Monday, August 23, 2004

Japan blocks needed immigration

Another good article in the Japan Times about Japan's unpleasant attitude towards immigrants.
...Asian countries are interested in sending nurses and nursing-care workers to Japan. Thailand is hoping for the employment of Thai-style masseuses, cooks and baby sitters; the Philippines is looking for baby-sitting jobs.

Japanese policies regarding foreign workers are based on the ninth basic plan for employment measures, endorsed by the Cabinet in August 1999. These policies call for the employment of more foreign workers with professional knowledge and skills but recommend caution regarding the introduction of unskilled workers. However, most of the illegal workers in Japan, totaling more than 200,000, are engaged in construction work and other manual labor, showing a glaring gap between policy guidelines and reality.

Foreign graduates of local nursing schools are allowed to undergo four years of on-the-job training in Japan, but only permanent residents may sit for national examinations to become licensed nurses. Only a limited number of foreign nurses work in Japan. Caregivers and masseuses may not work here legally. Japan has no plans to allow the employment of foreign baby sitters.

Yet, taking into account the progress in FTA negotiations, the government's council on comprehensive regulatory reform recommended in its third report published last December that foreigners be allowed to sit for national examinations for licensed nurses. The report also said licensed foreign nurses should be permitted to work anywhere in Japan for an extended period, and that consideration should be given to employing foreign caregivers and masseuses.

The recommendations stirred opposition from groups in those and related professions as well as from some members of the governing Liberal Democratic Party. Basic policies on economic and fiscal management and structural reform, adopted by the Cabinet in June, said vaguely that the introduction of foreign nurses and caregivers should be considered from an "overall viewpoint," leaving the issue to future FTA negotiations.

According to a 1996 health ministry survey, only 73 percent of public hospitals and 43 percent of private hospitals in Japan had sufficient nursing staff, indicating a chronic shortage of nurses. ...
There are a few complications that the article doesn't note. Japanese women are often forced out of work when they marry or simply because they have reached their mid to late twenties. I'm not suggesting that Japanese women should become nurses, of course: the point is that the Japanese workforce could be expanded by introducing real legislation against sexual discrimination so that women who want to work--in whatever job--could do so.
A second complication is that arguably Japan should not take nurses from poor countries like the Philippines. Ironically its racist immigration policy has stopped it from contributing to the drain of key workers away from poorer countries, in contrast to the US, the UK and other European counties.
One final point: there are a lot of young Filipino women in Japan, and women from other parts of Asia, working illegally as bar girls and prostitutes in (I suspect) most parts of Japan, including small remote rural towns. This couldn't happen on such a large scale without cooperation with the gangsters involved from the police and some parts of government, so the restrictions on legal immigration are at best hypocrisy. It's not inconceivable that the current situation is deliberately maintained. It suits Japanese elites fine to deny labour rights, residency and citizenship to these women while using them to keep the huge Japanese sex industry running with less impact on Japanese people.
A report from a US governmental body recently caused mock outrage in Japan (and Singapore) by naming them as countries which do little about human trafficking.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Zushi residents defend Ikego forest against US forces and Japanese government

There's an article in the Japan Times about resistance by residents of Zushi, near Tokyo, to plans by the Japanese government to destroy forest to build new housing for US troops, reneging on a promise made in 1994 that housing built then would be the last.
Ikego forest
...To the dismay and indignation of ... many... Zushi residents, the city is facing a U.S. military construction project in its largest forest. The project, they say, comes despite a promise from the government a decade ago not to build any more facilities there.

In July of last year, Tokyo and Washington agreed to build another 800 housing units for the U.S. military in the Ikego forest area, which extends between Zushi and Yokohama, in exchange for the return of idle land at four sites in Yokohama currently overseen by the U.S. forces in Japan.

Half of the 800 units, which are to be built in the form of five 20-story buildings, are to replace some 400 units in the Negishi military residential area to be returned to Yokohama.

The remaining 400 are "the minimum required" to satisfy a long-running demand by the U.S. military to alleviate its housing shortage, according to the Defense Facilities Administration Agency, which oversees the administration and maintenance of U.S. bases in Japan.

The 290-hectare Ikego area is a large tract of near-virgin forest, 85 percent of which sits in Zushi.

The area was requisitioned by the Imperial Japanese Navy in 1938 to build ammunition storage facilities and was taken over by the U.S. military at the end of World War II. Although part of the area has been used as an ammunition depot, much of the forest has not been touched for more than 60 years.

