than half a century, first, by the U.S. military occupation (1945-1972) and, later, by the Japanese government after Okinawa reverted to Japanese administration in 1972. Seeking land to build or expand its military bases in the 1950s, the U.S. government offered "rental" payments to those willing to turn over their land for the military's use. After ninety-eight percent of the landowners refused, the military began forcibly seizing their land by, as Okinawans put it, "bayonets and bulldozers," which brought arrests and serious injuries. This article reviews the struggles over half a century.

Steve Rabson is professor emeritus of East Asian Studies, Brown University, and an Asia-Pacific Journal Associate. He is the author of Righteous Cause or Tragic Folly: Changing Views of War in Modern Japanese Poetry, and co-editor of Southern Exposure: Modern Japanese Literature from Okinawa. He served as a U.S. Army draftee in Okinawa for eight months in 1967-68.

Recommended citation: Steve Rabson, 'Henoko and the U.S Military: A History of Dependence and Resistance,' The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 10, Issue 4 No 2, January 23, 2012

APJ Feature, Japan's Supreme Court Limits National Anthem Punishments for Teachers

The Asia-Pacific Journal has closely followed the case of a group of Tokyo teachers punished because they refused to stand during school ceremonies for the playing of Kimigayo, Japan's national anthem. Some consider the anthem, a hymn of praise to the emperor, to be too closely connected to Japan's history of militarism and imperialism. For them, not standing is a form of conscientious protest. From 2004, Tokyo Governor and staunch conservative Ishihara Shintaro has led a drive to have the anthem played at Tokyo schools and to take punitive action, including fines and suspensions, against teachers who refuse to stand. That crackdown has spread, moreover, to Osaka and other cities.
In 2011, the Tokyo High Court rejected the claim of the teachers to protection based on based on constitutional language which declares "Freedom of thought and conscience shall not be violated."
Last week, however, the teachers won a victory of sorts when the Supreme Court deemed that punishments for not standing during the national anthem must not be "excessive". Below are editorials on the issue from the Mainichi Shimbun and Yomiuri Shimbun outlining this new development and its potential consequences.
January 22, 2012.