• Home
  • About
  • Guest Post


    Posted by Sean at 14:51, June 24th, 2009

    The Yomiuri reports that an amendment to the FY 2010 defense budget may scotch existing plans to relocate our Futenma base on Okinawa:

    A key U.S. congressional committee has added an amendment to the fiscal 2010 defense budget that would make it hard to realize an agreement reached by the Japanese and U.S. governments over the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture.

    Japan and the United States have already agreed the facility will be relocated to the shoreline off Camp Schwab in Nago, in the prefecture.

    The amendment says the U.S. defense secretary should not give its approval to the alternative facility as long as it fails to comply with minimum flight safety requirements.

    The office of Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, who proposed the amendment, told The Yomiuri Shimbun that the alternative facility under the current plan contravenes safety standards on the following points:

    — The runways are too short.

    — A school, Okinawa National College of Technology, is located nearby.

    — There are obstacles, such as utility poles, along the flight path.

    As a result, Abercrombie has stated that Camp Schwab is not an appropriate candidate for the alternative facility and that a new transfer location should be sought.

    A Japanese government source said, “The content of this amendment suggests the transfer to the alternative facility agreed by Japan and the United States won’t be permitted.”

    The relocation of the base has been a sticking point for years.


    There’s been an ongoing story about 7-Eleven Japan and one of the downsides to its now-legendary distribution system for prepared food, and the Mainichi has a pretty comprehensive piece on its English site:

    Seven-Eleven Japan Co. announced Tuesday that the company would help cover the costs of unsold food currently borne entirely by individual convenience stores, but franchises said the move was not enough.

    The industry giant’s headquarters will cover 15 percent of the cost of unsold items such as sandwiches and bento boxed lunches at franchise stores beginning in July. The company is the first major convenience store chain to take on part of such costs.

    “Franchises are worried about wasting food, but also that if they don’t order enough, they will run out of stock, causing trouble for their customers and hurting business,” said Seven-Eleven Japan President Ryuichi Isaka at a news conference Tuesday.

    In the wake of the Seven-Eleven announcement, it appears possible the practice will spread to the entire industry, where shifting losses, and the responsibility for the disposal of large amounts of food, onto franchises is common. Perhaps the era of forcing major expenses onto franchises while the corporate headquarters racks up profits is nearing an end. However, as central support for franchises increases, differences in corporate strength between convenience store companies will likely widen.

    In a standard franchise contract, judgment regarding orders of food items such as boxed lunches is left up to franchise owners and they also bear the total burden of losses from unsold items. However, stores that reduce orders run the risk of regularly selling out and leaving their shelves empty, dealing a blow to the business model convenience stores are based on.

    One way to move unsold stock is to reduce prices, but Seven-Eleven Japan had a policy against discounting. However, the company was ordered to eliminate that policy Monday by the Japan Fair Trade Commission, which could spur Seven-Eleven franchises to begin reducing food item prices to avoid having leftovers and the losses they entail.

    Like a lot of people in Tokyo, I worked within a five-minute walk of a good half-dozen convenience stores, and many of the 7-Eleven prepared-food offerings were, at least at first, markedly better than what you got from its competitors. (The nearby am-pm was horrible when I first started at my old company, though it cleaned up a lot, both literally and figuratively, several years ago.) They weren’t home or restaurant quality, but they were pretty much as good as train-station bento. There was a great deal written about 7-Eleven Japan some years ago during its ascendancy, largely because it was one of the few enterprises wowing Westerners after the fashion of the old Japan, Inc., era. But of course, you can’t predict inventory turnover perfectly, especially for something as whim-dependent as what people feel like eating for lunch once they pull up to the refrigerator case and have to pick something.


    The Nikkei says that China is agreeing in principle to uphold the draft UNSC resolution on North Korea:

    On 24 [June], the Chinese government opened individual meetings in Beijing with both U.S. and Japanese governments, and they were in accord on adopting the direction of upholding the sanction on the United Nations Security Council against North Korea, which had pushed brazenly forward with a second round of nuclear testing. It took the position of non-recognition of North Korea’s possession of nuclear capability and of applying concerted pressure, but it also stressed the importance of dialogue. On pulling together for cargo inspections of vessels entering or leaving North Korea, China is still cooler than Japan, the U.S., and South Korea; and it left unclear how far it would go along the path of “pressure.”