Although Zushi residents have long been barred access, the forest, which makes up 15 percent of the municipality, means a great deal to many people. The municipal government and residents have worked for decades to get the land back with a plan to turn it into a nature preserve.

"It is now a very precious green space as more and more greenery is being lost to development," said Naoko Sugiura, a 58-year-old housewife who has lived in Zushi since her childhood.

A mother of two sons and a daughter, Sugiura said she wants to save the Ikego forest for her children.

Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, the city of Zushi and its people similarly resisted a government plan to build a U.S. military housing complex in the Ikego forest.

The national government told Zushi in 1983 it planned to build about 1,000 housing units in the Zushi portion for U.S. Navy personnel stationed at the Yokosuka naval base.

While then Zushi Mayor Torayoshi Miyoshi accepted the plan, angry residents forced Miyoshi into resigning. Zushi has since only elected mayors who were opposed to the project.

Even so, as the construction was forced through, the Zushi Municipal Government finally accepted 854 housing units in 1994, after winning a promise from the central government to Zushi and Kanagawa Prefecture that it would not build any more facilities in the Ikego area.

The housing complex was build by the Japanese government at a cost of 86 billion yen under the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement. Its construction began in 1987 and was completed in 1998.

This time around, the national government says it plans to build the additional housing units in the 36-hectare Yokohama part of Ikego. The government insists that because Yokohama was not a party to the 1994 agreement, the project does not breach the earlier promise.

"That is nothing but a sophistry," said Sugiura. "Ikego is only divided artificially between Yokohama and Zushi. The way the government has treated us really lets us down and adds to the distrust of democracy." ...

This kind of resistance from residents and local government has limited expansion of US bases over the years and is a key reason why plans that were recently mooted to move troops from Okinawa to sites elsewhere in Japan were not firmly announced in the package of troop movements in President Bush's recent speech.

Demonstration against US aircraft carrier in Sasebo, Nagasaki-ken; thoughts on where it had been; Chalmers Johnson and Taiwan

Activists in Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan, demonstrated against a visit by a nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier yesterday.
Protesters' boats circle US aircraft carrier
The nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carrier John C. Stennis enters Sasebo port in Nagasaki Prefecture on Saturday, circled by fishing boats carrying local antinuclear activists.

Protesters greet carrier in Sasebo

SASEBO, Nagasaki Pref. (Kyodo) The U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier John C. Stennis made a port call Saturday at Sasebo port in Nagasaki Prefecture.

It was the third port call by a nuclear-powered carrier in as many years, following one in August 2002 in Sasebo and another in May 2003 in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture.

The 102,000-ton vessel, which engaged in drills with the U.S. carrier Kitty Hawk and the Maritime Self-Defense Force after leaving San Diego, is scheduled to leave the port Wednesday.

Members of local labor organizations opposing the vessel's visit staged a protest throughout the day.

While some 100 unionists organized a public rally at 7:50 a.m. in the city, others approached the aircraft carrier aboard 20 fishing boats, sailing around the flattop.

In the afternoon, more than 1,000 people from the labor groups and some 300 members of citizens' groups organized an additional antinuclear rally.

"I have been suffering from radiation since an A-bomb was dropped on Nagasaki 59 years ago," said 79-year-old Nagasaki native Hideo Morimune. "I don't feel good about a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier entering a port here. I hope there will be no accident."

Concerns about the safety of nuclear power have been under the spotlight after an accident at the No. 3 reactor in the Mihama Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui Prefecture killed four workers earlier this month.From the Japan Times.

Presumably this is one of the seven US aircraft carriers (about half of the US fleet) which took part in an unprecedentedly large exercise in the Pacific this summer. Chalmers Johnson's article about 'Operation Summer Pulse '04' is on ZNet. As he says, it's a provocative piece of sabre-rattling which is bound to have upset the Chinese leadership and strengthened the case in China for military spending.
Beware Johnson's strange bias against Taiwan, though. He says, "[US] ideologues appear to be trying to precipitate a confrontation with China while they still have the chance. Today, they happen to have rabidly anti-Chinese governments in Taipei and Tokyo as allies, but these governments don't have the popular support of their own citizens." There are plenty of things to complain about in the way Taiwan is run, but the current Taiwanese government is not rabidly anti-Chinese. It's not rabidly anything, except perhaps pro-business. And as for popular support, President Chen Shui-bian--the first Taiwanese president not to come from the party of the former dictatorship, the Nationalist Guomindang--was re-elected with a narrow majority this March. Taiwan is a democracy now, with pretty good freedoms of expression, movement and assembly. China is not. It's hardly Taiwan's fault that for historical reasons its friends include neo-cons in the US and extreme rightists like Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro in Japan. The issue is what the people of Taiwan want--and at the moment they are voting for continuation of de facto independence, while generally supporting deeper business and cultural ties with the mainland.

