The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 15. 2013    

April 15, 2013    
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In This Issue
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North Korea and the risk of nuclear war remain at the center of our agenda with articles by Sebastian Maslow, C. Douglas Lummis and Herbert P. Bix addressing multiple aspects of the crisis and more. Benedict R. Anderson takes a new look at questions of impunity and reenactment in Indonesia's 1965 massacre and today in Medan. Tomoko Akami' examines Japan's wartime information politics in an era of mass politics.

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Sebastian Maslow, Yet Another Lost Decade? Whither Japan's North Korea Policy under Abe Shinzo

The return to power of Abe Shinzō and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) unfolded as tensions on the Korean peninsula mount. As a key advocate of the abduction lobby, Abe's rapid political rise since the early 2000s is closely connected with his role in promoting a hardline policy towards North Korea. The current international crisis surrounding North Korea offers a critical test for analyzing the trajectory of Abe's foreign and security policy. In addition to joining multilateral United Nations sanctions, the Abe administration has increased the pressure on North Korea through new measures constraining the activities of pro-Pyongyang groups within Japan. Moreover, as Abe has pledged yet again to solve the abduction issue, the kidnapping problem has brought the old anti-DPRK policy network back to the forefront of Japan's North Korea policy. 



Sebastian Maslow is Assistant Professor at the Centre for East Asian Studies, Heidelberg University and a doctoral candidate at the School of Law, Tohoku University. His research focuses on Japan's foreign policy process and Japan-North Korea relations.


Recommended Citation: Sebastian Maslow, "Yet Another Lost Decade? Whither Japan's North Korea Policy under Abe Shinzō," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 15, No. 3, April 15, 2013.

Read More. . .
C. Douglas Lummis, The Madman Strategy


A US Strategic Command document declassified a few years ago contains the following passage:
"While it is crucial to explicitly define and communicate the acts or damage that we would find unacceptable, we should not be too specific about our responses.  Because of the value that comes from the ambiguity of what the US might do to an adversary if the acts we seek to deter are carried out, it hurts to portray ourselves as too fully rational and cool - headed. The fact that some elements may appear to be potentially "out of control" can be beneficial to creating and reinforcing fears and doubts within the minds of an adversary's decision makers.  This essential sense of fear is the working force of deterrence.  That the US may become irrational and vindictive if its vital interests are attacked should be a part of the national persona we project to all adversaries."
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger called this the Madman Strategy.  For nuclear weapons to serve as a deterrent, it's not enough simply to possess them.  The problem is, it's difficult to believe that a person of ordinary human feeling or rationality would actually use them.  A first strike would be a moral abomination, and would also mean abandoning the policy of deterrence; a second strike would mean that deterrence had failed, so that its only motive would be vengeance.  For nuclear weapons to be an effective deterrent, it's best for a government to persuade adversaries that its leaders are crazy enough to use them - as the document says, "out of control", "irrational and vindictive".  


C. Douglas Lummis, a former US Marine stationed on Okinawa and a present resident of Okinawa, is the author of Radical Democracy and other books in Japanese and English. A Japan Focus associate, he formerly taught at Tsuda College.

Posted April 14, 2013.

Read More. . .


Herbert P. Bix, Japan Under Neonationalist, Neoliberal Rule: Moving Toward an Abyss? 


It is widely assumed that the Japan-U.S. military alliance plays a key role in securing peace in Northeast Asia. It not only shores up procedural democracy in Japan and South Korea but also assures Japan's neighbors, China in particular, of Japan's commitment to pacifism. Close analysis of the current stage of neonationalism and neoliberal austerity economics in Japan, as exemplified by the government that recently took over in Tokyo, conveys a different impression.

Following the December 19, 2012, general election to the powerful House of Representatives, the first since the Great East Japan Earthquake and the nuclear catastrophe at TEPCO's Fukushima complex, Abe Shinzo won a solid victory, restoring to power the LDP and its coalition partner, New Komeito.