    Behind door A…

    Posted by Sean at 12:58, June 18th, 2009

    The Yomiuri says that Japan and the United States are looking into the likeliest scenarios for the DPRK’s next rocket launch. Very comforting:

    At the Tongchang-ri facility, either a Taepodong-2 missile or an upgraded Taepodong-2 was believed to have been brought from a missile manufacturing facility near Pyongyang on May 30, according to the sources.

    Based on the assumption that this latest missile is a two- or three-stage type and has capability equal or superior to the long-range ballistic missile North Korea launched in April, the Defense Ministry predicted the possibility of a launch toward Hawaii, with a launch toward Okinawa Prefecture and Guam also seen a possibility.

    If it took the Okinawan path, when the first-stage booster detaches it could fall in the vicinity of a Chinese coastal area and might anger China.

    In the case of the Guam path, the missile must overfly South Korea and Japan’s Chugoku and Shikoku regions, which means the booster would be dumped onto a land area. Therefore, the ministry sees both possibilities as quite low, according to the sources.

    In case of the Hawaii route, the booster could be dumped into the Sea of Japan. If such a long-range test launch was successful, North Korea would be able to pose a great military threat to the United States, which until now has not regarded North Korean missiles as a threat to North America or Hawaii. Therefore, the ministry concluded the Hawaii route is most probable of the three scenarios, the sources said.

    However, while the distance from North Korea to the main islands of Hawaii is about 7,000 kilometers, an upgraded Taepodong-2 only has a range of 4,000 to 6,500 kilometers.

    The ministry believes even if the missile took the most direct route over Aomori Prefecture, it would not reach the main Hawaiian Islands, the sources said.

    Though U.S. intelligence satellite images showed a missile launch pad had already been set up at the Tongchang-ri base, it takes more than 10 days to assemble and fuel a missile before launch, according to the sources.

    The ministry said it believes North Korea is likely to launch a missile sometime between July 4 and 8, because the 1996 launch of the Taepodong-2 missile took place on the July 4 U.S. Independence Day (July 5 Japan time) and July 8 falls on the anniversary of the 1994 death of former North Korean leader Kim Il Sung.

    It came to light Wednesday that North Korea may have transported a missile to a launch site in Musudan-ri.

    So now we watch and wait and show “grave concern,” if that’s the phrase of the month on this particular issue.

    BTW, in more benign circumstances, Japan is apparently readying to provide nuclear power expertise to a roster of developing countries. I can’t for the life of me locate the article in which I read that–it was just within a week ago–but it sounds like good news given the push to move away from fossil fuels. Some may wonder whether Japan, given its history of nail-biting incidents at nuclear facilities, is really in a good position to be doing so; but the problems at, say, Mihama were not due to lack of knowledge of what safety regulations were needed. They were due to a failure to follow procedures that were supposed to be in place. Japan has plenty of good technical expertise to transmit.


    Posted by Sean at 21:33, June 16th, 2009

    The Asahi reports that a broker/fixer type who connects Japanese enterprises with investment opportunities in North Korea is being investigated by the Tax Bureau:

    Tax authorities plan to order an executive of a nongovernmental organization that offers humanitarian assistance to North Korea to pay back taxes on “fees” he collected from his side businesses, he said.

    Hiroyuki Kosaka, 56, head of the secretariat for Tokyo-based Rainbow Bridge, told The Asahi Shimbun that the Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau suspects he concealed about 240 million yen in income over several years until 2007.

    But Kosaka said the money collected from Japanese companies as “advanced investments” for future business with North Korea was offered to the secluded country or used as tax-exempt expenditures.

    “I cannot agree (with the tax authorities). I will fight them thoroughly (in court),” he said.

    The authorities informed Kosaka’s accountant that he could face orders to pay between 100 million yen and 200 million yen in back taxes and penalties.