Gregory Clark on Japan's immigration policy

There's an excellent article by Gregory Clark, vice president of Akita International University, in today's Japan Times.

Barbaric immigration policy

Japan's current campaign against visa overstayers is both puzzling and cruel.

Tokyo says the campaign aims to put an end to the upsurge in foreign crime. And Japan is right to be concerned about the crime problem. But the foreign gangs so active here are hardly likely to be walking the streets without seemingly valid visas or passports. If they can crack safes, forge credit cards, pick pockets or break into houses with such skill and ruthlessness, they will have little trouble getting false documents.

The average overstayer is someone who came to Japan to study or work, who found Japan more compatible than home, who has settled down, learned some of the language and is willing to do the menial work young Japanese now refuse to do.

The chances of these people wanting to turn to crime are close to zero. To be caught even without a seat belt fastened would put a quick end to the life they have worked so hard to create in Japan.

Overall, they do far more good for Japan than any possible harm. Many are crucial to the survival of small, labor-intensive industries here. They help overcome the Japan's growing problem of population aging and decline. Some even create small pockets of internationalization, opening the eyes of the Japanese around them to the world outside. Their remittances to their home countries represent a form of costless foreign aid.

Yet if caught, the deportation procedures they have to suffer are brutal. If caught by the police, they are incarcerated for an automatic three months in detention cells before being turned over to the immigration authorities who put them behind bars again for further detention and interrogation.

On deportation day they are handcuffed and roped together like cattle to be put on buses for forcible transport to airports and marched onto planes as common criminals. Read more...

Clark goes on to point out the strange discrepancy between this treatment of people who have made Japan their home and the welcome extended to anyone (usually from South America) who can claim enough Japanese ancestry. As I've said before here, Japan's immigration system is a manifestation of ugly racist essentialism. The idea is that racially Japanese people (whatever that might mean) are more likely to fit in with existing Japanese culture, to be able to learn the language and not to make waves. These views are common at all levels of Japanese society and are widely regarded as acceptable.

Gregory Clark, by the way, has a website full of excellent articles. His life story is worth reading too. From the second page, on the ethnically Chinese resistance to the British in Malaya (as it was then):
I got to meet some Overseas Chinese in Sarawak. With an obvious sincerity, they told me about the discrimination they had suffered for years from the colonial regime, and their fears that they would suffer even more in a Malay dominated state.

Some of the more idealistic and younger Chinese had gone off into the mountains bordering Indonesian Borneo to join an armed resistance movement. Most were eventually wiped out in the uneven fight with better armed and well-paid British, and Australian, troops. Their deaths, and their motivations, will remain for ever unrecorded.

Back in Canberra I discovered that those resisters were not seen as people with a cause. Rather, they were seen as Beijing’s puppets, as clear proof of Beijing’s belligerence and determination to move south into Asia. Why? Well, they were mainly Chinese, and everyone knew that the Overseas Chinese were beholden to Beijing.

Nor was the fact that Beijing had done absolutely nothing to help the rebels with arms, funds or personnel seen as relevant. In the rock-filled minds of our Canberra ‘experts’, the rebels were members of an Overseas Chinese Third Column (their word, not mine) being prepared by Beijing for its planned South-east Asian takeover.

It was my first encounter with something that would puzzle me so much for the rest of my career. Here were intelligent, well- educated people put in charge of foreign policy, but who had absolutely no idea of the reality of the disputes they were supposed to be studying. Worse they were perfectly happy not to know that reality. They were quite content to remain in the warm embrace of their dogmatic one-sided judgements. How could they do it and still remain at ease with their consciences?

In Sarawak only a few hundred young Chinese were to die as a result of this bias. In Vietnam the numbers would be in the millions.

Clark went on to resign from the Australian civil service so as to be free to criticise the Australian and US roles in the Vietnam War.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Negligence probably killed the four workers at Mihama nuclear plant

I don't see what other conclusion can be drawn from this Japan Times article:

Faulty pipes caused nine other reactor accidents

Nine accidents similar to the steam pipe rupture that killed four workers at a nuclear power plant last week have occurred at other reactors, a safety panel revealed Thursday.
According to the nuclear safety agency, there have been nine incidents at nuclear reactors involving pipes eroded by coolant water, just as in the Mihama accident. It reported there were another seven pipe accidents at thermal reactors.

