The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 9. 2012   

February 27, 2012   
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In This Issue

In the coming weeks we hope to offer an expanded What's Hot section with brief and timely articles on our signature themes, including reprints and commentaries.

Over the last year we have prioritized  coverage of events in Fukushima and Tohoku  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.Watch for more important work on developments in Tohoku and recovery efforts.  

Our home page has two important 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.  Second, the list of articles now indicates all those available in Japanese translation or original, as well as other languages.

Many of our 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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Sakurai Kunitoshi, Japan's Illegal Environmental Impact Assessment of the Henoko Base


Before dawn on December 28, 2011, with the end of the year looming, the Okinawa Defense Bureau (ODB) delivered a load of cardboard boxes to the office of the Okinawa Prefectural Government. The boxes contained copies of the environmental impact statement (EIS) for a base in the Henoko district of Nago that is planned as the replacement for the US Marines Corps Air Station Futenma.
The delivery was made before dawn to skirt a concerted blockade by citizen groups opposed to the construction plan, and this "surprise attack" sent anger on the island soaring to new heights. Both of the local daily newspapers published extra editions, and the front pages and inside sections of the papers the next morning were devoted to the incident. Exactly one month earlier, reporters at an informal gathering asked the chief of the Okinawa Defense Bureau when the EIS would be delivered. He sparked a scandal by remarking, "Would you say 'I am going to violate you' before you violated someone?" Now the violation has been carried out as a surprise attack, redoubling the anger of the islanders.

The author, an eminent environmental specialists examines the history of EIS and its myriad distortions in the case of Okinawan bases.

Sakurai Kunitoshi is a member of the Okinawan Environmental Network, a professor and former president of Okinawa University, and a councilor for the Japan Society for Impact Assessment. This article first appeared in the March 2012 issue of Sekai. For earlier essays at this site see his "Okinawan Bases, the United States and Environmental Destruction," November 10, 2008 and "The Fatally Flawed EIS Report," January 7, 2012. This article was published in Sekai March 2012.
Recommended citation: Sakurai Kunitoshi, 'Japan's Illegal Environmental Impact Assessment of the Henoko Base,' The Asia Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 9, No 5, February 27, 2012.

Read more . . .

Wada Haruki, Kim Jong-il and the Normalization of Japan-North Korea Relations


When I heard the sudden news of the death of North Korea's leader Kim Jong-il, I felt as if I had been struck by lightning. Since his miracle recovery from the 2008 stroke, he had been busy travelling in and outside North Korea. Both he and others around him would have been concerned about his health, and also prepared for this moment. His death must have been such a huge regret for Kim himself, who was single-mindedly focusing on keeping his public promise to open a 'big gate' for a 'powerful and prosperous Korea' by the 100th anniversary of the birth of his father, Kim Il-song in 2012. As one Japanese who has been hoping for normalization of Japan-North Korea relations for the last 10 years, I could not but grieve over the death of the leader of our neighbouring country, who, more than anyone else, hoped to realise this goal. The Japanese government and people have lost their best chance to achieve normalization. The last decade has now become a lost decade.

Kim Jong-Il became Number Two in the party and  in the state under Kim Il-song, and for 20 years worked as the designer and producer of a partisan state. After his father's death, he became head of state and ruled the country under a new system of what was known as the 'military-first' state for 19 years. I will leave the evaluation of his work during this period for another occasion. For the moment, I think what is necessary is to confirm what Kim Jong-il planned to do in relation to Japan, and the words he used to convey this to the Japanese.

Wada Haruki is Emeritus Professor of the Institute of Social Science, Tokyo University and a specialist on Russia, Korea, and the Korean War. His many books include Chosen Senso zenshi (A Complete History of the Korean War).

Recommended citation: Wada Haruki, 'Kim Jong-il and the Normalization of Japan-North Korea Relations,' The Asia Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 9, No 3, February 27, 2012.

Read more . . .


Bruce Cumings & Ruediger Frank, North Korea's Dynastic Succession


Historians rightfully insist on learning from history. Indeed, history tends to repeat itself - just as mankind stubbornly tends to ignore that fact. Bruce Cumings' historical take on the succession issue in the DPRK is thus an important and welcome addition to the many different voices that have tried to make sense of what is happening and to provide a glimpse into the future. However, as an economist I know the risks of applying, implicitly or explicitly, the ceteris paribus condition (all other things being equal). Karl Marx, a classical economist but also a historian, saw history repeating itself in the form of a spiral. Developments tend to appear like a repetitive circle if viewed from the top, but vertical change becomes visible if seen from the side. If we try to understand the nature of Kim Jong-un's leadership, we cannot do so without a long-term understanding of the North Korean system. But we should also consider the many differences between the years 1994 and 2012. The world has changed, North Korea has changed, and even the process of preparation for succession differed. We have yet to see whether the long-term systemic currents will dominate, or whether the many details that differ in Kim Jong-un's case will substantially shape the outcome of the political process in Pyongyang. True, doomsayers were wrong in 1994, and we are able to explain why. But at least some of the reasons for their wrong assessment are gone, opening the possibility that they might be right in 2012. Or they might be wrong again - for new reasons.