    “I offered the commissions to North Korea or used them as (part of tax-exempt) expenditures. So I have not obtained any income from them,” Kosaka said.

    Although North Korea’s latest missile launches and nuclear test have heightened tensions with other countries, including Japan, many Japanese companies see future business opportunities with Pyongyang, particularly in the fields of rare metals, gravel, infrastructure construction and matsutake mushrooms. Such deals require middlemen like Kosaka.

    Kosaka’s group is not the same as Chongryun, the most well known advocacy group for North Koreans in Japan, which has long been suspected of working semi-covertly for the DPRK regime. Also of long standing is the hope that North Korea will liberalize its economy even a little bit, which could enable established Japanese companies to have access to its untapped markets and resources. Of course, Pyongyang has a record of taking invested money and equipment and, essentially, nationalizing it, so such maneuvers would not be without risks.

    I’m very amused by the phrase “particularly in the fields of rare metals, gravel, infrastructure construction and matsutake mushrooms.” That’s a pretty eclectic list.

    The ROK newspaper Chosun Ilbun is reporting that U.S. reconnaissance satellite images indicate the DPRK may be moving a long-range missile to the Musudan-ri launch site in its northeast, says the Nikkei. So maybe another ballistic missile test soon.


    Posted by Sean at 19:34, June 11th, 2009

    The Nikkei has another editorial up today about North Korea’s nuclear program.

    Japan and the U.S. should continue to team up with South Korea and make the UNSC’s sanctions into something that gets results, and there’s a need for steps to be taken immediately. The U.S. is looking into sanctions of its own, such as toughening its financial sanctions and redesignating [the DPRK] a terrorism-sponsoring state. The Japanese government also ought to expedite its investigation of possible concrete steps and legal arrangements for implementation of sanctions. Especially for inspections of vessels on the open seas, it’s assumed that revision of the Ship Inspection Operations Law and the enactment of new laws will be necessary.

    It’s probably inevitable that the adoption of the UNSC resolution will bring with it a furious reaction from North Korea. One view of its recent radical behavior ties it to Kim Jong-Il’s succession issues; nevertheless, its intention to move forward with its nuclear development is obvious. It is anticipated that North Korea could, from here on, move into such adversarial steps as withdrawing from the U.N., but shattering North Korea’s “nuke” ambitions is the duty of the global community.

    Well, most of the “global community” isn’t an enemy of North Korea that sits within Taepodong range, so it rather lacks Tokyo’s sense of urgency. That’s not to say the Nikkei is wrong to point out that the DPRK’s nuclear program, with its known leaks to unsavory clients, is a global problem—only that Japan, the U.S., and South Korea seem to be the only countries that are actually keen on doing anything about it. And even the U.S. has been pretty consistently wifty.

    Also, North Korea leaving the U.N.? That sounds highly unlikely to me. I can see its making a big show of threatening to do so, but what would the DPRK possibly gain by withdrawing from the major international organization that lends it legitimacy? Claudia Rosett, on her blog at PJM, has been keeping an eye on DPRK-related developments, BTW.

    Added on 12 June: To wit, Rosett’s post today on “The Lighter Side of North Korean Nuclear Tests.” She’s not talking about the glow after detonation, either.

     The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution #1874 on Friday condemning “in the strongest terms” North Korea’s May 25th nuclear test. Devotees of such stuff will note that this sure-as-shootin’ sounds stronger than UN Security Council Resolution #1718, adopted in 2006 in response to the previous North Korean nuclear test. In that case, the Security Council, instead of condemning “in the strongest terms,” contented itself merely with “Expressing the gravest concern.”

     This latest UN resolution, #1874, demands that North Korea “not conduct any further nuclear test or any launch using ballistic missile technology.” Or rather, this new resolution makes the demand again, since the previous resolution, three years ago, made the same demand. (Well, with one small difference — the previous resolution demanded no more nukes or ballistic missiles. The new resolution demands no more nukes and no more launches using ballistic missile “technology” — a fine distinction perhaps meant to address the problem that two months ago North Korea tested a ballistic missile, but described it as a satellite launch).