In the Mihama accident, the faulty pipe section, which had not been inspected since the reactor started up in 1976, had worn as thin as 0.6 mm.

It was also reported that pipes had not been properly inspected at 17 areas in six of Kepco's nuclear reactors.

As well as the four workers who were killed, seven were injured, some seriously, by the steam, which was at 142 degrees Celsius. At this temperature, death results from suffocation, caused by damage to the respiratory system, as much as from external burns.
As a further indication that this accident was predictable, the most serious previous incident involving steam leakage in the nuclear industry also involved a burst pipe. This incident, which happened in 1986 at the Surry Nuclear Power Plant in the state of Virginia in the US also killed four people.
There's a report on the incident on the day it happened here.
and an editorial from The Asahi Shimbun on the following day, here.

Today, Al Jazeera reports that "The Atomic Energy Commission of Japan has admitted that the 9 August fatal accident at the Mihama nuclear plant in Fukui, central Japan, may force a rethink of the government's commitment to atomic power."

I doubt it. Japan has the third-largest nuclear industry in the world, after the USA and France, with 52 nuclear reactors that generate 45,740 megawatts of electricity. It has two strategic reasons for keeping it that way. First, it has almost no fossil fuel reserves and depends hugely on oil from West Asia, access to which can be controlled by the US, and in the future, perhaps by China. This has been acknowledged since the Mihama deaths by Osamu Goto, director of planning at the Atomic Energy Commission of Japan: "Japan has very few resources, with all the oil that we need, for example, imported from the Middle East or other sources. Nuclear energy is a very good choice for us as it has many benefits and is important to our energy security."   Secondly, as mentioned previously on this blog, Japan's civil nuclear programme is designed to produce the expertise and fissile materials necessary to produce nuclear weapons at a few months notice. Kepco (the Kansai Electric Power Company), which runs the plant at Mihama has been pushing to use MOX (mixed plutonium uranium oxide) fuel, which as the Al Jazeera article notes, "will lead to the commercialisation of tonnes of weapons-grade nuclear fuel."
In the circumstances, rumours of a rethink are simply a way of appeasing public outrage. Unless that outrage is focussed through sustained campaigning, Japan will stay nuclear for the forseeable future. There are people who are working very hard at this, including Greenpeace Japan. Their nuclear expert Kazue Suzuki said:
"Kepco has been planning to put plutonium into its reactors, even though that has met some opposition from local people. After this latest incident, that opposition is certain to be stronger. People just don't trust nuclear power."
The Al Jazeera article ends with comment from Green Action in Japan:
"It is too early to know for sure, but we suspect the official report into the Mihama incident will be a whitewash because they are just looking at old, inadequate data," said Aileen Mioko Smith, of the Kyoto-based Green Action environmental group.

"We say they should shut all their plants down to conduct checks now; if they're not willing to do that, then already it's a whitewash," she said.

Representatives of Green Action held three hours of talks with senior officials of Kepco on 11 August, with Smith saying that while the company has been very quick to apologise to the families of the dead and injured, management has been equally speedy about trying to avoid legal responsibility.

Kepco's top echelons are "fleeing their responsibility" by saying that managers of individual plants should be held accountable for any mishaps, Smith said.

"We hope that this accident will have a trickle-down effect on the Japanese public, when they see the relatives of the dead crying and hitting out at the head of Kepco," she said.

"But we fear it will have a very minor impact on the government's nuclear power policy.

"There will be a big upheaval now, but then it will quickly go back to business as usual," she added.

"In Japan, there is a very big gap between what the public wants and feels comfortable with, and the need to have power and feed industry and the domestic market."

Japanese activist calls for China to stop sending back North Korean refugees

From the Japan Times:

Get China to stop sending North Korea escapees back: activist

By NAO SHIMOYACHI Staff writer

Japan, the United States and South Korea must persuade Beijing to stop sending people who flee North Korea back to the country, a Japanese aid worker who recently served eight months in a Chinese prison for trying to smuggle two such people to safety, urged Thursday.

Recently returned to Japan, Takayuki Noguchi, 33, was detained in December in the city of Nanning, Guangxi Province, while trying to help two Japan-born North Koreans flee to Vietnam via China.

He was sentenced in late June to eight months in prison and fined 20,000 yuan (about 260,000 yen). He was released Aug. 9, after his time in custody was taken into account.

Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, Noguchi criticized the way China is handling the increasing number of North Koreans attempting to flee their country.

