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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Indo-Japanese Nuclear Cooperation

     There was a significant development in the Indo-Japanese relations earlier this month.  On 11 November the Prime Ministers of the two countries, in their third meeting, signed an agreement enabling Japan to export nuclear power plants to India.  This was when the serious accidents at Fukushima are not able, and are unlikely to do so, to see the light of the day, India is still outside the NPT system, and is steadily developing her nuclear arsenal.  This was also when the environmentalists and other citizens of India are up against the ongoing construction of some new nuclear plants here and there in their country.  It is apparent that it was with the interests of the plant manufacturers of Japan in view.  Many hibakusha(radioactivity-affected people), together with others, prominent among them the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, are raising their voices against the agreement.

     Looked at from a different angle, there is no doubt that the agreement is a part of, if not exactly a joint encirclement of China, but then at least of a politico-strategic arrangement with China in view.  As such it must have satisfied the ruling elites of both the countries.

     The joint statement by the two PMs, made public on the same night, also said that the military cooperation between the two countries would be closer.  At the same time it said that Japan would help India to have Shinkansen-type bullet trains in different parts of India.  As the first step Japan would build it in Western India, in the 500 km distance between Mumbai and Ahmedabad.  This is one of the busiest sectors of transport in India today.  Also the latter is where the Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi comes from.  The next day, 12 November, Mr. Abe took Mr. Modi as far as to Kobe to take a look at such a bullet train workshop there.

     Would the Shinkansen solve the transport problem in India?  On 20 November there was the worst-ever train accident in the Indian history in Northern India, killing more than 150 people.  In my view what is really needed is to make the infrastructure, railway and road both, much more solid, resilient, and accident-free.  The bullet trains may serve the business people better, but will hardly help the commuters and other common people who make up the congestion.   

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The US Presidential Elections 2016

     In several hours' time the Americans will start voting for the new US President.  The writer is not able to predict which of the main contenders will win, let alone by roughly what margin.  He, however, wonders if, whichever of the two may win and by whatever margin, he/she may leave a very large group of American people un-accommodated into the new regime that he/she is going to construct.  In that sense the US will be seen more sharply split than in the present Obama era. And this is after an enormous amount of energy and money are spent, or rather wasted.

     In fact what is it that has been going on for more than several months until today? Have we heard any serious debate on the policies?  We cannot call policies such hollow words like, for example, 'Together let us make history', or 'Let us make America great again'.  Hopefully the voters will not be misled by those words designed to hide the contenders' real programmes.

     Take, for example, the issue of security in our part of the world, the Far East.  One of the two said that the existing security arrangements should be adhered to, and strengthened.  I would say, by all means no. That kind of policy has not helped to ease tension here in the least. Moreover, look at what is going on in Okinawa in Japan at this moment.  They are building a huge permanent military base.  The whole country is being Okinawanized in various ways.

     The other contender is of the opinion that the US allies like Germany and Japan are not paying toward the maintenance of the US military, and the US should stop defending them.  You are very much welcome to do so.  It will mean a lot towards the cause of peace in and around those countries.

     Unfortunately what this contender says is not correct.  Japan is paying several billions per annum for the maintenance of the US forces.  This is a huge amount which could have been spent on more constructive purposes.  Moreover this is the money Japan need not pay according to the terms of the treaties and other arrangements between the US and Japan.  So they are begging, and we are hopelessly subservient.

     For those and many other such reasons, none of the main contenders is desirable for the most important post in the world.  Whoever wins, he/she must take the interests of the vast and growing under-privileged masses and middle classes into serious consideration.  That is all I can say at this late hour, though hopefully it is not too late.                

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Month of Atomic Bombs

     It was in the month of August, 1945, that the two atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on 6 and 9, respectively.  This is the last day of August, so I feel obliged to write a few things on the subject to pay my tribute to the dead.

     On these days this year, the commemoration ceremonies were performed as usual in these cities.  The mayors, some hibakusha(radioactivity-affected persons), some guests of honour including the Prime Minister, addressed the audience, and the list of the names who had passed away during the past year was dedicated to the Tomb of the dead.  In Hiroshima the number of those newly dead was 5,511, making the total 300, 3195.  In Nagasaki the number was 3, 487, bringing the total to 172, 230.  One may say, therefore, that the number of the nuclear victims is approaching half a million.  The surviving hibakusha, on the other hand, has naturally been on the decline, at present numbering about 174,000.  Their average age is 81.

     Among the addresses those by the two Mayors are far more important.  They are known as the Proclamation for Peace.  Naturally there are some overlapping points in their speeches.  Both referred to the Constitution of Japan, which is under attack by some conservatives in the country, as embodying the ideal of peace.  Both have highly evaluated the visit of President Obama to Hiroshima earlier this year, and have invited others to come and visit their cities.  Both have stressed the need for the legal framework for prohibiting the nuclear weapons.  And both have expressed their apprehension on the dwindling number of hibakusha who are still able to tell their experience to the coming generations.

     Besides, three points put forward by the Mayor of Hiroshima are worth noting.  First, he said that there were Koreans, Chinese, Southeast Asians and even American POWs among the victims.  Second, he referred to the discrimination the survivors had to go through from their radioactive injuries. Third, he demanded that the 'black-rain region' as recognized by the Government should be expanded so that more people might be certified as victims.  In Hiroshima, shortly after the explosion, heavy black rain fell over a wide area and thereby contaminated many persons.  So far the Government has recognized a fairly narrow region as such to help certify the hibakusha.  Recent researches have shown, however, that the actual region may well be three to four times as wide.      