Bruce Cumings is chair of the History Department at the University of Chicago. Author of The Origins of the Korean War, he has also written for the New York  Review of Books, the New Left Review, the London Review of Books, and the Nation. He is an Asia-Pacific Journal associate. His most recent book, from which this is drawn, is Dominion from Sea to Sea: Pacific Ascendancy and American Power.

Ruediger Frank is Professor of East Asian Economy and Society at the University of Vienna, Vice Head of Department, and an Asia-Pacific Journal associate. His latest books include (with S. Burghart, eds.): Driving Forces of Socialist Transformation: North Korea and the Experience of Europe and East Asia, and Korea 2011: Politics, Economy, and Society.

Recommended citation: Bruce Cumings with an introduction by Ruediger Frank,'North Korea's Dynastic Succession,' The Asia pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 9 No. 1, February 27, 2012.


Read more . . .  
David McNeill, Crippled Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant at One Year: Back in the Disaster Zone    

David McNeill revisits Japan's northeast and the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant a year after it was battered by the triple disaster of March 11 and finds a region still struggling to emerge from its huge shadow.

"The world is heavy on us," says Sakurai Katsunobu, recalling the day that its weight almost crushed the life out of his city. On the morning of March 11 last year, Minamisoma and its mayor were struggling with the same mundane problems as many other small rural cities across Japan: a declining, greying population, creaking public services and a faltering local economy. By nightfall, an existential disaster had engulfed Mayor Sakurai's office, one from which it has yet to reemerge.

It began with the huge quake that struck off the coast of the city of 71,000 at 2:46pm. Less than an hour later, Sakurai was on the roof of the city office, squinting toward the sea about six miles away.  "We could see this huge cloud of dust rising into the air from the Pacific. I asked someone, 'is that a fire?' Then we realized it was the tsunami." Even as he spoke, the deluge was inundating hundreds of homes, drowning old people and children; sometimes whole families.  By evening, corpses were being brought to a makeshift morgue in a local college.
The March 11 quake and tsunami took 630 lives in Minamisoma, including 100 children. For days, Sakurai wondered if his elderly parents were among the casualties.  But instead of looking for them he was dealing with the crisis that would define his city. On March 12, an explosion blew apart the building housing reactor 1 at the Daiichi nuclear plant, 23km south of his office. Operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) and the central government were silent on what was happening. Public television said there was no need for panic. Minamisoma's citizens made up their own minds and began to flee from rumours of radiation.

David McNeill is a Tokyo-based correspondent for The Independent, The Irish Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education. He is an Asia-Pacific Journal coordinator.

Recommended citation: David McNeill, 'Crippled Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant at One Year: Back in the Disaster Zone,' The Asia Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 9, No 4, February 27, 2012.

 Read more . . .


Augustin Boey, Nuclear Power and China's Energy Future: Limited Options

In the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, the fate of nuclear power appeared to hang in the balance as generating states scrambled to conduct safety checks on their existing nuclear reactors and newly-restarted nuclear programmes. A number of these states have since elected to phase out their nuclear power plants.
While it is clear that full extent of the political, social and environmental impacts of the nuclear disaster have yet to be seen at both the national and transnational levels, it is nonetheless apparent that the official responses by various countries have stabilized for now into a fairly coherent pattern. Many OECD nuclear power generating states have officially decided to continue their nuclear energy programmes. However, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland have thus far chosen to abandon nuclear power. These European states together produced 8 percent of total electricity generated from nuclear power in 2009. The potential loss of worldwide nuclear power generating capacity is therefore considerable.

In marked contrast to these countries, all non-OECD countries with operating nuclear power plants (NPPs) or nuclear programmes underway have thus far given no indication that they are likely to abandon them. India has not announced any material change to its nuclear energy plans to boost generating capacity to 63 GW by 2032. Likewise, Russia's nuclear energy policy was endorsed by PM Vladimir Putin in April 2011 as part of a balanced energy mix. The nuclear status quo for many of these developing countries thus remains despite the impacts of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Consider the case of China, forging ahead toward becoming the world's largest producer of nuclear power.

Augustin Boey is a Research Analyst at the Energy Studies Institute, National University of Singapore.

Recommended citation: Augustin Boey, 'Nuclear Power and China's Energy Future: Limited Options,' The Asia Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 9 No. 2, February 27, 2012.

 Read more . . .