The two he was helping were apparently handed over to North Korea after his arrest, he said without citing the source of his information. One of the two, a woman, was recently released after a stint in a labor camp, but the other, a man, may have died, he said. Read the rest...

There may be 100,000 North Korean refugees in China. Apparently China has become harsher in its treatment of people caught helping them:
Lee Young Hwa, an assistant professor at Kansai University and a representative of the nongovernmental organization Rescue the North Korean People Urgent Action Network, said Beijing has recently stepped up efforts to crack down on North Korean escapees as well as the people who aid them.

"The recent trend is that (non-North Koreans) are getting longer sentences, whereas they were previously released soon after writing an essay repenting their actions," he said.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Tensions around disputed islands

I reported the dispute over a small pair of islands called Tokto/Dokdo/Takeshima in a previous post.
Now, the Korea Herald reports that 45 people have swum from an undisputedly Korean island to Tokto, to raise awareness about the place and the fact that Japan lays claim to it.

45 People Swim From Ullungdo to Tokto

In an effort to raise interest in the protection of the Tokto islets, 45 people swam the 92-kilometer sea route from Ullungdo to Tokto Friday.

The swimmers set off from Ullung-kun, North Kyongsang Province on Thursday morning and successfully reached Tokto at 9 a.m. Friday in about 28 hours.

The participants swam the first 500-meter section and the last 1-kilometer section together before reaching the islets.

Other participants conducted a relay race in which each person swam two 1.5- to 3-kilometer legs.

The group took pictures with the Tokto Coast Guards when they arrived on the island, declaring the resolution under the national flag of Korea and urging Japan to stop making territorial claims over Tokto.

Chung Kwang-tae, 49, singer of the famous song, 'Tokto Is Our Land,' took part in the event as one of the organizing staff. Five ships and 19 staff members, including medical personnel, also accompanied the swimmers.

This is a lot less objectionable than a right-wing member of the Japanese Diet (Parliament) or a bunch of Japanese neo-fascists trying to set up camp on one of the Diaoyutai/Senkaku islands (claimed by Japan, China and Taiwan and controlled by Japan). I guess the reason is that it was Japan that colonised Korea, large parts of China and other bits of Asia, not Korea that oppressed Japan. But I'm not entirely comfortable with the idea of 'good nationalism'.

I don't suppose, anyway, that people in most Asian counties will be very impressed by the Japanese government taking over a lighthouse built by Japanese nationalists on disputed Diao Yu/Uotsuri island, as reported last Thursday on the Japan Today site.This is presumably what the 'political activists'--as the article politely calls them--wanted all along. Now the Japanese government has an official presence on the island and tensions are increased, little by little.

Gov't set to own lighthouse on Senkaku Islands

NAHA, -- The government is set to assume control of a lighthouse constructed and managed by Japanese political activists on one of the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, sources close to the case said Wednesday.

The lighthouse was constructed on Uotsuri Island in Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture, and is now nominally owned by a fisherman in the city. (Kyodo News)

There's an article on the website of the Heritage Foundation, an evil right-wing thinktank in the US, noting recent Chinese probing of the sea around southern Japan. There are some comments on the status of the Diaoyutai/Senkaku islands that I wouldn't trust for a minute, and a plea for a more belligerent posture from the States. It's interesting to know what this influential part of the US policy elite thinks about this--and frightening to know that it does think about it. And when you find out what they think, that's the worst...

It's important to realise that some people from the countries involved care about these islands or will use them to try to force the hand of their government, even to the point of provoking armed conflict and risking lives. In 1996 David Chan, a man from Hong Kong, died protesting at Diao Yu/Uotsuri, as the Okinawa Times reported at the time:
A Hong Kong ship protesting the Japanese territorial claim to Uotsuri, one of the group of small islands in the East China Sea referred to by Japan as the Senkakus, was blocked by the Japanese Maritime Safety Agency last Thursday morning. Four of the people on board the Hong Kong vessel jumped into the sea to demonstrate their protest, but unfortunately one of them died. Taiwanese fishing boats were also prevented from trying to enter the area.

Protests in both Hong Kong and Taiwan have been escalating after a Japanese rightist group erected a lighthouse on Uotsuri Island, part of the disputed area between Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China.

The Hong Kong group chartered a cargo ship with seventy-eight people aboard, and departed last Sunday to land on the island. As the ship reached the area in contention, two unsuccessful attempts were made to cross the blockade of ten Japanese Maritime Safety Agency ships. Four of the protesters suddenly jumped into the sea and were pulled out. However, Mr. David Chan, 47, leader of the group, did not survive the plunge. A ship's captain had called an SOS, and a Maritime Safety Agency helicopter had taken Chan to a hospital on Ishigaki Island.

