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    This and that

    Japan and China disagree over more than just how to deal with North Korea, of course. On the disputed East China Sea gas fields, they agreed this weekend to form an investigative committee that might, perhaps, pave the way toward joint development. On the downside (for Japan), China again refused requests to halt development of the Shunkyo field, which straddles the midline between Chinese and Japanese land, which Japan regards as the far boundary of its exclusive economic zone. The Asahi has an English report here.


    It’s not related to Japan-PRC relations, but Monday night it was also exactly fifteen years since Salman Rushdie’s Japanese translator was murdered on the University of Tsukuba campus. (I didn’t know Japan had a statute of limitations on murder.) Both violent murders in Japan and violence to avenge perceived insults against Islam have become less jolting since then; in 1991, despite the international publicity over the fatwa against Rushdie, Igarashi’s death was a major shock.


    Sometimes, life here is just like being back in the States: At a forum on Monday, the two major parties accused each other of not being serious about small government:

    Democratic Party of Japan Vice President Naoto Kan accused Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of failing to fulfill his pledge to streamline the government into a smaller, more efficient body.

    “Koizumi’s reform has only been psychological in nature,” Kan said, at a discussion forum in Tokyo on Monday.

    The opposition leader engaged in a heated debate with Hidenao Nakagawa, chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council, over what the present Cabinet has accomplished with regard to the structural reform initiated by Koizumi.

    “You must first make a drastic psychological reform in order to change things that have been established over a long period of time,” Nakagawa said, adding, “Even [former British Prime Minister] Margaret Thatcher took six years before she made substantial progress with her reform.”

    It’s hard not to be disappointed in Koizumi, but Nakagawa certainly does have a point. It’s easy for naive elected officials to be outmaneuvered by unelected bureaucrats in a government such as Japan’s. Koizumi’s strategy–keeping reform initiatives in the public eye, staging a few dramatic showdowns over pet proposals, and quietly negotiating on others or letting them be tabled entirely–at least got through much-needed banking reforms.

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