     It was, however, the Mayor of Nagasaki who emphasized much more strongly what should be done by Japan and other countries to move forward to the abolition of nuclear weapons.  He not only stressed the need for an international legal framework for such an action.  (By the way, on 19 August a UN working group voted by a majority a recommendation to the UN General Assembly that a discussion on such a framework should commence in 2017.  All the African, Latin American-Caribbean and Southeast Asian countries voted for it. Japan, I am ashamed to say, abstained.  All the nuclear powers, including DPRK, did not participate.  The DPRK acted in the same way as the 'imperialists' that she criticized.  The NATO countries opposed.  The voting also shows the unequal character of the NPT, and the futility of the military alliances like NATO and Japan-US alliance.)

     The Mayor of Nagasaki also criticized the nuclear powers which are trying to replace the existing weapons with more capable ones.  He further said that the Japanese Government is contradicting itself by following the policy of nuclear deterrence, and stressed that the idea of the 'Nuclear-free Northeast Asia' be seriously considered.    

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Some Electoral Issues in Japan

     On 10 July, this coming Sunday, we in Japan are going to elect half of the members of our Upper House for a term of six years.  They are elected either Prefecture-based electoral district wise, or in accordance to the proportion of the votes the various political parties get.  Each voter has got two votes, one for the district-wise voting and one for the party-wise voting.  A great characteristic this time is that the voting age has been lowered from 20 to 18.

     Our Upper House is not as powerful as the Lower House.  It means that as long as the majority of the Lower House is in the hands of the LDP-Komei Party coalition as it is at present, the electoral result this week-end will not bring about a change in the Government no matter what the result is going to be.  Still, it is much more powerful than in the British system, and it is possible that the result will greatly influence the political situation.

     The biggest electoral issue is economic, or rather the Government parties are trying to make it that way.  They are making the best of what they call the success of 'Abenomics'.  But has it been a success?  Are the fruits of it trickling down to the less privileged people from the hands of the well-to-do?  Are not the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer?

     The Prime Minister is boasting that the tax revenue has increased tremendously(by Yen 21,000 billion) over the past four years, showing the upward trend of the economy.  As has been pointed out by the critics, however, the condition of our economy was at its worst four years ago because of the world-wide depression and the great earthquake in Eastern Japan, and naturally the tax revenue was at a low level.  Moreover there has been a 3 % rise in consumption tax accounting nearly 40 % of the above tax increase.

     There are a few significant indices which Abe would not like to talk about.  He talks, for example, about achieving an increase in employment.  But most of them belong to unstable, low-paid, irregular work force.  They are called, and call themselves, "working poor".  This is persistently bringing down the wage-level for several years by now.  Simultaneously the level of personal consumption has gone down for the first time for two consecutive years for 2014-5.

       Under the circumstances the Government had to postpone the 2 % more rise in consumption tax planned for the next year.  But together they are going to introduce cut here and there in the social service sector.  They have also lowered the corporation tax, and the income tax on the rich.

     What is being fought in the electoral battle at present is not only the "Abenomics".  There are the questions of collective self-defence, the construction of the new US base at Okinawa, Constitutional Amendment centred around the Article 9, nuclear energy, TPP, and so on.  They are closely interrelated.  Put together they are likely to break, and are to a large measure already breaking, the opinion in this country into two halves.  We have somehow to go through this fire.   

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Did Obama Give A Message for Nuclear Disarmament at Hiroshima?

     There is a large Peace Park, as we call it, at the centre of Hiroshima city.  Mr. Obama spent about 50 minutes in its compound in the evening of 27 May 2016.  He saw the Museum, laid a wreath at the tomb of the deceased by the Bomb, talked to a couple of hibakusha (survivors), watched what is known as the Atomic Dome at some distance.  Above all he made a speech, said to be 17-minute long, which was no doubt broadcast all over the world.  What did he say then?

     He said, 'We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 Japanese men, women and children, thousands of Koreans and a dozen Americans held prisoner.'  And also, '...the memory of the morning of August 6, 1945 must never fade.'   So far very good.

     He talked about two hibakusha in high esteem.  '...the woman who forgave the pilot who flew the plane that dropped the atomic bomb because she recognized what she really hated was war itself; the man who sought out families of Americans killed here because he believed their loss was equal to his own.'  Very moving words.

     About the nuclear disarmament, he said, and this is what we wanted to hear, that 'Among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.'  Very encouraging.  

     But he continued that 'We may not realize this goal in my lifetime'  This is exactly what he said at Praha seven years ago.  It is as if there has been no progress on his part.  Why is it so?

     I think we may find the reason in a different portion of his speech, where he said that 'And since that fateful day we have made choices that give us hope. The United States and Japan forged not only an alliance...'.  This is a military alliance and both Japan and the US are committed to the doctrine, of cold-war origin and long outdated, of nuclear deterrence.  As long as you stick to that theory how could you be expected to move ahead toward the nuclear-free society?  

     In another part also Obama said that 'We may not be able to eliminate man's capacity to do evil, so nations and the alliances that we formed must possess the means to protect ourselves'.  Here he speaks of the alliances in a plural form, which suggests that all the alliances are based on the above-mentioned theory.

     Thus, regrettably, we may have to conclude that Mr. Obama has given no clear desire, let alone a plan, for nuclear disarmament.  This goes against the high hopes and expectations of millions of people who watched him speak at no other place than Hiroshima the day before yesterday evening.