The territorial dispute was intensified by the construction of the lighthouse. Both China and Taiwan have reacted by each constructing their own lighthouse on the island.

Monday, August 02, 2004

McDonald's and Burger King sued in Korea for exploiting children

People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (which sounds like my kind of group) are taking a number of fast-food shops to court, according to the Korea Herald.
A leading civic group yesterday charged before the prosecution that several fast food franchises, including McDonald's and Burger King, violated the labor law by not paying minors and making them work illegal hours.

The People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy said at a news conference that food franchises had not paid monthly wages or weekly allowances to minors and forced them to work illegal nightshifts.

McDonald's and Burger King spokesmen insisted the franchises paid owed wages in May after a warning from the Labor Ministry. "As far as I know, we paid the delayed wages. Maybe some minors were omitted by mistake," Kim Keun-yong of Burger King's public relations team said.

"We thought that we already paid the wages," McDonald's public relations staff member Yoo Su-kyoung said. "I cannot say anything right now because the company has not announced its position officially."

A survey conducted by the Ministry of Labor and released in May said more than 200,000 teenage workers were exploited by employers last year and 20.5 percent worked over seven hours a day, the limit set by the Labor Standard Act.

The survey, which polled 188 McDonald's and 108 Burger King franchises nationwide, said 4,812 employees at McDonald's and 2,142 at Burger King did not receive weekly paychecks and paid holiday allowances.

Additionally, some 7,300 young employees worked late night hours. After franchises closed about 11 p.m., minors were required to continue sweeping and cleaning, the report said.
...

59th anniversary of destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

It's August. People around the world remember the victims of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Hiroshima was bombed on 6th August 1945 at 8.16 am. It is estimated that 80,000 people died then, with another 60,000 dying from injuries and radiation sickness in the following months for a death-toll of around 140,000, from a population of somewhere over 250,000. This doesn't count the tens of thousands who died later from cancer and other effects of exposure to radiation.

The testimony of a survivor brings home the meaning of the statistics:
The appearance of people was . . . well, they all had skin blackened by burns. . . . They had no hair because their hair was burned, and at a glance you couldn't tell whether you were looking at them from in front or in back. . . . They held their arms bent [forward] like this . . . and their skin - not only on their hands, but on their faces and bodies too - hung down. . . . If there had been only one or two such people . . . perhaps I would not have had such a strong impression. But wherever I walked I met these people. . . . Many of them died along the road - I can still picture them in my mind - like walking ghosts. (A survivor quoted in Robert Jay Lifton, Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima (New York: Random House, 1967) 27 - see this page on

The destruction of Nagasaki followed on 9th August at 11.02am. (Nagasaki was the second-choice target. Kokura city, the intended target, was spared because of thick cloud cover when the US planes arrived there earlier that morning.) It is estimated that 75,000 people died in the attack, with another 25,000 dying from radiation sickness in the next few months. This gives a death-toll of around 100,000 from a population of approximately 240,000. Again, this doesn't count the people who died from cancers and other effects of exposure to radiation.

Fujie Urata Matsumoto, a survivor of the attack on Nagasaki, is quoted on the page on
The pumpkin field in front of the house was blown clean. Nothing was left of the whole thick crop, except that in place of the pumpkins there was a woman's head. I looked at the face to see if I knew her. It was a woman of about forty. She must have been from another part of town - I had never seen her around here. A gold tooth gleamed in the wide-open mouth. A handful of singed hair hung down from the left temple over her cheek, dangling in her mouth. Her eyelids were drawn up, showing black holes where the eyes had been burned out. . . . She had probably looked square into the flash and gotten her eyeballs burned.
(Fujie Urata Matsumoto as quoted in Takashi Nagai, We of Nagasaki: The Story of Survivors in an Atomic Wasteland (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1964) 42.)

For more information see this Wikipedia article. There are more links on this page.

It is widely agreed by historians that the war could have been concluded without the destruction of Hiroshima or Nagasaki. There are a number of explanations of the bombings, including the desire of the US administration for an unconditional surrender and their fear that the USSR would enter the war and take territory in North-East Asia if negotiations between Japan and the US took long. Other motivations may have played a role: a desire to demonstrate the atomic bomb as a first strike in the cold war, or as a test of the effect of an atom bomb on a city.

