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Why japan is economic animal
- Subject: Why japan is economic animal
- From: ktint@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 22:02:00
I appreciate if you can reprint this article in your Nikkei Weekly. I
believe you will take this responsibility after you print an interview
which reflected an opportunistic opinion similar to what Japan is
persuing toward Burma.
In fact, I greatly admired on an editorial in Nikkei Weekly which
appeared 8 years or so ago. Did your position on Burma changed sice then?
>We do not quite understand your intention about the letter.
>Does it have something with our publications? Otherwise,
>We are not in a position to make comments.
>English Nikkei Net staff
>From: K. Tint [SMTP:ktint@xxxxxxxxxxxxx]
>Sent: Saturday, May 09, 1998 2:27 PM
>Subject: Why japan is economic animal
>Zannen nagara ikano kiji niwa doisuru shika nai no desu. Nanka konmento
>ga areba hoshii.
>April 15, 1998
>Japan seeks respect $B!&(Jbut from whom?(J
>Japan's resumption of ODA to Burma's junta begs questions about its
>motives and what its political values really are.
>Japan's recent resumption of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to
>Rangoon's military regime suggests that the region's economic superpower
>has seriously lost its bearings in Asia's troubled waters.
>Tokyo's extension of a two and a half billion yen (US$19.5 million) loan
>to repair an airport runway in Rangoon, at a time when Japan's economic
>difficulties have compelled it to trim its ODA budget by 10%, comes
>after a ten year hiatus in such assistance to Burma. Following the
>on pro-democracy demonstrations in 1988, Japan suspended its generous
>funding of Burma's development efforts, which in the 1980s placed Burma
>in the top ten amongst Japan's ODA recipients, a fact which did not
>prevent the country's economic collapse in 1987. Since 1988,
>opinion and political pressure from the United States has constrained
>Tokyo's beneficence towards its erstwhile World War II ally, but over
>the past ten years, Japan has written off more than 40 billion yen in
>loans to Rangoon. This is, however, the first time that it has been so
>bold as to
>extend a new loan.
>The question is, what inspired this move, since there has clearly been
>no improvement in the political situation in Burma.
>Japanese policymakers have evidently made the decision that they can no
>longer afford, politically or economically, to stand on principle.
>Observing that "ODA represents one of the nation's diplomatic and
>strategic tools," Kenichi Ito, president of the Japan Forum on
>International Relations, Inc., which recently submitted recommendations
>on ODA policy to Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, pointed to the need
>to discuss ways of "enhancing the quality of ODA because the quantity is
>It may be difficult to see how financing a military dictatorship
>contributes to this goal of enhancing the quality of Japanese ODA, but
>it is noteworthy
>that in a full-page special report on discussions between bureaucrats
>and academics concerning the need for changes in ODA policy, published
>in the Daily Yomiuri on March 14, Myanmar (Burma) was the only country,
>the United States and China, referred to specifically.
>"There have been calls for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to
>accept Myanmar as a member," noted Keio University professor, Atsushi
>Kusano, "and it has been said that Japan should have supported this
>proposal more actively."
>Kusano, who also served as chairman of the policy council's task force,
>went on: "Tokyo is always concerned about how the United States will
>react. But the United States and European nations have invested far more
>in Myanmar than
>Japan has over the past five years.
>"Japan should employ a more pragmatic approach as far as business
>competitiveness is concerned, or else it will lose markets."
>There is certainly nothing new about Japan, described by Ito as an
>"economycentered state," putting economic pragmatism ahead of other
>principles. However, it is evident that Japan's economic difficulties
>and increasing impatience with criticism from the West may be leading to
>a tendency to make tacit political alliances with those who share
>feelings of irritation.
>Unlike the United States, which has always been able to distract
>attention from its periods of poor economic performance by taking bold,
>dramatic action on the international stage, Japan in its moment of
>vulnerability has repeatedly been told that its overseas initiatives,
>such as its plan last year to create an "Asia Fund" to provide its
>neighbors with much-needed financial resources, are unwelcome. Always
>eager to open Japan's markets, the United States has made it clear that
>the best thing Japan can do for the rest of Asia is put its own house in
>increase domestic demand for foreign goods and services. Thus Japan,
>perhaps tired of being told to behave like a good housewife whose place
>is in the home, has shown signs of succumbing to the flattering
>attentions of governments eager for access to purse-strings
>significantly looser than
>those of the IMF.
>Japan would probably do well to clearly separate its quest for political
>influence from its purely commercial concerns. The country's most
>successful political endeavor to date has been in Cambodia, where a
>Japanese peace plan has effected some measure of reconciliation between
>archrivals Hun Sen and Prince Ranariddh Norodom. Cambodia has also given
>Japan an opportunity to demonstrate that its military is capable of
>responsibly fulfilling its international obligations as a peacekeeping
>force. Commercial interests were not a driving force in Japan's
>involvement in Cambodia, although "yen
>diplomacy" certainly had a role to play.
>The situation in Burma presents a strikingly different picture of Japan
>as an international player: calls for dialogue between the junta's
>leaders and the National League for Democracy and other opposition
>parties appear to be
>little more than halfhearted gestures to justify strengthening ties
>between the generals and Japanese diplomats and businessmen. As reported
>Nikkei Weekly on March 30: "Japanese companies see the resumption of
>lending as an opportunity to cash in on Myanmar's growth potential."
>display of crass commercialism, the only principle we can possibly infer
>is a certain degree of sympathy with leaders in Burma and elsewhere in
>the region who regard calls for economic and political liberalism as an
>on the part of the West to weaken their respective societies, and more
>importantly, their own hold on power.
>Japan's ODA Charter clearly disqualifies countries such as Burma, which
>spent 42% of its 1993 annual budget on the military, from receiving aid.
>It is worth mentioning that the charter, adopted in 1992, was not
>imposed upon Japan by any other country, unlike Article 9 of the
>Constitution, which was drafted by the United States to prevent Japan
>from re-militarizing after
>the Second World War. Thus it represents an exercise in self-constraint
>which lends credibility to Japan's claim that it deserves to be regarded
>as more than an "economic animal." To twist it now for the sake of
>business opportunities, and start betraying a siege mentality similar in
>some respects to the xenophobic mindset of Burma's military leaders, is
>to portray Japan as a country governed by greed and pique rather than
>Contributed by LJN. LJN was formerly based in Japan.
>Burma Information Group
>PO Box 14154
>Silver Spring MD 20911