Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ms. Rice "regrets"

Condoleeza Rice, US secretary of state, is currently in Tokyo as part of a Northeast Asian tour intended to reinvigorate the stalled six-party talks.

At a press conference on Wednesday Ms. Rice reportedly conveyed her and Ambassador Schieffer's regrets to the victim of the alleged rape and her family, and said, according to the Washington Post, "I would hope they know that the American government is concerned about them and the American people are concerned about them." In a meeting with Prime Minister Fukuda, she affirmed the US commitment to devise a system for ensuring the recurrence of criminal incidents in Okinawa. As Mainichi reports, there is some disagreement between the US (and the Japanese government) on one side and Okinawan authorities on the other as far as countermeasures are concerned. Tokyo has proposed joint US MP-Okinawan Police patrols, a proposal to which the Okinawan prefectural government has responded coolly.

Meanwhile, there is a problem with Ms. Rice's remarks. Of course for the sake of appearances she has to apologize — is this an apology? — on behalf of the American people as well as the US government. It is difficult to say, however, that the American people know or care about this problem. I'm sure if prompted many Americans would express their own regrets about the incident, but public opinion is more or less silent on this issue and the alliance in general. If asked, many Americans would probably wonder why US forces are needed in Japan in the first place (back to the difficulty of discerning just what the "average" voter thinks). The silence of US public opinion on this issue, especially when compared with the political sensitivity of the base issue in Japan, means that Washington has a much freer hand than Tokyo. Accordingly, the US must necessarily lead on transformation. If the sections of the 2006 agreement pertaining to Okinawa are to be fulfilled on schedule, Washington cannot wait for Japan to act: it must take the initiative itself.

Ms. Rice's words are fine — but action is what's needed.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am not sure what you are trying to say in this short piece. The U.S. public is silent on this issue, no doubt, but that is actually a GOOD thing for Japan. If the issue of Okinawa in its entirety were to spring up as a political issue in the U.S., political opinion among Americans would almost certainly show distaste for the uneven deal that Japan gets out of the U.S. in the overall security framework. And also a distaste for the way these very unusual, extremely rare unfortunate events are used by Okinawa's governor as a political pawn and the way the central government of Japan finds it convenient to blame the U.S. when it has plenty of troublesome historic business still unsettled with Okinawa.

Despite the hysteria of Okinawan citizens and crass anti-Americanism on the left in Japan, political opinion in the U.S. is in support of a strong US-Japan security alliance, something that has become much stronger during the last 8 years under the current Administration's leadership. I would describe our presence in Okinawa as a generous gift to the people of Japan. Words of thanks are always welcome.

You admit that the U.S. has a freer hand than Japan; why would you push Secretary Rice to take action to fulfill the 2006 agreements as if it is so urgent?
What is in it for the U.S.?
I will admit that the 2006 agreement (partially the brilliant work of the brilliant and effective former Sec. of Defense Rumsfeld) should go forward, but I fail to see the urgency that you press for. The security relationship is not an equal partnership... never was.. and never should be. The United States takes the lead and makes the major decisions - this may sound arrogant but it is a clear reality.

I have no problem with a public apology by Rice, but find it a little distasteful that the United States needs to apologize to Japan over Okinawan issues.

We should be thanked repeatedly for our Marines' many contributions to Japan over the years. I also remind you that tens of thousands of U.S. Marines died on Okinawa to liberate the island from Japanese imperialism.
(It's a minor, inconvenient little fact that seems to escape the younger generation of intl. relations scholars) We did not take Okinawa to push some sort of hegemony; we responded to vicious, sub-human, deprived Japanese imperialism.

And today, the U.S. apologizes.
In historic context, the idea of the United States apologizing to Japan or to Okinawa for anything is, for me, a joke.

Let's rememember why the United States is in Okinawa. Please.

David said...

I would also say that ignorance of the U.S.Japan Security treaty is a good deal for Japan. Were there ever a war in which young American had to die fighting to defend Japan when Japan would not spill a single drop of Japanese blood to defend the US (or our forces defending Japan) I suspect there would be little support or understanding of this policy.

It was last an issue to some degree in the 80s during the Bubble years and as I recall the US government explained it away by saying that Japan pays most of the expenses of our troops being here and the Japan's (U.S.-written) constitution forbids them from having a military. Of course both are half-truths. And one wonders why Japan would follow its US written constitution regarding no military forces when it ignore much of the rest of it. The SDF are military forces anyway.

The real question is why does the US need to have military forces in Japan in 2008? The reasons/excuses change with the wind and will never go away. Once Uncle Sam gets its forces somewhere, it takes an act of god to get them out. Temporarily. Ask the Philippines.

vincent said...

Indeed a good question: ‘Is this an apology?’. Yesterday (Thursday 16th) NHK NewsWatch 9 had an exclusive interview with Condoleeza Rice. She repeated the same ‘regrets’. I think he interviewer was right to ask if these (feeble) regrets should be interpreted as an apology and she replied ‘Yes, of course’ and that was it. No strong worded apology. I have the impression she doesn’t realize how important it is to apologize in Japan. You have to apologize not necessarily because it’s your fault, but simply because you caused trouble.

Garrett said...

For what it's worth, Hadnott was released.

AC said...

It's interesting that so many high-ranking US officials have apologized and forcefully condemned the case one after another without even waiting for the legal process to play out. What happens now that the charges against the Marine have been dropped?

Anonymous said...

I think I mentioned that we should still hold to the rule: innocent until proven guilty.
Absolute hysteria - on the part of the Japanese media and frankly, this blog site.

Everyone owes the U.S. Marines and the man in question an apology. No charges were even made. He was the victim of a political mob - Okinawa, the Japanese media, and anti-Americans everywhere.

But he is after all a member of the U.S. military, and thus will never be apologized to... it is ironic to me that U.S. liberals are the first to libel and defame a member of their own armed forces.

Of course it is not surprising - it's the same sort of unpatriotic policies they have been using against our brave forces in the Middle East since the noble liberation of Baghdad in 2003.

Japan Observer said...

Dear Anonymous,

I always used the phrase "alleged rape" in the discussion of this issue. Is that libel or defamation?

My position has been consistent: the US needs to accelerate, unilaterally if necessary, the realignment of US forces as envisioned in the 2006 realignment plan. It needs to do so not because the Okinawans are oppressed by the US presence, not because it's an act of charity — but because doing so is in the interests of the United States.