As evidence for the last point, consider this analysis from the page previously referred to on, quoting Dan Kurzman's Day of the Bomb:
There had been four cities chosen as possible targets: Hiroshima, Kokura, Nagasaki, and Niigata (Kyoto was the first choice until it was removed from the list by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson). The cities were chosen because they had been otherwise relatively untouched during the war. The Target Committee wanted the first bomb to be "sufficiently spectacular for the importance of the weapon to be internationally recognized when publicity on it was released."

The Hiroshima city government and the Nagaski city government campaign against nuclear weapons. A Kyodo article covers the activities this month of two of the major anti-nuclear organisations in Japan, the Japan Congress Against A- and H-Bombs (Gensuikin) and the Japan Council against A & H Bombs (Gensuikyo).
The Japan Congress Against A- and H-Bombs (Gensuikin) hosted an annual international meeting, attended by guest speakers, including experts on nuclear issues on the Korean Peninsula, U.S. nuclear policies and the Japan-North Korea relationship.

''Unlike Iraq, North Korea is (geopolitically) surrounded by strong countries. It is the North Korean leaders themselves who feel threatened the most by other countries in the area,'' Lee Jong Wong, a professor at Rikkyo University (St. Paul's University) in Tokyo, told an audience of some 100 people.

''Nuclear development is a reasonable choice for North Korea to maintain its prestige domestically and people's support to the current regime,'' Lee said, adding that nuclear policies could also be an obstacle to the reconstruction of the North's state system. ''Comprehensive dialogues with other countries would be a way out.''

The Tokyo conference, as part of the World Congress Against A- and H-Bombs, will be followed by various events -- public debates and peace classes for children -- in Hiroshima from Wednesday to Friday and in Nagasaki on Aug. 7 and 9, Gensuikin officials said.

Another major antinuclear group, the Japan Council against A & H Bombs, known in Japanese as Gensuikyo, will start a series of rallies -- the World Conference against A & H Bombs -- Monday in Hiroshima, where a peace memorial ceremony will be held Friday.

Gensuikyo's events in Hiroshima will continue through Friday and then move to Nagasaki for rallies on Aug. 8 and 9.

Public pressure in Japan is the principal reason, in my opinion, why it has no nuclear weapons. Its right-wing government signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, reluctantly, in 1970, but only ratified it six years later after the US agreed "not to interfere with Tokyo's pursuit of independent reprocessing capabilities in its civilian nuclear programme." (Selig Harrison, Korean Endgame, p. 233) This, together with Japan's highly-advanced space programme, is a carefully judged means of keeping inter-continental nuclear missiles within Japan's capabilities in a matter of months.
The nuclear powers in the region are the US, China, and Russia. China has offered the US a no-first use agreement on nuclear weapons repeatedly, and the US has repeatedly refused the offer, reserving the 'right' to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict if the other side uses chemical or biological weapons, or perhaps even in the case of large-scale conventional warfare. This stance is a primary reason for North Korea's attempts to develop nuclear weapons and missiles to carry them. South Korea has also worked on isotope-enrichment and missile technology, worried about its nuclear-capable neighbours and North Korea, but mostly interested in having a deterrent if Japan goes nuclear.
Tensions in the region rose in 2000-1 when President Clinton abandoned plans for a summit with Kim Jong-Il in Pyongyang, were exacerbated by the incoming Bush administration's attitude to negotiations with North Korea and have been in crisis since Bush's inclusion of North Korea in his 'axis of evil' in January 2001.
Plans for a nuclear-free North East Asia have been on the table since the end of the cold war and may well be achievable. The key is a US approach to negotiations which treats the North Korean government as a negotiating partner and works towards concessions on both sides. The current US attitude - that North Korea has sinned and must repent and atone - is leading towards disaster.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Chinese troops march in Hong Kong to intimidate voters

From a BBC article:

China troops parade in Hong Kong

More than 3,000 Chinese troops have for the first time staged an Army Day parade in Hong Kong.

Some 15,000 people bought tickets to watch a display of military hardware and precision marching by the People's Liberation Army.

The troops marched at their barracks in sweltering heat, clapped by the crowds.

The parade was designed to boost patriotic sentiment ahead of elections in September, says the BBC's correspondent in Beijing, Louisa Lim.

Pro-democracy legislators were invited to the parade as a goodwill gesture but some refused to attend, seeing the march as a political stunt.

One who did attend, Democratic Party chairman Yeung Sum said he was "very impressed by the good standard and training of the troops".