    Anyway, the UN’s new resolution #1874 doesn’t stop there. It contains 34 articles demanding, deploring, deciding, calling, requiring and requesting, plus a coda in which the Council decides to “remain actively seized of the matter” (which may sound like what happens to an engine block without oil,  but at the UN, it means they plan to keep fussing about it).

    Some of these articles spell out plans that could be interesting, especially the calls for UN member states to inspect ships and seize cargoes if they have information that gives “reasonable grounds” to think that items pertaining to Kim Jong Il’s missile and nuclear bomb projects are aboard. More broadly, there is a list of actions the UN Security Council has (again) decided North Korea should take – which boil down to abandoning its nuclear and long-range missile programs, allowing complete and verifiable inspections and not trashing the world’s non-proliferation deals. (Seems like the Security Council, while on this roll, might just as well have tossed in a few demands for Kim Jong Il to disband his military, open his gulag and move to Hawaii — but maybe Russia and China wouldn’t have gone along with that).

    As I think I’ve said here before, my problem with these things is not that they’re only symbolic. Legislative bodies (if you want to think of the UNSC as one) make symbolic commendations and condemnations all the time to demonstrate principle. My problem with them is that people pretend they are actual actions taken to slow the spread of evil in the world, which they manifestly are not (the manifestation being the DPRK’s still-existent nuclear program).


    Posted by Sean at 12:44, June 10th, 2009

    Well, I can stop worrying about all my dear friends in Japan—the UNSC has drafted another resolution telling the DPRK that it’s naughty-naughty to be playing with plutonium (Japanese version at the Nikkei here):

    The latest U.N. action is expected to spark a reaction from North Korea as in the case of a presidential statement issued by the Security Council on April 13 condemning North Korea’s April 5 rocket launch.

    A draft outlined last week by the United States contained a requirement for all U.N. members to inspect North Korean cargo if it was suspected of carrying nuclear or missile-related items.

    But China had rejected the proposal, urging the six other countries to weaken the wording on cargo inspections and maintaining that mandatory inspections of North Korean cargo would lead to military conflict, the sources said.

    Effectively implementing the inspection of North Korean cargo was one of the measures the Security Council contemplated as a way to enforce Resolution 1718 in response to Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test.

    The resolution, adopted in October 2006 after North Korea’s first nuclear test, states all U.N. members are ”called upon” to take ”cooperative action including thorough inspection of cargo to and from” North Korea.

    Following Pyongyang’s second nuclear test, Japan and the United States had insisted that a new resolution include a phrase making cargo inspections by U.N. members mandatory rather than ”calling upon” them to cooperate.

    Okay, little man, that’s it! It’s a time-out for you.


    Posted by Sean at 17:47, March 29th, 2009

    I love this report in the Yomiuri:

    South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency announced on 29 March that there is a possibility that the launch of North Korea’s long-range ballistic missile under the guise of an “artificial satellite” will take place after 6 April due to weather conditions.

    North Korea has announced to international organizations that the launch will take place between 4 and 8 April, but according to the Yonhap wire service, The [Republic of] Korea Meteorological Agency has forecast that, at the launch base in Musudanri, North Hambyong Province, weather conditions will be “overcast beginning 3 April, with rain or snow falling on the afternoon of 4 April, and heavy cloud cover on 5 April also.”

    However, ROK forecasts have a bad reputation with citizens as “often inaccurate.”

    Oh. All right, then.

    Another Yomiuri article, this time posted to the English site, says that intercepting the missile could be difficult for Japan because, of course, no one knows exactly where it will go. This handy diagram is appended:


    If you’re having a hard time reading that, the red lines represent paths in which the rocket falls on land in Japan–the solid line if it’s the first booster rocket to separate, the dotted line if there’s just not enough thrust off the launchpad and the whole thing flops.


    Posted by Sean at 20:26, March 27th, 2009

    The lead editorial in the Nikkei today carries the headline “Make due preparation for North Korea missile tests.”