With Japan mired in its fourth recession since 2000, the Democratic Party of Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko, having lost public and media support, was dismissed ignominiously for having failed to deliver Japan from protracted economic stagnation. Even if Noda had exercised effective leadership in the wake of the March 2011 earthquake-tsunami-nuclear reactor meltdowns, which he did not; or if, during the tenures of three DPJ prime ministers--Hatoyama Yukio, Kan Naoto, and Noda himself--the DPJ had effectively exposed the LDP's long record of misrule and corruption, the result might not have been any different.


The 2012 election thus revealed growing divides in Japanese society along lines of income, age, and educational level. Concurrently, it signaled a determination on the part of the LDP to more vigorously pursue anti-populist, neoliberal policies even though they have contributed directly to voter disaffection, as well as growing poverty and insecurity.   

Herbert Bix, author of Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, which won the Pulitzer Prize, is Professor Emeritus of History and Sociology at Binghamton University. A Japan Focus associate, he writes on issues of war and empire.


Recommended Citation: Herbert Bix, "Japan Under Neonationalist, Neoliberal Rule: Moving Toward an Abyss?" The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 11, Issue 15, No. 2, April 15, 2013.


 Read More. . .


Benedict R. Anderson, Impunity and Reenactment: Reflections on the 1965 Massacre in Indonesia and its Legacy

Domestic mass murder on a large scale is always the work of the state, at the hands of its own soldiery, police and gangsters, and/or ideological mobilization of allied civilian groups. The worst cases in the post-World War 11 era - Guatemala, Sri Lanka, Cambodia,Sudan,Bosnia,Rwanda, Liberia, China, East Pakistan, East Timor, and Indonesia - show much the same bloody manipulations. It is equally the case that the killer regimes do not announce publicly the huge numbers killed, and rarely boast about the massacres, let alone the tortures that usually accompany them. They like to create a set of public euphemisms endlessly circulated through state-controlled mass media. In the age of the UN, to which almost all nation-states belong,in the time of Amnesty International and its uncountable NGO children and grandchildren, in the epoch of globalization and the internet, there are naturally worries about 'face,' interventions, embargoes, ostracism, and UN-ish investigations. No less important are domestic considerations. National militaries are supposed heroically to defend the nation against foreign enemies, not slaughter their fellow-citizens. Police are supposed to uphold the law. Above all, there is need for political 'stability,' one element of which is that killing should not get out of control, and that amateur civilian killers should be quietly assured that 'it's over' and that no one will be punished.


But every norm has its exceptions. In the article that follows below, readers are invited to reflect on Joshua Oppenheimer's two recent sensational films about organized gangsters in and around the city of Medan (in northeastern Sumatra) who played a key, but only local, role in the vast anti-Communist murders in Indonesia in the last months of 1965. Almost fifty years later, they happily boast about their killings, with the grimmest details, and relish their complete immunity from any punishment. They are also happy to collaborate with Oppenheimer, contribute to his films, create bizarre reenactments of 1965,and do not hesitate to dress up their underlings to act as communists (male and female). The problem is to explain why Medan was the scene of the exception, within the larger framework of Indonesian politics from the late colonial period to the present.   

Benedict Anderson is the author of Imagined Communities. Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism and an authority on Indonesian politics and culture. He is professor emeritus of Government at Cornell and an editor of New Left Review.


Recommended Citation: Benedict Anderson, "Impunity and Reenactment: Reflections on the 1965 Massacre in Indonesia and its Legacy," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 15, No. 4, April 15, 2013.

 Read more. . .
Tomoko AKAMI, When Democracy is Not Enough: Japan's information policy and mass politics in diplomatic and economic crisis in the 1930s


Tomoko Akami teaches and researches at the School of Culture, History and Language and the Research School of Asia and the Pacific at the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University. Her work on news agencies in Japan's foreign policy after 1934 is forthcoming: Soft Power of Japan's Total War State: The Board of Information and the National New Agency, 1934-45 (Dordrecht: Letters of Republic). Other publications include Internationalizing the Pacific: The United States, Japan and the Institute of Pacific Relations in War and Peace, 1919-45 (London: Routledge, 2002).


Recommended Citation: Tomoko Akami, "When Democracy is Not Enough: Japan's information policy and mass politics in diplomatic and economic crisis in the 1930s," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Volume 11, Issue 15, No. 1, April 15, 2013.

Read More. . .