The 15,000 who watched the march is a lot less than the 500,000 or so who marched on 1st July this year (out of a population of around 6.5 million). The BBC, rarely happy about popular protest, reports the march by saying "Thousands took to the streets in protest on 1 July," which is a bit like saying a new Rolls Royce costs thousands of dollars - true but misleading. Still, the rest of the article is worth reading:
The march, by Hong Kong-based soldiers, comes against a backdrop of widespread discontent following Beijing's decision to rule out direct elections in Hong Kong in the near term.

Beijing has adopted a hardline political strategy, ruling out full democracy in Hong Kong in the near future and labelling its critics as traitors.

Many of the territory's citizens feel Beijing has reneged on its promise to give Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy.

Thousands took to the streets in protest on 1 July.

Beijing is using Army Day, which this year marks the 77th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, to send clear messages to both Hong Kong and Taiwan, our correspondent says.

The state-run media quotes Defence Minister Cao Gangchuan warning that China has the ability to smash any Taiwanese moves towards independence.

Beijing has been escalating its rhetoric towards Taiwan, which it sees as a renegade province.

More about the threats from China and on US sabre-rattling in future posts.

Some good news from China about TB

A BBC article reports:

China sees success tackling TB

The number of TB cases has fallen by a third in parts of China where WHO-approved treatment programmes have been implemented.

The data was published in the medical journal The Lancet and suggests China could significantly cut TB as part of a wider global effort.

Almost 1.5 million people are newly diagnosed with TB each year in China - more cases than in any other country except India - a number very likely to increase.

The WHO-approved DOTS ("directly-observed treatment, short-course") scheme relies heavily on health workers who ensure patients take their antibiotics properly, as they often stop treatment too early increasing the chances of drug resistance.

Bobby Fischer, Alberto Fujimori and Japan

Bobby Fischer continues to fight his extradition from Japan to the US, where he is wanted for breaking sanctions by playing a chess match in the former Yugoslavia in 1992.
I have no sympathy for Fischer, whose public statements seem anti-semitic and generally offensive: "making strong attacks on what he called "world Jewry", and calling the 2001 terrorist attacks on the US "wonderful news"" according to a BBC article.
But I think that Japan is being inconsistent in who it chooses to extradite. Peru has been seeking the extradition of ex-president Alberto Fujimori, who "is wanted by Peruvian authorities on nearly 20 charges ranging from corruption to allegedly authorizing a counterterrorism death squad" (according to another BBC article) but:
The ex-president has been living in Tokyo, protected from extradition by citizenship extended because of his Japanese-born parents.

Fujimori was not born in Japan and has never lived there, in contrast to Bobby Fischer who has spent the last three years as a resident of Tokyo. In a just world, any special duties of a government should be to residents as well as citizens, and citizenship criteria need to be fair, not based on racist ideas. The current Japanese laws on citizenship count in "ethnic" Japanese abroad, and rule out children born in Japan to Koreans and other 'foreigners'.

North Korean refugees reluctantly taken by the South

The BBC has an article on this, reporting North Korea's bizarre claim that South Korea has kidnapped the refugees.

N Korea condemns refugee move

North Korean defector aboard coach after his arrival in the South
North Korean defector aboard coach after his arrival in the South
The refugees are thought to have escaped through China and Vietnam
A spokesman for North Korea has accused the South of kidnapping its citizens after more than 450 defectors arrived by plane in the space of two days.

The refugees began arriving from an unspecified country on Tuesday on planes chartered by the South, in an operation shrouded in secrecy.

All had apparently escaped through China to the unnamed third country.

"This is an organised and planned kidnapping as well as a terror crime," North Korea's spokesman said.

The fact is that the South Korean government is far from keen to take North Korean refugees - it upsets the regime in the north and it costs money to support them: they get some $20,000 on arrival, plus monthly stipends until they are able to find work, which apparently takes a long time.
The border between the Koreas is highly militarised, with millions of North and South Korean troops (and 15,000 Americans) facing each other over the DMZ, so refugees generally can't get through that way. Many escape through the long land border with China but in recent years this has become very hard since the Chinese government refuses to recognise them as refugees and captures and returns many, in contravention of international law, even going as far as grabbing North Koreans as they try to enter the premises of the South Korean embassy in Beijing.
Still, many do escape through China to other countries, mainly in South East Asia. They then arrange flights to South Korea, typically arriving individually or in small groups. The recent arrival of more than 450 refugees in two groups is unusual, and suggests pressure has been put on South Korea by the South East Asian government in question - unofficially known to be Vietnam.