    In response to the North Korean ballistic missile test, nominally [for] an “artificial satellite,” the government has convened a security meeting and confirmed a plan to intercept the missile if it falls over Japan’s territory or territorial waters; Minister of Defense Yasukazu Hamada has for the first time issued an order, predicated on the Self-Defense Force Law, to destroy it.

    Prime Minister Taro Aso instructed [attendees] at the security meeting to “be vigilant and adopt a firm and resolute stance.” If there is disarray in Japan, the result will only be that we’ve played into North Korea’s hands. In order to avoid that, at the stage when the launch date is imminent, and even more after the launch, the appropriate providing of information by the government will be indispensable. That point must especially be emphasized from the get-go.

    The Japanese and United States governments have declared that, even if it were an “artificial satellite,” the launch would violate UNSC Resolution 1695, which was adopted after North Korea launched a series of missiles in July 2006, and UNSC Resolution 1718, from after the nuclear tests of October that year. Improvements in the performance of North Korean missiles are a direct threat to the U.S. and Japan.

    Accordingly, U.S. Secretary of State Clinton warned that “this will affect the six-party talks revolving around nuclear issues, and [North Korea] will end up paying high compensation.” If North Korea ignores the warning and forges ahead with the launch, a debate will be raised at the UNSC [over measures that] include sanctions.

    On the other hand, the Spokesperson for the DPRK Minister of Foreign Affairs [stated] that, if the Security Council makes an issue of the “launch of an artificial satellite,” then “denuclearization will be set back, and we will adopt the necessary strong measures,” implying a resumption of nuclear testing. This development reminds one of 2006, with its series of missile launches and nuclear testing. That’s possibly due to expecations that the scenario in which the U.S. government did a 180 [and pursue] a path of conciliation after the nuclear testing.

    That switch to a path of conciliation is linked to the refusal [to allow] inspection during denuclearization, and to the new missile tests. If we consider these facts, it is necessary for not only Japan, the U.S., and South Korea, but also [all other] participants in the six-party talks, including China and Russia, to be sure of their resolve not to repeat the mistake.

    The Japanese phrase used at the end there is 過ちを繰り替えさない, which echoes–I can’t imagine this is a coincidence, given that it’s part of the last sentence of an op-ed about nuclear weapons–the inscription on the Hiroshima memorial: 安らかに眠って下さい/過ちは繰り返しませぬから (“Rest in peace, for we will not repeat the mistake”).


    Posted by Sean at 14:34, February 17th, 2009

    Secretary of State Clinton–who’d have thought a year ago that we’d be typing that?–has visited Japan, where she met separately with Prime Minister Taro Aso, Minister of Foreign Affairs Hirofumi Nakasone, and Minister of Defense Yasukazu Hamada.

    Secretary of State Clinton, at a joint press conference after her meeting with the Foreign Minister, issued a warning, strongly underscoring that “North Korea has intimated that there is a possibility of missile launches, but such behavior serves no purpose, and it will not aid in the progress of (US-DPRK) relations.” At the meeting with the Prime Minister, she stated, in connection with North Korea issues, “We would like to come to a decisive solution within the framework of the six-party talks, and that would include the Japanese abductee issue.”

    At the meeting with the Defense Minister, she touched on the activities of the Maritime Defense Force, which is investigating Japanese deployments to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia, and issued a request: “We would be grateful if you could look into the possibility of providing aid and defense to foreign ships in times of emergency.” The Defense Minister responded, “We’re considering that and looking into a new law [that would make it possible to provide defense for foreign-registered ships as well].”

    It’s hard to tell whether the “comprehensive solution” referred to in the headline will come to pass. It’s not even certain that the DPRK knows where all the abductees as yet unaccounted for ended up, painful as that is for the Japanese families in question. Tokyo has tried to get Washington and Beijing to put pressure on Pyongyang, but the issue tends to get backburnered, and it’s not really because of callousness. The nuclear and black-market issues are very pressing, while the abductee issue doesn’t appear to be. There’s been no information that I’ve seen recently to suggest that there are known living abductees waiting to be repatriated.

    And yes, I’ve heard about soon-to-be-former Minister of Finance Shoichi Nakagawa’s unfortunate sensitivity to his cold medicine. You really have to watch out for those side-effects.

    The way he makes me feel

    Posted by Sean at 10:44, November 2nd, 2008

    I’m late on this, having spent the last day or so with the stomach flu, trying to edge ginger ale and saltines down my throat unnoticed.

    Anyway, Reason has a round-up of thoughts by libertarian thinkers on the Obama candidacy. (I’m sure a parallel post about McCain is coming today.) While I have to say that Deirdre McCloskey gets off the best line…

    Since I live in Chicago, and anyway am a rational economist, I’m going to vote Libertarian, as usual. After all, why throw away my vote?

    …it will doubtless shock you to hear that I most like Virginia Postrel’s take. How felicitous for her that the Obama campaign came along not long after she’d turned her culture-critic’s eye to the workings of glamour!

    If elected, [Obama] will have not a policy mandate but an emotional one: to make Americans feel proud of their country, optimistic about the future, and warmly included, regardless of background, in the American story.

    A President Obama could deliver just the opposite. He might stumble badly abroad, projecting weakness that invites aggression (think Jimmy Carter) or involving America in a humanitarian-driven war at least as long and bloody as Iraq (think Sudan). As for inclusiveness, you can get it two ways: by respecting individual differences—-however eccentric, offensive, or hard to control—-or by jamming everyone into a conformist collective. Obama’s New Frontier-style rhetoric has a decidedly collectivist cast. NASA is great, prizes for private space flight are stupid, and what can we make you do for your country? A guy who thinks like that will not worry about what his health care plan might do to pharmaceutical research or physicians’ incentives.

    Obama’s campaign draws enormous power from his rhetoric of optimism-“hope,” “change,” and “Yes, we can.” But the candidate’s memoir betrays a tragic vision. In Dreams from My Father, almost everyone winds up disappointed: Obama’s father, his stepfather, his grandparents, the people he meets in Chicago. Only his naive and distant mother keeps on pursuing happiness. Then she dies of cancer. … Hope is audacious because, at least in this world, it’s futile and absurd. Faceless “power” is always waiting to crush your dreams.

    Before anyone starts screeching that McCain also has Daddy issues and that he’s also obsessed with strong-arming people into “national service” and that Obama has too proposed specific policies–yes, I know. So does Virginia, whose piece about McCain is likely, if anything, to be even more cutting when it appears.

    The things she’s talking about still matter. Obama talks a lot about hope, but his view of America is actually pretty dour: we need to be shaken from our complacency (by him and his fellow travelers) and change our ways–not because we’re a society made up of human beings that doesn’t always get it right, but because we’ve got loads of fundamental sins to atone for. As Melanie Phillips wrote last week:

    [T]he only way to assess their position is to look at each man in the round, at what his general attitude is towards war and self-defence, aggression and appeasement, the values of the west and those of its enemies and – perhaps most crucially of all – the nature of the advisers and associates to whom he is listening. As I have said before, I do not trust McCain; I think his judgment is erratic and impetuous, and sometimes wrong. But on the big picture, he gets it. He will defend America and the free world whereas Obama will undermine them and aid their enemies.

    Here’s why. McCain believes in protecting and defending America as it is. Obama tells the world he is ashamed of America and wants to change it into something else. McCain stands for American exceptionalism, the belief that American values are superior to tyrannies. Obama stands for the expiation of America’s original sin in oppressing black people, the third world and the poor.

    Obama thinks world conflicts are basically the west’s fault, and so it must right the injustices it has inflicted. That’s why he believes in ‘soft power’ — diplomacy, aid, rectifying ‘grievances’ (thus legitimising them, encouraging terror and promoting injustice) and resolving conflict by talking. As a result, he will take an axe to America’s defences at the very time when they need to be built up. He has said he will ‘cut investments in unproven missile defense systems'; he will ‘not weaponize space'; he will ‘slow our development of future combat systems'; and he will also ‘not develop nuclear weapons,’ pledging to seek ‘deep cuts’ in America’s arsenal, thus unilaterally disabling its nuclear deterrent as Russia and China engage in massive military buildups.

    My biggest problem with Obama is his instincts. I don’t think that he hates classical liberals (via Eric), any more than I think Sarah Palin hates those of us who live in blue cities.

    What I do think is that he believes, like a lot of liberals who approach things from an academic background, that human relations can be fixed in some ultimate way. We talk until we find common ground, we all make some compromises, and then we all go home partially happy and make the best of it. That means that those of us who believe that ideological conflict is inevitable, that in some conflicts there will inevitably be distinct winners and losers, and that competition among ideas is not only inevitable but frequently salutary, are spoiling the party. As Virginia implies, it’s hard to champion both conflict-avoidance and “diversity.”


    Posted by Sean at 22:37, August 7th, 2008

    My, reporters can be uncritical. The Asahi reports that this year, the mayor of Nagasaki will cite the opinions of prominent Americans in calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons:

    In calling for peace at the memorial ceremony, Taue will discuss proposals by Kissinger and three other key U.S. figures who, concerned by nuclear proliferation, have done an about-turn and called for the abolition of the (world’s) “deadliest weapons.”

    “In the United States, the largest nuclear power, those who formerly led nuclear policies are speaking out (against such weapons),” Taue says. “I have decided to take it up so I can more strongly appeal to the United States for what Nagasaki has long sought.”

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world’s only cities to experience atomic bombing, are trying to press the nuclear powers more aggressively for action to eliminate their arsenals.

    Okay, fine. But then there’s this:

    The Bush administration has refused to ratify the CTBT.

    But the two men vying to replace him have both made clear they have different goals.

    “We’ll make the goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons a central element in our nuclear policy,” Democratic Sen. Barack Obama said July 16.

    Earlier on May 27, Republican Sen. John McCain said former President Ronald Reagan’s dream of seeing nuclear weapons banished from the Earth “is my dream, too.”

    You remember Ronald Reagan, right? He helped hasten the collapse of the U.S.S.R. by dramatically cutting back the U.S. defense program.

    I mean, yeah, sure, a world without nuclear weapons was Reagan’s dream. I’m sure it’s McCain’s. It’s mine, too. We all have plenty of dreams. But reality is where we live, and the McCain speech referred to by the Asahi reporters does not indicate that the mayors can expect much from him:

    Our highest priority must be to reduce the danger that nuclear weapons will ever be used. Such weapons, while still important to deter an attack with weapons of mass destruction against us and our allies, represent the most abhorrent and indiscriminate form of warfare known to man. We do, quite literally, possess the means to destroy all of mankind. We must seek to do all we can to ensure that nuclear weapons will never again be used.

    While working closely with allies who rely on our nuclear umbrella for their security, I would ask the Joint Chiefs of Staff to engage in a comprehensive review of all aspects of our nuclear strategy and policy. I would keep an open mind on all responsible proposals. At the same time, we must continue to deploy a safe and reliable nuclear deterrent, robust missile defenses and superior conventional forces that are capable of defending the United States and our allies. But I will seek to reduce the size of our nuclear arsenal to the lowest number possible consistent with our security requirements and global commitments. Today we deploy thousands of nuclear warheads. It is my hope to move as rapidly as possible to a significantly smaller force.

    I’m sure Obama recognizes this, too, BTW–I’m just not focusing on him because no one tried to demonstrate that he was a nuclear abolitionist by comparing him with Ronald Reagan. Sheesh.

    The fact is that nuclear weapons now exist, and we need to maintain them as one of our options in case we again encounter an enemy that’s like, well, the Japanese Empire.

    Yes, Japan knew that it could no longer win the war by August; but it had flouted the Potsdam Declaration and continued to figure that, if it held out, it would be allowed to retain some of the territories it occupied (and perhaps avoid being occupied itself). Who knows how many more Allied personnel would have died if it had come down to a ground invasion? Japan is now a peaceable society; back then it was not.

    The anniversaries are a good opportunity to think about the unprecedented destruction the bombings caused and the agonizing ethical and moral decisions that led up to them. Hiroshima and Nagasaki suffered horribly–but that doesn’t make Japan the victim in the war; nor does it make complete nuclear disarmament practicable.